My man @The_Coach_A from matchquarters.com did the coaching world a service and summarized a modern, anti-spread defensive philosophy in his new book:
I’ll confess, I opted for the Kindle version, which still reads really easily but is perhaps a tad less useful for sharing for coaches that would want their staff to read this book.
If you’ve ever read Coach A’s site, you know what you’re getting in this book, but there’s a ton the book has to offer even for people that read the site regularly as I do.
The book is partly a polemic, arguing for the usage of 4-down, match quarters-based defense with explanations for how it allows a staff to have a sound base from which to build a defense that can handle all of the challenges posed by modern spread tactics without getting run by bigger, downhill run teams.
However, it also includes sections that detail the different between the 4-3/3-4 quarters defense and the 4-2-5, and thoroughly dissects what spread offenses are trying to do in order to explain how to counter. For that reason, if you get this book you’ll not only learn about Coach Alexander’s preferred 4-2-5 quarters defense but also learn a great deal about a variety of different spread offenses as well as several other defenses.
For instance, I have a greater understanding now of Matt Rhule’s Baylor defense, Snyder’s K-State defense, Patterson’s TCU defense, and even Todd Orlando’s Texas defense as a result of reading Coach A explain different ways to respond to spread tactics and recognizing different approaches I’ve seen around the Big 12.
A philosophy of balance and containment
Coach A’s 4-2-5 defense that he primarily describes in this work is promoted for its flexibility and ability against a wide variety of opposing schemes to advance the main goal of maintaining a plus 1 in the run game and a plus 1 in the pass.
That is accomplished from the consistent two-high safety structure which provides the “plus 1” against a given offensive tactic from the safety tandem, most typically the boundary safety.
As Coach A explains it, the big difference between single-high safety defenses and quarters essentially comes down to quarters maintaining balance and the ability to send a plus 1 from deep who can see what’s going on whereas in single-high coverages the plus 1 is either aligned on one perimeter or perhaps blitzing.
In two-high the defense is presented as being able to more easily bring the extra man to help stop the run or clean things up no matter where the leak occurs whereas in single-high safety coverages you often get situations where if someone gets beat or muffs it then it’s all on the deep safety to clean things up or it’s time to play the fight song because the defense is packed in tighter.
Alexander’s two-high playbook is also designed to always allow the defense to force the outside throws, particularly low percentage throws like the fade, while allowing the defense to gang up and outnumber everything thrown inside. If you’ve watched Baylor or Michigan State when they’re playing good defense you’ll notice how they are always in tight and denying the quick and easy stuff spread offenses live off, this book explains how this is achieved.
Foundations from defensive stalwarts
The defense that Coach A lays out as his preferred solution to modern spread offenses is based largely on the Phil Bennett defenses he learned as a GA at Baylor while Bennett was transforming that unit into a top crew that allowed the Bears to breakthrough and win consecutive Big 12 titles. It’s closely related to the current Snyder-Hayes quarters defense that they still use at Kansas State.
There’s also some stuff taken from Narduzzi’s famous 4-3 Over-Quarters defense, you can see a little bit of the North Dakota State/Wyoming stuff in there, and the Ryan family “blitz the formation” philosophy is also a major component.
Bennett’s blending of Dave Wannstedt’s 4-3 Over-quarters defense and Rex Ryan’s “blitz the formation” is the driving force but there are other systems that have some influence on Alexander’s defense as well.
For students of the game like myself, this book is invaluable for summarizing many of the stresses created by modern offenses and the best practices for addressing them. For coaches looking for a new philosophy or just some details on how to expand their own 4-3 or 4-2 quarters base, this is undoubtedly the first of many resources from Coach Alexander that will aid in that endeavor.