Locking the Mike in 3x1 Coverage
MQ explains a simple tag a defense can carry in their Quarters toolbox - Taser.
Last summer, as we were in the throes of the late June heat, I had a predictable issue arise during a 7-on-7 league game. The team we were playing needed a way to attack the middle of the field without alerting our Safeties since we were split-field dominant. The obvious answer for most offenses is to run four-open 2x2 and run the RB up the pipe while running double Smash routes. However, an issue for the offense was that my Mike LB could run, and he quickly took the RB as he worked vertically, so that play was soon off the books.
With no option of running the ball in 7v7, picking up the RB was a non-issue for my Mike. Cleverly, the offense began poking and prodding with formations to see if the Mike would pay attention to who was actually at #3. My Quarters system ensures the Mike is always “capped.” Versus a traditional Trips formation (three WRs), the Safety expands over the Mike, and we place the stress on the Nickel over #2 (uncapped).
Eventually, the offense came out in a Y-Empty formation, Trey Twin (above). The offense had placed two WRs to the TE’s side. In our base defense, the Field CB, Ni, and Safety trio would expand and build a triangle over the two WRs (3>2). The Boundary Safety (BS) would give a Solo call, locking the back side CB and reading the TE’s departure. In Solo, if the TE went vertical, no problem. However, if the RB pushed, the Mike and Will could easily trade that off, and the Will would drop into the vertical hook.
But it wasn’t that simple because the offense placed two WRs opposite the Trey formation (Empty). The 3x2 set stretched the defense. The trio of the Boundary CB, Will, and the BS had to work their triangle coverage over the two WRs. The alignment, and scheme, left the Mike exposed. An easy answer to this is to play Special (Stubbie/Mini) over the Slot and the TE.
In most cases, running Special is the answer, but we had another issue, the offense expanded the formation to the sideline; think Briles’ splits. Both sets of WRs were placed near the top of the numbers. As a result, there was no way to cap the Mike. In a slight panic, my Mike looked at me. I yelled from the sideline, “Find your three!” Quickly, the player scanned from the sideline to the middle of the formation, finding the TE (#3). He pointed for affirmation, and the ball was snapped.
The TE darted up the middle of the field, and the Mike collected and carried him through. Both sets of WRs ran Smash concepts, which were quickly picked up by our triangle coverage, and the QB had nowhere to throw the ball, a four-second “sack.” The play was an excellent learning tool for our Quarters coverage.
One, as long as the Mike could count to three, he could find his man. Two, we have to be able to identify “other” Empty formations; not everything is Trips/Twin. Lastly, the formation and play allowed me to install a lesser-used tag in TASER.
In my install, Taser is one of those auxiliary calls that you keep in your back pocket until you need it. Something you work the week of, not early in an install program. At the time, I had only been at the school for three weeks, Taser was not on the menu yet, and the teams in our 7-on-7 league didn’t feature a TE; until they did!
Taser is a great tag to use versus any team that attempts to attack you with the #3 WR or runs variations of Y-Empty where the TE is at #3. A clinic example of how Taser is useful is against teams that motion the RB out of the backfield to create Y-Empty sets. That is how we introduced the coverage at Baylor. Traditional 11 pers. Pro Twin (2x2) and the RB would shift out to the #2 WR spot to the TE’s side, creating a Trey/Twin look. The same formations I described in my dilemma.
The coverage can also be a great counter to teams pushing the RB out with pop-motion, allowing the Mike to stay on the TE and the secondary to play zone coverage over the push route and the two WRs. Tampa 2 is also becoming popular again, and for defenses that play the coverage at volume, Taser can be a great change-up as the Mike is now locked in coverage. The Taser concept, in reality, is an extension of the Cover 2 family but matches the Mike on #3, locking him in instead of running him through the middle of the field as a pole-runner.