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

NCAA Zone Blitz with a Twist

Yes yes this is another blitz post what can I say I love pressure I think all defensive coaches love being able to send pressure when you can. I was browsing through some old game films when I was at my last high school looking at how we played Quarters Match similar to Michigan State when Narduzzi was the Defensive Coordinator and I stumbled across a blitz that was highly successful for us which is the traditional NCAA Blitz that everyone runs (DIAGRAM #1)

ncaa-classic-blitz

We found a different way to run this blitz with a simple exchange between the MLB and the blitz side DE we mugged up the MLB in the B gap and loop the DE into the A gap with the SS still blitzing off the edge. We really like this versus 2 back formations and became a pretty good run and pass blitz for us versus 21 and 20 personnel formations. (DIAGRAM #2)
ncaa-twist-2-back

But we also discovered we could run this blitz versus 2×2 formations with great success as well
(DIAGRAM #3 and #4)

d3

d4

we started out using traditional 3 under 3 deep zone blitz coverage dropping our weak side DE in the low hole. Then we evolved  We made it a 6 man blitz and played 2 under 3 deep coverage because we noticed the team rarely released the RB out of the backfield.  (DIAGRAM #3 & #4).

When we ran into teams who wanted to release their RB on the check down we easily just tagged a “peel” call to the huddle call. I really like this blitz because when we did it right we had great success getting our stunting DE as a free rusher in the A gap. Which as you know immediate pressure in the QB’s face causes automatic problems.

The other element of this blitz I love too is that it’s a very safe call versus the run as well. We still all all the gap covered and frequently ended up with a unblocked player in the backfield on run plays.

I really wish I had more footage of this blitz because we had A TON of success with it but I’am no longer coaching at this school and don’t have access to this film but I found a few clips with the film I do have below enjoy.

Cover 2 Trap Blitzing

I like being able to send pressure when I feel like it is needed. One of the biggest problems with blitzing is the high risk high reward that comes with it.  There are plenty of “passive pressures” as I like to call them and cover 2 trap blitzing is definitely on way to do it. When played correctly versus certain formations cover 2 trap blitzing can be what I call a good “passive pressure”. When I do cover 2 trap blitz I like it versus mainly 2×2 (DIAGRAM #1) and sometimes 3×1 (DIAGRAM #2). I like cover 2 versus the pass so cover 2 trap blitz fits really well with our regular cover 2 coverage. Its no better feeling than sending a blitz and making the quarterback throw the ball right where you want it to be thrown.  Cover 2 trap does a good job of baiting quarterbacks in my opinion.
C2 Trap Blitz 2x2
when we run this blitz versus 2×2 (DIAGRAM #1) we keep our cover 2 principles as far a technique goes with just slight tweaks. In cover 2 trap we play it almost like what most people call “palms” coverage we want the corner to break on flat routes now because we expect the hot throw, and in return our safeties will look to rob #1 right now with #2 going out to the flats. Rather in regular cover 2 he can play a little softer and break when they throw to flats first.  We are blitzing our outside linebackers who are contain rushers. Our inside linebackers are vertical/wall players. Which means they will wall #2 inside and carry #2 vertical. Our safeties are still deep half players just like in regular cover 2.
C2 Trap Blitz 3x1
I don’t like it as much versus 3×1 (DIAGRAM #2) but I have done it some. versus 3×1 we will bump our inside linebackers to trips side with our backside linebacker will now play vertical wall on #3. To the single WR side we can make a “yoyo” (you on your own) check which now the cornerback is now man on #1. Also to the single WR side the blitzing linebacker will now be an “alert peel” player which means he will take the RB if he swings out to his side.

This is just a little safe “passive pressure” I have ran to keep some pressure on the quarterback without a risk of giving up a deep ball as heavy because of the 2 high coverage. Hope you enjoyed thanks for reading.

Bringing Pressure with Cornerback Blitz

One of my favorite ways to bring pressure is with a cornerback blitz versus certain offensive formations. Cornerback blitzes can be a great versus certain run plays as well. This post I’m focusing on cornerback blitz versus the pass against 3×1 formations that I have used.

I started to run this cornerback blitz due to issue with trying to contain the quarterback on sprint out plays. We faced a few teams who set the running back to the trips side and have him set the edge on sprint out plays. The way I have ran it is below (DIAGRAM #1)
CB Blitz

We still like bringing pressure from the trips side versus sprint out as well because pressure from trips side can disrupts the sprint out action before it starts usually and get the quarterback to make his decision to throw or run even faster. However when we bring the cornerback from the single WR side. We have had him come unblock most times.

I like bringing pressure from the look of having both defensive tackles in head up 2 techniques. It makes the offensive line play more of a guessing game with their protection because they don’t know right away who is rushing where. I like slanting the defensive line away from blitzing corner because It helps our d-line versus the sprint out and it helps occupy the tackle to keep the cornerback clean on the blitz.

When you send pressure it doesn’t have to always be a sack or turnover. If you make the QB throw a bad pass or get rid of the ball fast that’s a win in my book. Also in my experience high school QB’s start to sense the pressure way faster and now we’re in his head. Hope you enjoyed this short post.