Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Continuing Cover 3- WEAK and CLOUD

Continuing on my series over Cover 3, is  Cloud and Weak.  The purpose of this is the confuse the opponent's quarterback, while maintaining similar/simple rules for the defense.


Cover 3 Weak designates a change in assignment between the safeties and linebackers.  The FS now rolls down and takes the flat, freeing up the Will and Mike to take the hook/curl zones and the Sam to take the strongside flat.  With this, the Strong Safety ($) now has the deep 1/3 of the field. 

Cover 3 v. Boot Pass

Boot pass is a common playaction play at all levels of football.  It causes problems for a Cover 3 team, as the coverage is rotating away from where the receivers are running.  Also, it puts the Will (W) linebacker in a tough position, to play run or fly out to the flat right away.  Below is an example of Cover 3 v. Boot Pass.

Cover 3 WEAK v. Boot Pass

Weak is a great adjustment to teams that like to boot, attacking levels and leaking that fullback out into the flat.  Safeties are to line up in a pre-snap read of being two high.  As the quarterback starts his cadence, the FS will roll down into the box, taking care of the flat, and the FB.  

With this adjustment, it buys time for the linebackers to play run first, and not worry about that FB getting to quickly into the flat and past them.  As the play develops the $ will be running with the deep cross/post on their drop to the middle 1/3 of the field.  


In cloud, the safeties will roll to cover their 1/3 of the field.  The strong corner will squat, taking care of flat responsibilities.  One of my favorite parts of cloud is having that corner lining up deep (8-9 yards off of LOS) and buzzing their feet, reading the quarterbacks throw into the flat.  

Often times, when you see a huge hit out of a corner on a receiver, they are playing some type of squat corner in Cover 3 or 2.  Allowing that corner to line up deep,  read what is in front of him, and run downhill for the big hit or interception is an easy and great adjustment using Cover 3 Cloud.    


This concludes my discussion on Cover 3.  Hopefully I have provided you with some different twists on the coverage, and some examples of when these coverages are run.  These are simple adjustments to help your players play fast and aggressive.  Feel free to e-mail with any questions, thoughts, or ideas on upcoming topics.  Happy Holidays!  Coach Hjorth

Special Thanks
A special thanks goes out to Coach Albaugh and  http://www.chiefpigskin.com  It has been a pleasure writing for them so far this year and I look forward to many more opportunities.  

Monday, November 29, 2010

Continuing Cover 3- COVER 3 SWITCH

Sorry that it has been a while since the last post.  I was finishing up the 2010 season, in which we finished 11-1 and in the elite 8 of the state.

Building off of Cover 3, I wanted to discuss a few variations of Cover 3 that are great adjustments for teams to make while running it as a base coverage.  During the explanation of these coverages I will use a 4-3 Base Defensive Front.  

Switch alerts the Strong Safety ($) that he will "switch" responsibilities with the Sam (S) linebacker.  Thus the Sam takes the flat and the SS takes the Hook/Curl zone.  This type of coverage is effective against teams that like to attack the flat/curl zone.  Changing the responsibilities of these players causes confusion for the quarterback on his reads.  Also, when running switch, both safeties can line up deep, causing the QB to have a 2 high coverage pre-snap read.  A perfect example is below, a common bunch route seen out of trips/spread teams.

Bunch routes run vs. normal Cover 3:

With base cover 3, the $ is responsible for the flat (Arrow route).  The Sam picks up the sit route in his hook to curl zone.

Running switch allows the defense to change the responsibilities of the Safety and Sam, while showing a different pre-read snap to the QB (a 2 high look).  The $ can pick up the Sit route seeing it in front of him, and the S can pick up the Arrow route.  Here is an example:

Simple adjustments like this will provide the defense with the upper hand, and allow the defensive players to play more aggressively.

Coming up next.. Cover 3 Cloud

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Players become Playmakers in the Playoffs

The time is coming for playoff season to begin on the high school level.  Teams have been working towards the playoffs since the first weight was lifted at the end of the 2009 season.  It is a culmination of all the hard work, discipline, and enjoyment that a team has had during the regular season. 

