How to Defend Trips with Quarters

By Myles Hayes

As the game continues to progress into the modern space-and-pace game it is today, the presence of 3-by-1 sets become more prevalent and presents a number of challenges to the defense.

There are different ways to defend trips, but what I have found most successful and allows my athletes to play fast without much thinking is a quarters concept. Identifying the offensive set and personnel is most important in defending the set. For this exercise, we will work our concepts versus 10 personnel.

We identify trips sets in 10 personnel as either Trips King or Trips Queen. King and Queen determines where the running back in the backfield is set. Trips King is called when the back is set to the same side of the three receivers. By contrast, if the back is set away from the trips, we call the formation Trips Queen.


In 3-3-5 scheme, we play both formations with a two safety high look, creating the illusion to the quarterback that we are in a Cover 2 defense.

To the trips side, at the snap of the ball, the strongside corner has deep quarter responsibility. Most likely, he will lock on to No. 1 receiver vertically or any type of corner or vertical switch route from No. 2.

The Apache – the outside linebacker or nickel – is responsible for hook/curl to the flat. If Apache recognizes a bubble route or screen, he aggressively defends it. If he gets no bubble or screen action, he opens to No. 1 to get to the flat.

The X (safety) plays deep quarter and locks onto any vertical route by No. 2. With the back being on the same side of trips, we can defend any potential routes with the Mike or the Sam.

On the back side of the trips formation, the Bandit (weak safety) aligns to be able to play any potential vertical route by No. 3. If No. 3 passes linebacker depth, Bandit reads that as a vertical route and aggressively defends the route. If No. 3 doesn’t show vertically, then Bandit will play the middle hole of the field, defending any type of dig routes.

The backside corner plays man to man with the single receiver. Expecting a hitch route or fade.

Defending Trips Queen is similar but with slightly different reads from the Bandit and backside corner.

When the running back is set to the single receiver side, a lot of times the offense will work more to the weak side because of numbers and matchups. To most offensive coordinators, if they see the corner is man to man No. 1, they feel their back can beat the Will.

To combat this, the Bandit gets his read from the running back. If the back runs an immediate route to the single receiver, the Bandit will play deep half and immediately defend any vertical routes by No. 1. The corner will be responsible for any swing routes to the flat by the running back or potential wheel routes. If the back stays in for pass protection, the corner will play man to man on No. 1.

The strong side or trips side of the formation responsibilities are the same.

As you can see these concepts will help you defend and potentially confuse the offense while being solid against all potential routes the offense will present out of trips formations.

Myles Hayes is the secondary coach at Avon (Ind.) High School.