One of your most important jobs as a coach is to make sure you're getting the most out of your players, and you can't do that if you're installing a scheme that asks them to do things they're not naturally good at.
This is the problem that Coach Jacob Gill was facing when he was evaluating his own personnel at Shiloh Christian in Arkansas. He wanted the ability to add a 3rd safety to the field and create some different looks with a dime defense on third down, but wasn't sure about the best way to do it.
In this article we'll review some of his thought process and talk about not only what type of scheme he decided to use, but more importantly WHY he did it.
This is just a small segment from a great video series Coach Gill put together on this whole process. See more video clips from his 6-part series on the 3 high safety defense HERE.
Watch the video, or keep reading to see how Coach Gill solved this problem and built a new Dime package on defense.
Creating a Dime Defense with Base Rules
The first question Coach Gill asked when going over this was “Who are your guys?” In other words, what kind of bodies do you actually have? He started by going over the 3-3 stack over the off season, but he decided that it didn’t fit their personnel.
See the diagram below for a good look at what they first considered, but ultimately decided not to use.
What they ultimately decided was that this was going to be a true substitution package for them, used for 3rd and long. As a result, it’s something they only needed to be able to solve a limited number of problems and scenarios. This narrows the scope of your teaching and installation period.
What they settled on was the personnel package that you see below. They decided to take another defensive lineman off the field, and replace him with that “Dime” safety, giving them another “speed body” on the field.
Keep our 4-2-5 Rules the Same
The next question he asked was “How do we make the learning curve as short as possible?” Even though this is designed to be a 3rd and long defense, you still can’t be completely unsound against the run, so they decided to keep the same rules as their base 4-2-5 defense. This is the same philosophy they followed when coaching up how to defend the RPO with 3 safety personnel.
In the Shiloh Christian 4-2-5, their first rule was to set the nickel safety to the field. The leverage player was going to be aligned in space. Coach Gill comes from a coverage background, so he naturally thinks in terms of “Coverage dictates front.” Your philosophy may be different, but the point is that he wasn’t giving his players a bunch of new rules to learn for this situation.
One thing you’ll hear from Coach Gill during this presentation over and over again is talking about the “return on investment” from time spent installing whatever it is you’re doing.
Shiloh Christian decided to keep their rules the same with a nickel safety. He will always align to the side with the most receivers and when on the hash, align to the field. “We wanted our leverage player, in space.” Their goal was to keep the back end as similar as possible, keeping their 4-2-5 rules alive, at least on the back end. “We’re going to utilize our front rules, to match our secondary rules.”
Dime Defense: Hash Rules
We’ve already pointed out that when the ball is on the hash the nickel safety would be on the field. If the balls on the hash, and the offense wants to play a third of the field, Shiloh Christian is “happy to defend less space.” The Nickel will be set to the field. The “End” will travel to the field side, and the “Bandit” defensive lineman will be to the boundary. In a 4-2-5, the Will is set away from the “Star”
Changing our Base Front Call Rules
The only problem this presents is that sometimes the alignment rules for the Star will conflict with the normal four-down front rules for the Mike and Will. This can lead to undesirable alignments like the one you see in the diagram below.
What they wanted to do was make sure that the Will was always opposite of the Star, this way the Mike and WIll’s jobs would remain very similar to the base 4-2-5 rules. To fix this, they told the Mike that he would automatically set the front to wherever the Star lined up, and so the Will would never be put to the same side. If they always set the Star to the field, then they’d always get the Will opposite.
Now they’ve managed to change the presentation but kept almost all of the rules and responsibilities the same.
Dime Safety Responsibilities
While Shiloh Christian kept the “Free Safety”, “Mike”, “Will”, and “Star” all the same, they had a question. What are we asking the new guy to do? For the rest of the guys in this sub package, they were already playing roles either identical or almost identical to what they were being asked to do in their base package.
This is one of the advantages of the 3 safety defense, it actually allows you to play a lot more base defensive responsibilities than you may think.
But the Dime safety was being asked to play a position that didn’t exist in any other package, so they had to find some rules that would allow him to be effective, but also simple enough that he could still play another position. This is because the guy you put here probably isn’t always sitting on the bench when you’re not in Dime personnel. He could be playing receiver, or corner, or some other skill position that he has to practice and learn the rules for at the same time.
Also, it has to be something that fits his natural talents. If you’re asking him to be a box player and come down and fit the run, it’s probably not a great idea to ask a cornerback-type player to fill that role.
In this package however, Coach Gill and his staff were looking for a guy to play deep in the middle of the field as a post player, and since they were only planning to use this as 3rd down package, they were never going to ask him to fit the run.
In the Knights 3 Safety defense, they simply took their best “pure” receiver to that “dime” position. They needed a middle of the field defender, and a guy that was truly great at getting that jump ball.
What do we need from this package?
This package for Shiloh Christian is a sub-package for 3rd down and long. So if that’s the case, they needed guys who could rush the quarterback.
This wasn’t put together with the idea of bringing all kinds of exotic blitzes, instead Coach Gill wanted to be able to get pressure with those front 3 guys most of the time.
If they could get pressure with the front 3, then they could drop eight into coverage and “layer the coverage” providing extra depth and leverage to take away those deep pass concepts that an offense will dial up on 3rd and long.
To do this, they needed three guys who could get after the passer naturally, so they took their nose off the field, and bumped the “Bandit” (weak side defensive end) inside to play over the center. Then they brought the back up bandit on to the field to play that other five technique spot.
This is the process that helped them build their dime defense.
See even more video clips from this series on the 3-High Safety Defense HERE