During the regular season, as coaches, we have figured out which players fit best into positions and schemes.  The playoffs are a time for these players to play “Big.”  I believe that playing “Big” is best defined as making critical and crucial plays.  Big time players have a knack for making that key touchdown block or interception.  They use their will to motivate their teammates, and always find a way to make that big play.  Players like this are a great asset to a program, and can have lasting effects for years to come. 

The NFL calls these “Big” players playmakers.  They are the ball-hawks, the weightroom and video junkies that have been hungry all season for their shot at making “Big” plays.  A great example of a playermaker in the NFL last season was Tracy Porter from the New Orleans Saints.  He made two critical interceptions in the NFC Championship game and the Super Bowl (against legendary QBs Brett Favre and Peyton Manning) that helped propel his team to become champions.  When Porter was asked how he made the plays, he stated that he studied film and anticipated the routes.  He made himself into a playmaker, and helped his team become World Champions.      

As a coach, I like to challenge my players to rise to the occasion.  Each playoff game brings more pressure, and as a high school athlete, one can either fight or plight the pressure they feel during the playoff games.  You want them to fight for their teammates, coaches, school and community.  This is a trait in playmakers, they never quit, never surrender.  Encourage your athletes to use that pressure and nervous energy and convert it into playmaking energy.  This is the time of year to build confidence in your players, and they will have confidence in you.  If you follow this model, you will see your players turn into playmakers.    

Most importantly, enjoy this special time of year. 

Good luck to all the players and coaches around the country, and always rise to the challenge of being playmakers.-  Coach Hjorth

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cover 3 Beaters

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Breaking Down Cover 3

One of the most common coverages at all levels is the Cover 3. Cover 3 stands for three deep players breaking up the field into 1/3s and having four players in underneath coverage.

The reason Cover 3 is so popular is its flexibility to get an 8th man into the box. No matter if you are a 3-5, 5-2, 4-4 or 4-3 defense, you can run cover 3.

First, I would like to define the zones:

Flat-  7-10 yards off of the line of scrimmage (LOS) between the numbers and sideline of the field.

Deep 1/3-  For cover 3, the field will be broken down into 1/3, from sideline to hash to hash to sideline.  Each player is responsible for the deepest man in their 1/3.

Curl-  7-10 yards on the inside part of the hash.  This player has a very tough zone, covering between the hash and the middle of the field.

Base cover 3 out of fronts:


Most 4-3 teams run a cover 2, which I will cover at a later date, but in order to get that 8th defender in the box, teams will move to a cover 3.


Cover 3 is a base coverage for the 3-4/5-2 team.  They want to stop the run, and will get that 8th player up into the box to put the pressure on a running team.  Example of a main 3-4 Cover 3 team is Alabama, and Coach Nick Saban's team.  Brophy extensively covered some of Alabama's more advanced coverages out of 3 at the following site: Advanced Cover 3.

4-4 and 3-5

The 4-4 and 3-5 defenses use Cover 3 as a base coverage along with man.  These defenses use a variety of blitzes and slants that allow their players to exploit weaknesses in the protection and change responsibilities of backers and zones.  Below are base Cover 3 looks for the two defenses

In the 3-5-3, most d-coordinators will bring at least one LB during the play.  For this example, I have the middle linebacker blitzing.  If they were to drop 8, the MLB would drop into the middle hole of the field, roughly 7-10 yards deep.

There are a variety of variations of Cover 3, and how it changes according to the offense's formations and routes.  The key is that it helps get that 8th man into the box, while covering the field and taking away the homerun routes.  Good luck.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Leadership Development Part 2

Pic courtesy of videodetective.com

As the 2010 football season has begun, teams at all levels around the country are finding out who their leaders will be for the upcoming season. This post is building off the leadership development program I personally use throughout the season with my own players.

How many times have you heard a coach say, “He should have known how to do _____________________.” We as coaches often feel this way about our team leaders, that they should know naturally how to lead. The fact is that more and more every year, we have players who struggle to understand what a leader is, and how their role plays an important part of the season’s success. The main idea behind leadership development and huddle group meetings is to teach how to become a leader.

As a coach, understanding where your team is at physically and mentally is an extremely important part of leadership development. You must know your team’s needs and issues, so that you can use them as topics during your huddle group meetings, and address them with your leaders.

