Most coverages in this system are given numbers.

By Leo Hand

Because so many teams are now employing no-huddle offenses, defensive huddles should be stored on the same shelf as leather helmets. Defensive calls should be conveyed to players from the sideline via wristbands. Also, all verbiage must be eliminated from the call.

Many coaches avoid implementing complex stunt maneuvers or comprehensive stunt packages because they are unable to express the information in a concise, precise manner.

The answer? Simplify. For me, “Nat-Wamer-1 Tag” is all I need to tell my defense to convey five vital bits of information: How defenders are aligned in the box, three different stunt maneuvers and the pass coverage.

The system works as follows:

Since no defensive alignment is mentioned, players know that they will line up in their base alignment. No need exists to mention the alignment if it’s a team’s base.

If you want to change from base to something else, simply precedes the call with a single syllable that designates the variant. Two-digit numbers and word descriptions are too long-winded. For example, “forty-three” and “single flex” both add three syllables to the call. It is much more succinct to assign each variation a single syllable (e.g., sap, wap, Mom, Tom, etc.) than to give a multi-syllable word or number description.

Next, defensive maneuvers are designated by phonetic sounds that can be merged to create words that are meaningless to everyone on the planet except the players who use them every day in practice.

For example, with Nat-Wamer 1 Tag:

  • Nat tells nose and Ted to twist
  • Wam tells Whip to blitz through the weakside A gap.

When the suffix “er” is added to “wam” or any other stunt involving Whip, Mike is assigned to play his Base 3 technique versus run and spy the near back versus pass.

1 Tag conveys a variation of Cover 1 in which the strong end covers the tight end and Stud blitzes from the edge.

Most coverages in this system are given numbers. These numbers are the only numbers in this system that are used to convey a defensive call, and the two-digit word cover is eliminated from the call. Therefore, verbiage is reduced and complex defensive maneuvers are communicated simply and concisely.

Here is what Nat-Wamer-1 Tag looks like.

Stunts and twists of five-in-the-trenches

There are 22 basic stunts and twists of the five defenders aligned in the trenches (nose, Ted, Mike and both ends) that can be used to create more than 50 different combinations.

We’ll take a look at a few, but a coach’s imagination can assist in building many more. All of the strongside stunts involving Ted have an identical weakside variation involving Mike. Although both variations are illustrated, the strongside variation is the only one that is explained, which eliminates needless rhetoric.

Toe/Moe

Ted attacks the offensive guard at the snap and controls the B gap, either by blitzing from a loose alignment or by stemming toward the line during cadence and attacking the guard from a tight alignment.

Tee/Me

The strong end stems inside during cadence to a position that almost shades the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle. At the snap, the strong end steps with his inside foot and rips through the face of the offensive tackle with his outside forearm. Since he is responsible for controlling the B gap, he should feel the pressure of the offensive tackle and read the movement of the guard. His read of the guard is identical to that of Ted’s 3-technique read.

Nat/Nam

  • The defender loosens slightly prior to the snap. His first step should be with his left foot assuming that he is twisting left. This step should be parallel to the line of scrimmage and deep enough to enable the defender to avoid contact with Ted. The defender rips through the outside shoulder of the guard with his right arm and secures the B gap. The nose reads the movements of the offensive guard and reacts accordingly.
  • Ted stems toward the line during cadence and should be in a tight alignment as the ball is snapped. As the play begins, he steps with his inside foot and rips through the face of the offensive guard with his outside forearm. He feels the pressure of the offensive guard as he attacks the center. He is responsible for controlling the strongside A gap. Versus strongside run, he gets his shoulders square to the line as soon as possible, secure the A gap and then take the proper pursuit angle to the ball. Versus weakside run, he rips through the face of the center and pursues the ball fat down the line of scrimmage.

Leo Hand has led both high school and college teams during his 46 years of coaching. As a high school head coach in California, he earned a state championship and numerous league championships. At Los Angeles Harbor College, the Seahawks posted an 8-3 record and won a K-Swiss Bowl in the school’s first bowl appearance in more than 20 years.

About the author

Dan Guttenplan