Learn how to defend the 20 personnel run game

By Adam Gaylor | Posted 4/16/2019

Today we are going to talk about 20-personnel run fits. We are going to talk about our 3-4 odd fronts and how we fit it against the run. Then, we are going to talk about how we fit the 20-personnel sniffer out of a 4-man front as well as some pressures we like out of our odd front.

Base Structure

In our odd front, the base we are going to set the front is towards the passing strength. We have two different outside linebackers in our defense. It is almost like a hybrid 4-2-5. Our Sam/Nickel is going to be more like a hybrid safety than a true Sam linebacker because he’ll be asked to have safety-like responsiblities due to some of the coverages we play with him.

Our other outside linebacker, the Jack, is going to be more of a hybrid defensive lineman. He is going to be to the boundary a lot with the Sam/Nickel going to the field a lot.

We can hide the Jack’s lack of athleticism a lot by aligning him into the boundary where he doesn’t have to cover as much ground.

We do something similar with our safeties. Our strong safety is going to be out of the run fit a lot. He is going to be to the field a lot, so he has to be your better athlete and open field tackler.

Our free safety is going to be inserted into the run fit a lot. He is what you consider more of your “old-school” strong safety.

We flip our corners as well, boundary and field. Since we play a lot of man coverage to the boundary, we will play our better corner into the boundary.


The front we are in here we call our “Okie” front.

Okie for us is going to consist of the nose in a 0-technique with the defensive ends in 4i-techniques, 4-techniques and so forth. That all depends on the formation and backset.

If there’s two backs and we are in Okie, then we are going to get into 4i’s. The reason we do this is because it eliminates a lot of things that offenses like to do with 20-personnel sniffer. It eliminates the insert zone and the lead stuff that offenses like to do. The A- and B-gaps are gone, and there’s no place to insert those guys, forcing the ball to spill.

Keys and Alignments

With our linebackers in Okie, if it’s 2-backs we are going to align in 20-techniques. The Mike and Will linebacker are keying through the guard and tackle to the sniffer.

Our defensive ends in 4i’s are going to attack the inside of the tackles and read the guards.

Our nose is going to key the center and play what we call a “lag” technique. This means the nose is going to engage the center and play the back half of the center’s block.

The outside linebackers, the Jack and Sam/Nickel, are going to key through the tackles to the mesh. They understand it is a 2-back set and there is a high likelihood of run. We know we are the C-gap players.

In “open” coverage, the free safety is a run fit player. He is going to key through the guard and tackle to the sniffer.

Run Fits

If we get Split Zone Weak with the Y shifting back to the strong side of the defense, here is how our rules will play out. If I am the Mike linebacker and I get the sniffer coming to me, I am going to chase and spill the 4-technique. The 4i defensive end is going to be the B-gap player. The linebacker wants to come nice and tight off that tackle to spill the ball to the force player. 

If I’m the Will linebacker and I get pulled away with the sniffer, I’m going to spike the A-gap. The nose guard is going to play the opposite A-gap since he is “lagging” on the center’s block with the defensive ends playing the B-gaps.

To recap, if the sniffer is away, the Will linebacker is going to spike the A-gap. If we get two pulls away, the Will linebacker is going to overlap the Mike linebacker, spilling the puller.

Get the entire Coaches Note on run fits vs 20 personnel: Run Fits from the Okie Front against 20 personnel

Coach Gaylor uses the TIPS format listed below:


Coach Gaylor teaches how he designs his defense around his personnel. 


The installation plan for how this is taught is shared to include diagrams and videos. 


If you aren't a 3-down team, their is a section dedicated to run fits from a 4-down front. 


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