Defending the Spread


11-man fan
Ok. Let's say you are playing a team and athletically you are flat out outclassed. Your opponent is running exclusively the spread and you know that there is no way in heck you can match up man to man. How do you stop this teams offense? How many guys do you bring? How often do you gamble with 4 or even 5 man rushes? What players do you send? Do you send the best athletes and leave your lesser players in coverage? Do you rush your role players and leave your best guys in coverage and as a last line of defense? Just curious as to what ideas are out there.
I have been told to simply send the number = to players in the backfield. If they have two upbacks and a spread back, send three rushers. If they have a single upback and a spread back, send two. The reasoning I have heard is that one person will always be free to attack the spreadback.

If there are any better/different suggestions I would also like to hear them. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
That is a good idea, but if you notice most teams have their upbacks either block or go on routes. If it was me they would hit once then break on a screen route, but this depends if the team is bothering to pitch the ball to the qb or a direct snap. If its a direct snap don't send the extra blitzer just have one guy rushing the qb and you can bet that one of the upbacks will definately have to run a route. But in the case that there is a run threat of the qb just use your containment rules and keep him in the middle. In this case only rush 2, but you have to be weary for the lead dive. I would have 2 rush everytime and if there is two upbacks a third every now and then to possibly get a good sack. As upbacks if more than 2 rush they are generaly told to get out of there and look for the ball though so i wouldn't send 3 everytime. Spread is one of the best offenses for fast teams with a good qb that can throw or run. As far as defending this goes don't put all of your fast players in one spot on the field i would have your best balls to the wall player as the once and a while 3rd blitzer. You need good containment ends that will chase the play if the other player doesn't hold containment, because sixman has gotten to where it is all about cutbacks and that is where that will come in handy. Any better ideas please mention them.
well when we defended it when i played we consistantly sent 2 rushers on most sets we never ran man coverage. If there was a spread back we would have the mlb shadow the sb like a QB spy in 11 man, and then on occasion we would send him in up the middle as a rusher and the DE would keep outside contained. The outside containment was our general attack. we would never bring more than three and we would always have at least one rusher and we would always show a two man rushing look and sometimes drop a DE into coverage, we had pretty decent athletic DE so either could drop into coverage and no one could key on a particular DE. But back to the point our general attack was on outside containment to keep the runners forced up the middle to where our MLB could stuff it. Through this we forced the team to pass the ball and we could generaly get a good amount of preassure on the passer. I liked this scheme and this is most likely going to be the scheme i incorporate this coming year. But we will see hope this helps
Just a thought. I am sure people like BE will either agree or disagree, but if an offensive team knows what you are going to do before breaking the huddle, and they are coached worth a flip, you are in serious trouble. Just a thought.
Spread Defense in my opinion, is very difficult unless you have at least to kids who contain well and 3 decent tacklers. The reason I say this is.... if you cannot contain the spreadback, if he is worth his salt he will run himself ragged up and down the field all night. Also, if you team has below average tackling it will be very difficult to keep the spread back in the "alley". However two kids who can contain who can tackle average and one kid who has good ability as a "mike" backer will make a very interesting spread rush.... As an ex spreadback I was taught to make the DE/MLB to make the decisions and compensate accordingly.... spreadbacks generally get in trouble when they "think"... therefore if a spread rush can make the spreadback think about the rush instead of waiting and reacting.... they have won half the battle all ready.... b/c he is no longer trying to throw the ball... leaving the team with a one dimensional spread attack. I will also say that Spread-rush is the 2nd hardest thing in sixman to teach... next to spreadback (im not sure its not a can or can't position) but the good ones are usually really good... and bad ones really bad with few and far in between.
hhsowls":2j1vwyw1 said:
Ok. Let's say you are playing a team and athletically you are flat out outclassed. Your opponent is running exclusively the spread and you know that there is no way in heck you can match up man to man. How do you stop this teams offense? How many guys do you bring? How often do you gamble with 4 or even 5 man rushes? What players do you send? Do you send the best athletes and leave your lesser players in coverage? Do you rush your role players and leave your best guys in coverage and as a last line of defense? Just curious as to what ideas are out there.

HPDrifter is right. Since there are a limited number of "good" ideas against the spread, the offense is well trained how to counter them, including the bad ideas like sending four or five. You might as well send all six.

First, if all things between the two teams are equal you will not stop a good spread. Your team must be clearly superior in order to hold an advantage...see the 2005 RS-Throckmorton semi-final game, 58-72 with RS on the two when time expired. T-rock had the better team that year and the better kicker that game. Therefore, be mentally prepared to give up many points.

