Blitz of the Day Pt. 2- Clemson Fire Zone

(Photo by Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire)

So I have been watching spring games and re-watching college games from 2016 since we are in a football drought right now.  I was recently watching the National Championship from this year and noticed a well designed 5 man fire zone Clemson ran.

I’am  a very firm believer that blitzing is a science and not just throwing bodies at the wall. You have to know why your blitzing and how to attack an offense for blitzing to be successful. Blitzing successfully has a lot more to do with film study and in game adjustments. You very rarely just call a blitz and it works in my experience.  The times I have had blitzes work successfully it had way more to do with our film study and making a key adjustments versus what an offense was doing to us.

Here towards the end of the first quarter Brent Venables makes a key adjustment to get some pressure on Jalen Hurts. Its 3rd and 17 and Venables decide to go conservative considering the field position and situation I believe.  He dials up what is called “Even Cardinal 3 Palms”

This is a good blitz because it has the adjustment built in based on the formation. If the offense comes out in 2×2 set they check to palms (2 read coverage) if its 3×1 set they play your normal 3 under 3 deep fire zone coverage. They will also play clamp (Cover 6) versus a 2×2 set with a sniffer.  Cody Alexander who runs Match Quarters Blog has great article on “Packaging Your Blitz Calls by Formation” This is a great example of that because  even though the blitzer does not change the coverage shifts based on formation to make the blitz more successful.

For fire zone blitzes to be successful game plan preparation is a big apart of it. When you know what protection a offense likes to use it makes it easier on defense to know what blitzes to call to have a much higher success rate of a blitz getting home or putting pressure on the QB.

Its 3rd and 17  and Alabama comes out in a 11 personnel 2×2 set with the TE set off the LOS almost like a wing.

Clemson on defense is showing a 1 high look with the Free Safety rolled down into the box. This is good pre snap disguise because they are going to end up playing palms (2 read) because its a 2×2 set. With it only being a 5 man pressure its good to have some disguise and make it harder for the QB to recognize where to go with the ball.

Another key to this pressure is the previous play Venables called a fire zone blitz similar with the Linebackers cross blitzing.


The blitz gets picked up because Alabama is running 6 man half slide protection scheme. They are zoning to the boundary side and man protection to the field side as you can see in the above diagram. Here is a live look at the blitz below:

Venables and the Clemson defensive staff had to have seen this and Venables did a good job playing the cat and mouse game and making a sound adjustment by calling “Even Cardinal 3 Palms” in order to attack the 6 man half slide protection and have solid coverage behind it to get off the field on 3rd and long.


Alabama is not able to pick up the blitz and the FS comes through untouched forcing the QB to get rid of it which is just as good as a sack most times. Alabama can’t pick up the pressure because Clemson technically has a +1 blitzer for the number of blockers they have. Each blocker is responsible for a gap. Clemson is bring 3 people in the A gap with the Running Back and Center being responsible for the A gaps, so Alabama does not have another blocker to pick up the Free Safety.


This a great example of having a blitz in your arsenal to attack a certain protection scheme and having a great in game mind to know when to call this blitz. Its no surprise that Venables and the Clemson defense are as tough as they have been the last few season.

If you are looking for more post on blitzing I have few right here on my blog I have written on and I leave the click on links right below this

Bringing Pressure with Cornerback Blitz

Attacking Empty with 6 Man Pressure

Attacking 3×1 with Weakside Overload Pressure

NCAA Zone Blitz with a Twist

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