College Coach details Quarters coverage (Part 2)

By Clayton Cason | Posted 7/23/2019


As a general rule, defenses want to force the ball to go toward the coverage rotation (especially against zone read). Cover 7 is structurally a weak-side rotation, where the safety in the boundary rotates down to be the “force” player weak. Because of this, the defensive end to the strength will “surf/sift/sit” when the tackle blocks away, forcing the quarterback to hand the ball into the weak rotation defense.

RELATED CONTENT: [Podcast] Deep Dive on Defense - Cover 7 with Dante Bartee, Grad Assistant Cal (Part 2)


Jimmy/Pony is a stunt in the sense that a defensive lineman will start the snap in their gap of origin but are playing the next gap inside. This is typically used on the weakside to help mitigate RPOs and gap-out fits, making runs push off the table to the depth players. 


A 5-technique lineman will strike like he is a C-gap player. As the ball declares into the B-gap, he will rip across the tackle’s face and play it.

The Pony stunt is the same, except now both the 3-technique and 5-technique will play the inside gap when it declares there. Both of these are referred to as “two gap, one gap” techniques. 


The most used coverage in the Cover 7 family is the next concept: Bracket. At the high school level, Coach Bartee suggests using this concept over Switch because of how much carryover it possesses with the other coverages you will use. In 3x1 coverages like Stump/Special and base single-high structures, the star (apex) aligns outside of No. 2. This is the same in Bracket, and the two are indistinguishable pre-snap. In fact, Bracket is played like Stubbie to 2x2. Another way Coach Bartee described it was as a Cone coverage on No. 2. Teaching it this way allows a seamless transition into later coverage. It's worth noting that if No. 2 runs a sneak, the apex player can zone off (like in Cone) to help defend double posts concepts. Here is how Bracket is played:



Man #1


He will align outside leverage of No. 2. He has No. 2 man-to-man unless there is a “Fast 3.” Once he gets the “push” call, he would man No. 3 with a sail technique. A sail is when the defender turns his back to the sideline and covers like a Cover 2 flat corner would. This way, he doesn’t get high/low’d by a corner route from No. 2 in a Sail-Flood passing concept


Relate to No. 3. If Fast 3, the Mike posts the new No. 3. Post means to wall the receiver by posting up the receiver like in a basketball game. The biggest coaching point is to make sure that the Mike reroutes No. 3 at the top of the route rather than at the bottom (stem) of the route. If he’s rerouted early at the bottom of the route, it allows the player to get back into his path and stack the Mike. The Mike’s job is to create a wall and keep leverage with the safety.


He will play Robber technique like MOD. This creates carryover within the scheme and makes it easier to install.

*Sometimes when the offense has tight splits, they will make a call in Bracket to play it like Swtich. *


Iowa vs. Oklahoma

Both of these calls are to the safety telling him where to align. Iowa (I in the call) aligns him inside, the safety aligns outside in Oklahoma (O in out). 


When calling 7 Bracket, the defense will make a check to the weak side. Remember from the first part that Cover 7 is a flank-dependent coverage. As a base rule, the check called is determined by flankers to that side.



CC is a Bracket Weak, or Double Bracket. The key reason to have a distinction between CC and Bracket is because it talks to the Mike and the weak-side apex (Money/Will). Now the Money/Will is using the same technique that the apex uses in Bracket. Without labeling it CC, it would be impossible to decipher which side is playing what coverage (i.e., Bracket/Cut). Bracket defines that the Bracket coverage is to the strength (where the star/apex is) and Cut is being played to the weak side. This makes it a true split-field concept. The rules are the same: 


Man No. 1.

Apex (Money/Will)

Man No. 2 unless a Fast 3. Use sail technique to man the Fast 3.


Robber technique.


Cut is a coverage that is technically in the Cover 5 family but is used as a weak-side coverage option in Cover 7. Dependent on back placement (and the Mike in relation to him), Cut will be played two separate ways. First, with the back (or Fast 3) to the Cut side. Secondly, with no Mike to the Cut side, a push alert will be made. However, let’s first talk Cut with a Mike backer in the Cut: 


The corner is a flat defender, aligned 4-5 yards inside No. 1. He will move inside-out (inside foot first), rerouting No. 1. If there is no one in the flat, he will take No. 1 through. Example: if No. 1 runs a sneak and nobody shows into the flat, the corner will man the sneak. 


The Will (called the Money) will man No. 2 up and in with an inside trail technique. If No. 2 goes out, the Will looks to cut No. 1. It should play like Robber technique from a safety, only from the bottom-up instead.


The safety is a halves player, reading 2-to-1. He is looking to gain width and midpoint No. 1 and 2. Playing outside in on No. 2 and favoring No. 1 when both players go vertical. This is because No. 1 does not have a player matching his vertical, whereas the safety is matching No. 2 vertical. Doing this will force the longer, further pass with more air under. 


If there is a Fast 3, he will cut the original No. 1.



If No. 1 was to run an over route, climbing as he dragged across to the passing strength, the halves safety would take him man across field. The corner would become the new halves player to the weak side. This is because this is not a zone coverage, and there is nobody across the formation to man him up.


If there is not a Mike or Fast 3 to the side of the Cut, a push alert will be made. This means the Money/Apex will take No. 1 behind No. 2. Example: No. 1 runs a sneak and No. 2 runs a corner. The Money will take the sneak, and the Corner will sail technique. The safety will man up the corner.


Mix is played just like MOD unless there is mesh action in the backfield. Against this, the apex will fold into the fit, and the safety will man up No. 2 instead of using his Robber technique.


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