Defending the Spread: Run Game

Jay Batement: Elon University

General Principles of Defending the Spread

  1. Take away the best runner or best run play.
  2. Make them throw the bubble.
  3. We will try to play Cover 2 as much as possible to take away easy throws.
  4. Check towards the side of the back. Once they put the back in gun, he has told us what they can or cannot do. Align accordingly!
  5. Hit the QB!!

Starting Points for Stopping the Spread Offense

  1. I.D. the Quarterback.
    1. Can he run the football?
    2. Is he the primary runner?
    3. How do they runt he ball with him? Do they use call runs, or option plays?
    4. How well does he throw - arm strength, accuracy?
    5. How much do they put on him?
  2. Do they want to run or throw the ball?
    1. What do they do against a favorable box?
    2. What do they do when they see pressure?
    3. How willing are they to hand off zone?
    4. What are the checks?
  3. What are their Running Backs and Wide Receivers like?
    1. Where do they align their best Wide Receivers?
    2. Who do they rely on to block the perimeter?
    3. Who do they think is the best guy - who are they getting the ball to?
    4. If a Tight End is used, how is he used? How much blocking does he do?
  4. Offensive Line
    1. Can they consistently block us - in both run and pass?
    2. How well do they handle movements?
    3. How effective are they at getting Linebackers?
    4. Is there a weakness on edge? (ex. they can't be great at veer release and pass setting).

Initial Alignment versus Spread Teams

  1. We align in a Cover 2-shell, with the Outside Linebackers aligned as tight as we can.
  2. Set the front to the running back, and away from the back. You never want the Offense to know where your 3-Technique is going to be.
  3. Our run defense is based on where the back is aligned.
  4. Everything we do will be based on where the back aligns.

Zone Read Rules

  1. Defensive Ends are always benders (chase!), take away the zone.
  2. Mike is responsible for QB, if he is on a B-Gap defender to the side of the back, scrape and go get him.
  3. If Mike is A-gap responsible, the Quarterback is left for the Outside Backers and Ends.
  4. If Mike is A-Gap responsible, the OLB can't hold the Quarterback, DE squeeze, and Mike has to account for QB. Move fast!


  1. Move the front. Change up the Linebacker gap responsibilities.
  2. Change the coverage. Play Roll 3, play Quarters, etc.
  3. Squeeze the Defensive End to the 3-Technique side.
  4. Use Zone Blitzes and Man Blitzes.

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