You may decide to play entire games while only running one front call.

Thomas Cousins

As coaches, we use our game-planning sessions to determine what opponents do best and what their favorite plays are. Then, we set out to stop those plays.

Times will arise when you may decide to play entire games while only running one front call, because that strategy is what you feel gives you the best chance of success. Other times, you may decide to always make the strength call to the field or even to a specific player.

All of these tactics are fine as long as it fits what you see and you decide that they are what give you the advantage.

Line calls

The following sections are examples of common line calls we employ in our 3-5-3 to defend against three common offensive plays –weakside counter, iso and I blast.

On every play, the defensive linemen perform one of five line calls. They are moving on every play, and they are never asked to take on the offensive lineman they are lined up over, which is why the defensive linemen in our system can be smaller than they would be in other defensive fronts.

Slant strong

The first line call this defense uses is slant strong, where defensive linemen slant toward the strength call.

The strong tackle performs a crossover step, dip and rip to get to the hip of the tight end to his side. The weak tackle performs a crossover step, dip and rip to get to the hip of the weak guard. The nose does a crossover step, dip, rip and gets to the hip of the strong guard.

Slant weak

In the slant weak, the defensive linemen slant away from the strength call, just as it sounds.

The strong tackle performs a crossover step, dip and rip to get to the hip of the strong guard. The weak tackle performs a crossover step, dip and rip to get to the hip of the tight end to his side. If no tight end is present, he gets to the hip of an imaginary tight end. The nose does a crossover step, dip and rip to get to the hip of the weak guard.

In

When the call is “In,” the defensive tackles slant to the hips of both guards, both performing a crossover step, dip and rip to get to the hip of the guard to his side.

The nose slants to the strength call, performing a crossover step, dip and rip to get to the hip of the strong guard (Figure 2- 10).

Out

With Out, defensive tackles slant to the hips of either tight end or to an imaginary tight end on the weak side, performing a crossover step, dip and rip to get to the hip.

The nose slants to the strength call, performing a crossover step, dip and rip to get to the hip of the strong guard.

Pinch

The last line call used is pinch, where the defensive tackles slant to the hips of both guards, just as they would with an in call. Both tackles perform a crossover step, dip and rip to get to the hip of the guard to their sides.

The nose slants away from the strength call, performing a crossover step, dip and rip to get to the hip of the weak guard.

Thomas Cousins is an assistant football coach at West Ashley (S.C.) High School, a position he assumed in 2006. Before joining the Wildcats’ staff, he coached at Avon Park (Fla.) High School for seven seasons (1999-2005), the last three as the Red Devils’ head coach. Involved with football for more than three decades as either a player or a coach, Cousins began his coaching career in 1991 as a defensive line coach at his alma mater, Newberry College.

About the author

Dan Guttenplan