Send the same number of rushers as backs. If there are two upbacks and a SB send three. But this idea demands three well disciplined defenders and very good coaching...see Panther Creek vs. RS from 1999 through 2002, and PC vs. Gordon 1999. For a good two man rush/one drag see Strawn vs. RS 2003 and Gordon vs. RS 1999. The Gordon defense was actually a 2-2-2 with Lyle eyeing the LOS and the other linebacker patrolling deeper depending on the offensive play. Many times it was a four-in-the-box look. For a good one man rush please don't waste your time because there aren't any, unless of course the snap is direct.

Never forget in sixman it is a battle of matchups. Assign your best to their best. Then pray you have an athlete as good as their SB. If not, send two at him shoulder to shoulder or staggered. If staggered use the point attacker to flush the SB away from his throwing arm while the second man sprints in and tags him after he commits to one sideline or the other. Now all your need is the SB to be a weak passer rolling away from his strong arm. After the 2006 and 2007 state games many people felt more should have been done to force Tyler left in order to weaken his passing game. This is a good theory to those who know little about the abilities of the SB. Tyler, a right-handed passer, had worked on rolling left so ofter that he was more comfortable throwing on the run that direction. He loved rolling left and throwing because he knew at an early age how few QBs were affective at using that skill, therefore wanted to include that weapon in his repertoire. Coach Reed knew this attempt was not practical as a Plan-A tactic. Against most SBs such an idea is often successful only because the SB doesn't know how to create time and/or the upback is not trained how to counter this scenario. In basketball any time your defense can force the ballhandler to turn his eyes away from the entire floor in order to protect the ball from pressure is good for the D. I do admit the same strategy often works in football, also. Flushing the SB to one sideline or the other blinds the SB from the backside of the field. In theory the defense should be able to shift over and defend less area.

A "last line" of defense is no defense, either. Remember the LOS determines the outcome of most games. Against the spread pressure on the ball is still vital. Lack of pressure for whatever reason can result in big plays for any sixman offense. Against the spread a good rule of thumb is to get to the SB as soon as possible, between 2.5 and 3.5 seconds.You do not have to make the tackle in that time frame, just get to him with pressure and keep him away from the LOS. After that the defense is stretched too far and wide.

Another good strategy is to hope their SB plays defense so your offense can run at him with bonecrunching blocks and other aggressive ideas, all within the rules of course. :mrgreen:

If the defense has rushers equal to the ability of the three Backs, a wiley OC will go to an unbalanced spread, or an unbalanced tight spread with four receivers on or within a yard of the LOS. Now the offense is dictating the rush, again.
BE. Thanks for your views on the matter. We often play teams that are athletically superior. I hope to help close that gap with this upcoming spring and summer being my first opportunities to improve the boys speed and strength. That said it never hurts to have several viewpoints on how to defend the spread. With sending four, is it always a bad idea. Several times this past season I sent 4 and left my two best pass defenders in two deep coverage knowing that the dump pass would be there but we also picked off a few balls becasue the sb was under immediate distress. Again thanks for the ideas.
I tryed to prepare for what worked best against good teams, not the scrubs. By preparing your players and schemes for those good ones you won't have to make any special plans for the weak teams.

If you send four against a true spread, a simple dump or flood will score. In addition, an alert upback will roll up(cutblock) the outside rusher allowing the SB to scamper around the rush since there is no contain present. Now he has the option to pass or run depending on what the corner takes.

Call those guys I mentioned and send them a blank DVD. If they don't respond in a couple of weeks, drive down to see them and politely hang around until they give you a copy just so you will leave. :lol: Don't take no for an answer. 8) You'll find that all of the top Head coaches will help you if they possibly can. And for every game film they provide, study it for hours, one player at a time. Nothing is better than film study except coaching with them for a year or two. And that is often impossible to do. Study and get your team ready to play the big boys. Be fundamental as much as possible. Once they acquire those skills then let them add to them. But lay that foundation first.

And keep in mind "what goes around comes around."
BE. How do you feel about zone defenses? We ran a lot of different looks last year, forced good spread backs to the short side of the field, ran zone underneath, with mixed success. Perhaps our schemes were too much for the kids to handle, but we did have some success. I think our biggest obstacle will be learning to win. Next years seniors here will have won a total of maybe 6 or 7 games. We need to get some swagger I think before we can make any noise.
A tactic that i've seen used a few times is to rush two and have the MLB work forward in a short zone looking for the dump pass to the backs/ the spread back breaking contain... and putting the other three guys in a three deep zone with coverage rolling with the spread back its effective if you have good pass defenders.... or you could man up the DE on the upbacks.. and the MLB on the spread back in a sort of Spy role.... and then use a 3 deep zone.... its difficult to accomplish this without avery good MLB and some fairly decent DE's
In my opinion the best spread defense I have seen has been done by Highland through out the years...In the 1980s - 1982 State Game vs Mullin which was the best spread team in the early 80s so I hear, and even up to this year...playoff games against Woodson and Walnut Springs who ran the spread more times than not.

