3.5.3 System of Pressure

The 30 Stack Defensive scheme is a multiple, disguised, pressure package, designed to put eight or nine in the box by moving the front and creating mismatches with varying alignments that can disrupt blocking assignments causing a negative play for the offense. The system is modular, creating multiple looks while simple to learn. This allows the players more time to focus on formations and plays that come off of them, using base or hit technique, pursuit and tackling skills.

The defense can present the offense with many different fronts and pressure packages, with different coverages behind them. This will force opponents to spend additional preparation time since they cannot predict what front, pressure package or coverage will be used versus their formations. The approach should keep the offense guessing, or in a state of confusion.

The 30 Stack should force the opponents to deal with pre-snap reads as well as reading on the move (“ROM”). The defense will provide one look, and be in another at the snap of the ball. Stem and shift movements while a quarterback is in his cadence can be disruptive to an offense. These “movements” will keep and offense guessing.
Also, since it is relatively new, in the current version, blocking schemes are still evolving. The reason is that the triple stack results in one of the stacked linebackers unblocked. As such, it is extremely difficult to game plan against.

There are many ways to pressure an offense, but the result is that they all disrupt the rhythm. The basic pressure package starts with a game plan designed to take away the opponents best player and best plays. This will force them to do something that they are not accustomed to. The next component is to take the ball away – strip, rip, knock it loose or intercept and then take it to the house. The pressure packages are a significant contributor to take-aways. The reason is that every offense player can be stressed:

• Offensive Line – stunt them out of their aggression by complicating and confusing their blocking schemes.
• Receivers –stem and disguised of coverages will put defenders in a position to disrupt timing creating collisions and punishing them when they catch the ball.
• Running backs – relentless, swarming tacklers can punish ball carriers. The front always has one unblocked defender, typically in the cutback lane. This will frustrate running backs as the game wears on.
• Quarterbacks – are taught to make plays calls and throwing decisions based up pre-snap reads. The movements and pressure packages will not only disrupt the pre-snap read process, but put physical pressure on the quarterback – sacks, hurries, knock downs, etc.

The pressure packages are extremely flexible and personnel friendly. They can be implemented without disrupting the overall defensive scheme. The 8-man front is difficult to run against, yet stunt packages remain sound versus the option. While strong versus the run, the pressure packages allow for easy disguise of coverages. Since there are typically four or five defensive backs on the field, multiple coverage packages behind the pressure keeps the defense away from being predicable.

Do you remember the “Okie” or 52 defense? Well today, it’s called the 34. Similarly, the 5-3 defense which was a popular defense in the 30’s, has transformed itself into the 30 Stack. The modern version is dynamically flexible to the modern offensive sets. The following is a brief outline of the 30 Stack’s defensives positions.

• Defense Line – Depending upon the athletes in your program, you can either play with one or three defensive linemen. The “nose” may be your only true defensive linemen, with the “ends” as hybrid type players; i.e., closer to linebacker type players.
• Inside Linebackers – Depending upon the athletes in your program, you can play with three to five linebackers. The defining characteristic of the defense is the three inside linebackers are typically stacked behind the defensive linemen. The Mike linebacker behind the nose, and the Sam & Will behind the ends. The Sam & Will are referred to as “Stud” backers.
• Outside Inverts – Again, depending upon the athletes in your program, the outside inverts (Bandit & Rover, or “Eagles”) can be hybrid athletes; linebackers or strong safety type players.
• Secondary – The 30 Stack, in its base form has three defenders in the secondary. However, depending upon athletes
in your program, there are surprisingly many coverage packages that can be used. It is the flexibility of these coverage packages that are contributing to the defenses popularity, as teams become down & distance oriented, the defense morphs from an 8-man front to a nickel package (5 defensive backs).

The huddle establishes team discipline. It takes all eleven players acting as one when it comes to setting the huddle. Huddle discipline starts from when the defense takes the field. The attitude is the first message you sent to the offense. Don’t allow the offense the opportunity to sense fatigue or confusion when lining up.

When the defense takes the field or at the completion of a play, the “Nose” (“N”) will set the huddle. The N will position himself approximately three yards from the anticipated spot of the ball with both hands raised yelling “huddle” “huddle”, this alerts the rest of the defense to rally back towards him so that the next play can get called. It is important to get in and out of the huddle as quickly as possible. The defense must have their huddle calls completed and be in their post huddle alignment before the offense breaks theirs.

The huddle has two captains one being the “MIKE” linebacker (“M”) who is responsible for getting the call from the sideline and the “SAM” linebacker (“S”) who makes sure that the huddle is tight and everyone is in their proper huddle position. In addition, SAM will be responsible for providing situational communication. This is done prior to the MIKE giving the Defensive Sequence call.

