My defensive philosophy is to focus on one defensive stat and that is scoring defence (fewest points allowed). I believe this is the main stat that truly matters other than third down conversion because the fewer points were given up means we are putting the team in the best position to win; while putting our offense back out on the field. Most teams at any level if they only give up one score a game they would likely win the majority of their games and have a successful season.
The pursuit drill that I utilize in our 3-4 scheme is to have the whole def move from the hash, middle, hash, and then back so everyone pursues front and back side. I have landmarks for the players to attack whether they are front side or back side in order to force the ball carrier where we want while in pursuit of the ball. A short quick example is the play side corner, safety, and OLB will force the ball carrier back inside to the ILB’s and DL in pursuit. The entire def will sprint to their landmarks which are 5 yards apart on the sideline. They will run full speed towards the coach standing near the force players near the 40-yard line. If one player does not run full speed we start over until I get the result I desire. This is done because hustle can lead to an impactful play. The more defensive players we have around the ball the better our chances are of us making a stop or an impactful play.
Our priorities for development are assignment, alignment, tackling, and run fits. These areas are extremely important for our defensive unit to be successful. They have to be able to tackle in every situation and understand how to tackle frontside, and backside (rugby style or seahawk tackle). We are currently moving towards more rugby style tackles as it promotes less helmet to helmet contact. In order to take the first step towards being a great defense, we have to understand how to defend the run. Our defense wants the ball to bounce, with everyone understanding why, and where we want the ball to end up against our run fits.
My defensive philosophy is simple: 1. Stop the run, 2. Limit big plays, 3. Create takeaways. This is what I believe a coach must do in high school must be able to do for team success on defense. 1. What I mean by stopping the run is holding your opponent under 100 yards rushing, if we can do that then we are likely going to win every game. Stopping the run makes teams one dimensional, If they are down big they tend to throw the ball more. The best thing you can do to a running team is force them to pass. 2. To me big plays or plays of 25 yards or more. eliminating those plays entirely is not realistic, they are going to happen. Instead, keeping them down to two per game is the goal. 3. We want at least three takeaways per game. We encourage this through the turnover chain. When ever a player gets a takeaway they get to wear the turnover chain.
We use the six cone pursuit drill. We put six cones on both sides of the field spaced about three yards apart. We line the players up back in the end zone. We have a tackle line, a nose line, a inside linebacker line, a outside linebacker line, a safety line, and a corner line. Players go six at a time. On the line a tackle and a nose, six yards behind them two backers, and behind them two defensive backs. The coach will say hit. The tackle and nose will hit the ground, the coach will point to one of the sidelines and all six players will run to a cone on that side. The first cone they get to is the one they get by and chop their feet until a coach breaks them down. If they go to the wrong cone or don not sprint all the way through, then they have to go again. While that going on the next group of six fall in and do the same thing to the other side. After each turn the groups fall back in line to go again. We do this for about 10 minutes depending on our practice time. This drill prepares us for power running teams which are most of the teams on our schedule. We also do a interception/bubble screen pursuit because there are a couple of these that like bubble screens and a lot of three step drops. In that pursuit the entire defense is on the field lined up in a defensive formation. The coaches are spread out to outside and behind the defense. One coach hikes the ball and throws to any coach he wants and the defense has to run to the ball. He mixes up hitting the flats in the bubble screen areas and also to the mid to deep areas where interceptions occur. The goal is to get the players to run to the ball and to take proper angles to cut off return lanes. It is good to have some young energetic coaches who like to run and make players chase them down.
My defensive philosophy is based on who my players are. I keep my play book simple on defense because that allows my players not to think so much which allows them to play fast. I cannot have my defensive players thinking too much and hesitate on their reads. I have a set defense that we run (base defense) and I work on that more than anything. We must be gap sound in our base defense and run to the football. The worst thing to do as a defensive coordinator is bailing out the offense by running too many coverages or fronts that confuses the kids. Keeping everything sound and throwing in a few wrinkles. Do what your players do best on defense. I play call to my players abilities and the situation on the field.
I understand that a lot of coaches like to run their pursuit drills using cones, and I used to do the same thing. I had a scout from Texas Tech a couple years ago recruiting my safety, and he wanted to take him out on the field to run some drills. I asked him if I should bring some cones out, and what he said will always stick with me, he said "no cones, you don't use cones during games, you don't break on cones during games, you break or react to the offensive player". He's absolutely right, so all of my drills that deal with reaction and pursuit drills, I use actual players. For my pursuit drills, I will have a defense out there, with the remaining of my defense players, they will set in an offense. I will have the offensive guys run a play that hits the perimeter of the defense (usually stretch or toss). Each defensive player must touch the ball carrier on the hip at the right angle. The defensive player running the ball must be running hard and once he is touched or surrounded, he must keep getting up the field until each defensive player has touched the hip. This type of pursuit drill is more realistic to me than running to a cone. I want my guys to get used to running to a ball carrier. I also will use my defensive team period when I have a scout offense to work on pursuit drills with an actual running back. If a defensive player over runs their pursuit, or takes a bad angle, they can actually see it first hand instead of running to a cone. I like using the pursuit drill for a conditioning purpose, there is nothing more important than pursuing to the football. Some coaches may think that tackling is the most important aspect, but if a defensive player cannot pursuit to a ball carrier, then he's not tackling anyway.