I believe Highland might have matched up man at times, but mostly ran a zone coverage and sent two rushers hard and the middle linebacker shadow the Spread Back, and sometimes would send 3 rushers hard sending the ML after the SB...

Of course I have heard people tell that back in the day all you did was send your Saftey running full speed to kill the center once he snapped the ball and he would be so scared from then on he couldn't snap right and force the team out of the spread....but you can't do that now days!
Take this with a grain of salt, I am biased because of the success we had with a predominately man philosophy at RS. That's not to say nor imply that zones are inferior. In fact, occasionally we used some man/zone combos beginning in 2005 through 2006 and 2007. And against some spreads we used a modified 2-2-2 , especially against a very tough Zephyr in 2003. Why? because their slowest player was their Center. They made considerable hay with the pass to him throughout the game, but the idea was to stop the brilliant scramble of SB Bryan Temple and the dangerous dumps to Upback Tanner Mays who was considerably faster and quicker than anyone we had besides Jared Hicks. Plus Temple could throw almost fifty yards on the run. They were so good they were leading Strawn by fourteen in their playoff game before Temple left the game with an injury in the second quarter. Of course Strawn came from behind to win that game on the way to their first state championship.

We dumped the man in 2006 after Tyler shredded Brookesmith's man defense. I believe the thinking was that if we could destroy our own man so easily that any good OC would figure out how to do the same. :roll: We didn't totally return to our old reliable until the 2007 playoffs. Of course there are several ways to hurt any defense, including the Clawson man, which grew out of the patriarchal Medina/Ft. Hancock man.

The main tactical reason I favor the man is for the intelligent pressure it places on the opponent's studs through the best possible matchups with our studs. And it destroys 95% of all run attacks, including the Unbalanced I, or jaybird. The best exceptions to this statement since it's construction were against Calvert in 2002(57-60), Austin Regents in 2003 (70-52?), Strawn in 2003(54-56), Throckmorton in the 2005 semifinals(58-72), and Rule in 2006, 78-58. Against Calvert we were one man short of matching up adequately; A.R. we were surprised by their overall improvement and our sic'em execution was atrocious; Strawn's Lee figured out a sly trick that neutered our sic'ems; against T-Rock we were missing all-state defensive end Shelby Smith which meant giving up four sweep left tds in the first half with the incorrect person replacing Shelby; and vs. Rule in 2006 we did not run our defense at all.
In addition, the pressing nature of a good man pass coverage forces a perfect pass by the opponent's QB, which occurred numerous times, especially with Rule in 2007, but not enough times to win.

It probably sounds complicated, but it is NOT! If a simpleton like myself can learn its rules and keys, almost anyone can.
I appreciate the time everyone took to answer my question. Last year being my first year as a six man coach (previously 8 man) and also my first as a HC I think several things factored into our lack of success against the spread. One I am sure that I had some of my players out of position, and I will reevaluate that as the offseason progresses and next year begins. Two I think I may have tried to scheme more than I should have, and thus made things difficult for my defense which led to us being out of place on occassion. Third, I think at times we were just flat outplayed. Again thanks to all and looking forward to Feb. 1.
Sorry to revive the thread, but I couldn't resist.

I have recently encountered an intriguing motion spread man defense.
It is setup like a 2-2-2, but at the snap, motions to a 3-3. Quirky right?

The idea is that you will always have one rusher up the middle (with hair on fire I might add,) and two containing rushers on the outside.
Corners are always in man leaving the sixth man in the middle as the MLB.
The defense just shifts depending on who the middle rusher is in the call.

It is kind of like a pressure defense, but with enough guys in coverage to protect against the pass decently.

Assuming you have relatively decent cover corners, the most dangerous receivers are the up-backs and the center.

It ends up kind of with the feel of a 1-3-1 defense in basketball. As the pressure middle rusher gets to the SB, he is either forced to one side or the other to meet the containing rushers, or up the middle where the MLB will hopefully be patrolling.

Granted, a team with superior athletes and a tight system is practically unstoppable. If one of the contain guys loses contain or gets cut early, well, let's just say you'll need one heck of MLB to get out there and get the stop.

Great stuff guys, really appreciate it! Learning so much, such thought I'd try and bounce to people that know way more the me.