SAM will be responsible for communication specific situational information, including field situation and opponent situation. The first communication, part of field situation, is to identify the wide side of the field (“field”); “rip” is to the right, and “liz” is to the left. Additional communication is shown in the table below:

MIKE is responsible for getting the sideline call as such, always aligns to the bench, and SAM must align opposite him. The front row will have their hands on their knees and eyes looking straight ahead. Don’t allow the offense to think you might be tired; this gives them a psychological advantage. The back row will position themselves between the players in the front row with their hands on their hips, backs erect and the eyes focused on MIKE for the call.

The following is an example on how the huddle should look:

There will be situations, or even seasons when the defense will not huddle. A couple of reasons for a “no huddle defense” include:

• Avoid being caught off guard versus no huddle or quick tempo offenses
• Helps keep the defensive players fresh, a significant benefit when there are two-way players
• More repetitions in practice
• Easier checks from the sidelines

SAM will still make Field Situations and Opponent Situations calls after each play. All of the players will run to their preliminary alignments and turn to the sidelines for the defensive call sequence. Once the players have gotten the signal, and when the offense breaks the huddle, MIKE will make the Strength Call and Personnel call. All of the other player communication should be made as the offense approaches the line of scrimmage.

As soon as the previous play is blown dead, MIKE should look to the signal caller on the sideline as soon as possible to get his next defensive call. If MIKE fails to get his call from the sideline, he can tap his hand on the top of his helmet to alert for the call to be repeated. MIKE must keep his composure at all times. Note: when utilizing the “no huddle defense”, all eleven players will turn to the sidelines to get the signals. The linebackers and secondary will make their appropriate calls as the offense breaks the huddle and approaches the line of scrimmage.

Once the call from the sideline has been received MIKE will step into the huddle and give an “EYES” call. When the defensive huddle hears the “EYES” call, all eyes and attention should be focused on the signal caller. Under no circumstances will there be any talking beyond this point. MIKE must have complete concentration and cooperation from everyone. Talking in the huddle will not be tolerated. If anyone in the huddle doesn’t get the call, they can yell “CHECK” and the call will be repeated.

After making the huddle call, MIKE will give a verbal command of “READY.” Once the defense hears the “READY” command they in turn will yell, “HIT”, with a single clap. Upon breaking from the huddle the defense should get into their post huddle alignment and keep their eyes on the offense. The secondary personnel should be looking for the receivers leaving the huddle and the linebackers looking for the tight end. The first call that should be alerted is the Strength call, then a Personnel call to identify the offensive personnel in the game.

As indicated above, there will be times when the defense functions without huddling. In those situations, all of the players will turn to the sidelines for the Defensive Call Sequence signals. However, SAM will still make Field Situations and Opponent Situations calls. MIKE will still make a Strength call, echoed by the SAM & WILL (referred to as the STUDs), and then make a Personnel call to identify the offensive personnel.

The defensive scheme is based upon a “balance” look. However, certain movements and stunts will be based upon the strength call (“Callside”). As the offense breaks the huddle the MIKE will make a directional call “Reno” (to the right) or “Vegas” (to the left), depending upon the alignment of the tight end. The other inside linebackers (SAM & WILL) will echo the call. The “Reno” and “Vegas” call indicates the direction of the tight end. This call must be made as quickly as possible because it will set certain movements and stunts for the defense.

There are certain defensive calls that are dependent upon the declaration of the offense’s strength – to the tight end. The direction call made by the MIKE will be given twice; it should be loud, clear, and concise. If there is no tight end, then MIKE will make his call to the two-receiver side. If the offense comes out with a balanced formation, his call then will be to the field, unless in the middle in which case the call is “Vegas”.

In the huddle or after the ball is set “ready for play”, SAM will make a field call – RIP (to the right) or LIZ (to the left). This sets the alignment of WILL, ROVER and FIELD CORNER (if you elect to set your Corners Field or Boundary) because they set to the field. SAM, BANDIT and BOUNDARY CORNER will set to the boundary, or opposite of the field call. Also, stunts, blitzes, dogs or games can be run based upon the field (“wide”) or the boundary (“short”), so as SAM & WILL (the “STUDS”) echo the strength call, they will add a field call. This is accomplished by indicating the wide side of the field with a “Rip” (right) or “Liz” (left) call. An example would be: “RENO, LIZ”, which would put the strength of the formation to the right, into the boundary; i.e., the field is to the left. The boundary (short side) is opposite the “Rip” or “Liz” call.”

Again, the strength and field calls are important because they not only set the alignments of the defensive players, but also key the pressure packages. These calls allow the defense to bring pressure based upon formation or field. The following is a chart for the strength and field calls.

About the Author of this post:

Jerry Campbell has over 30 years of high school and college coaching experience. He has experience as a head coach, offensive coordinator, and various position coaches. He has written numerous football coaching articles in various publications, is the author of over 30 books on coaching football, and has produced 12 coaching video series. Additionally, he is a nationally sought after speaker on the coaching clinic circuit.

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