Quarters Coverage Alignments

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There are some parts of the quarters coverage scheme that are universal, one difference you will see is where defenses line up their strong side curl-flat defender versus “two detached” formations.

A team like Michigan State that plays with mostly base personnel will use a linebacker to midpoint the #2 receiver and the end man on the line of scrimmage.

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This alignment can create a conflict versus play action. In Michigan State’s quarters scheme the Sam linebacker is responsible for a gap in the run game but also to collision #2 and play the curl-flat area. Because Sam is tied into the box he must respect the play action fake. With #2 already having outside leverage, once the Sam steps to the fake it opens up a big window to throw the speed out.

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Ends up as an easy 13 yard first down completion for the offense.

speed out

Defenses like Alabama’s use a 4-2-5 alignment versus two detached formations when in quarters, to take away those types of easy throws. Bama will go with 5 defensive backs in quarters and align the strong safety outside #2.

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The strong safety is the curl-flat player in coverage, but he’s not tied into the box. The strong safety’s run responsibility is “force”, meaning he has outside contain and must turn everything back inside to the free safety and pursuit. Because the strong safety has force and is not tied into the box, he does not have to come up hard on a play action fake like the Michigan State linebacker did.

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Not only does this alignment take away the speed out that was thrown against Michigan State, but it also makes it nearly impossible for teams to throw the popular bubble screen. #2 isn’t an option at all on the bubble due to the position of the strong safety. Auburn tries to throw the bubble to #3 but it’s very difficult to gain the edge versus this defensive alignment.

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Already having outside leverage on #2, the strong safety is able to fight the block from the outside in, turning the play back inside to the free safety who is filling the alley.

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The bubble screen goes for a minimal gain of a couple of yards.

Bama vs bubble

Now I know some people are going to wonder if playing the strong safety outside of #2 is going to leave you vulnerable in the run game. If your safeties are trained properly you still have strong run support. Here is an example: Bama is in quarters again, SS aligned outside #2, Auburn dials up a jet sweep.

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With the strong safety playing his force responsibility and taking on and fighting the block from #2 from the outside in, it forces a cutback. The free safety buzzes his feet until he can diagnose the run play. Once the free safety reads it, he comes downhill immediately. Knowing that he has the strong safety playing force and pursuit help from the inside, it allows the free safety to attack aggressively, rather than worrying about taking the right angle.

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The free safety makes the tackle for no gain.

Bama 4-2-5

Both Michigan State and Alabama were playing the same coverage, but you can see how some subtle tweaks in personnel and alignment in a quarters scheme can make a huge difference.

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12 thoughts on “Quarters Coverage Alignments

    • There shouldn’t be. Free Safety is reading #2. If #2 goes vertical then the FS would not commit in run support.

      Now you could give it, but with #2 releasing vertical you’re not blocking the strong safety, have to account for the strong safety also.

  1. Beautiful video clip at the end. Gary Patterson does the same thing with playing the $ outside #2 and he makes a good point that the $ is not our extra guy, the FS is our extra defender.

  2. 20 Jarrick Williams is the star/sam, but you’re calling him the strong safety. Alabama does not play SS outside #2

    26 Landon Collins is the strong safety, but you’re calling him the free safety

    6 Clinton-Dix is the free safety

    • Just a difference in terminology. I’m familiar with the 4-2-5, in that defense the star = strong safety, strong safety = free safety & free safety = weak safety. But the positions are the same.

      Alabama does play the “star” outside number 2 in quarters. They did in both examples I showed and throughout the game versus Auburn. That’s why the “star” had force and the “strong safety” was an alley player. Same run fits as TCU quarters defense, which was the terminology I was using.

      That being said Alabama will also leverage #2 from the inside, it depends on what the coverage & force call is.

      Also in the 2008 Alabama playbook, go to page 120 and you will see the “star” aligned outside #2. Page 278 was most likely the play call that I highlighted. There are numerous examples; http://wp.me/p2V0ns-1wq

      Also have the TCU playbook so you can see that the positions are the same, just the terminology/verbiage is different: http://wp.me/p2V0ns-1XX

      • I don’t think the reponse was saying star doesn’t align outside #2, just that it isn’t the SS in Saban’s system. Difference in terminology is all. And unlike TCU, most nickel systems call that position sam, nickel or star… not SS.

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