Before I break down how meetings are run, I want to stress how vital it is to build a rapport with your leaders. As that rapport is built with your leaders, they will understand that you are there for them and any decision that is made, is made with their best interest intended. Also, you are creating an atmosphere in which the players can be open and trust you as a coach. Without these components, players will not open up in the meeting and examine themselves as leaders of the team.

Meeting Breakdown
Each meeting is to have a main topic that relates to your team. During huddle group meetings, I use a three-part system of a warm-up, discussion, and reflection. Meetings run between 45 minutes to an hour, and the players are on topic and focused during this time. Head coaches, this is also a great opportunity to bring in an assistant coach to speak about the topic and how it relates to that coach.

I will be providing a short part of my handouts that I give my players in italics below. For this example, we will use the topic of goal setting.

The warm-up is used to get the player’s focus on the topic of the meeting. Players often come into the meeting with many things on their mind, including homework, family issues, college pressure and significant others. The following is the format that I use during the warm-up phase:

1. Quote covering the topic of the meeting
2. Questions covering the definition of the topic and why it is important.

This is a short format that gets their attention and motivates the player to be on task and ready to discuss becoming a better leader.


Goal Setting

(1) “Man is a goal seeking animal. His life only has meaning if he is reaching out and striving for his goals.” - Aristotle

(2) Why do you believe it is important to set goals?

The purpose of the discussion is to open up the mind of the player. Learn how they feel about the topic, and also how their teammates feel about the topic. The following is the format that I use during the discussion phase:

1. Explanation of the topic
2. Reinforcement on why the topic is important and how it applies to our football team
3. Lasting thought about the topic and how important it is to the player becoming a young man.

The discussion part is the most important part of the huddle group meeting. Players are to participate in the discussion of the topic, and give their input. I have often left meetings excited that players shared their opinions and beliefs during this time, which brought us closer together as a team.

Goal Setting

A useful way of making goals more powerful is to use the SMART approach.


For example instead of having “Help my team win” as a goal, it is more powerful to say “Become a leader to help my team win conference in the 2010 football season.”

(2) Guidelines

• State each goal as a positive statement
• Be precise
• Set priorities
• Write goals down
• Set performance goals, not outcome goals
• Set realistic goals

(3) Staying the Course

Once you have decided to set your goals, you must continue to work towards these goals by reviewing and updating your list on a weekly basis. Without goals, you will never know what course you are on.

The purpose of the reflection is to reinforce what the player has just learned about during the meeting. This is also a good time to have the player write down their personal feelings to questions that are provided by the coach. The following is the format that I use during the reflection phase:

1. Quick summary of what the topic means and why it is important.
2. Reflection questions covering how the topic affects the TEAM, the individual, their family, and their academics.
3. Reinforcing quote about the topic


Goal Setting
(1) Without goals, we are nothing but wondering nomads. It is important for us as individuals to constantly be setting goals and updating them.

For your reflection homework, you are to choose five short-term goals from the following topics:

(2) Topics of Goals

- Attitude
- Caring/Giving
- Career
- Education
- Family
- Financial
- Physical (Health/Fitness)
- Pleasure
- Public Service
- Team

Fill out the following chart with to help organize and keep track of your plans


Short Term Goals How I plan on accomplishing my goals Two week progress Four week progress

(3) The core elements that you have been taught so far will help you reach your goals.

“Keep your heart invested, Maintain your focus, and Play for your TEAM!”
-Coach Hjorth

This is a brief overview of a weekly meeting with huddle group leaders. Again, these are only parts of a 45-minute to hour-long meeting. Throughout my experience, teaching your players to become leaders will not only help your season go smoother, but will help mold this player into a responsible young man.

For the upcoming blogs, I will be moving into more X’s and O’s of the offense, defense and special teams. If you have any suggestions, or would like me to breakdown something that has been confusing to you, please feel free to contact me at coachhjorth@gmail.com. Happy start to the 2010 season, and good luck!

Coach Hjorth

Friday, July 30, 2010

Leadership Development Part 1

Picture Courtesy of www.mollermarketing.com

“Attitude reflects leadership, Captain” – Julius Campbell in Remember the Titans

As the summer winds down, and we are all anticipating the start of the football season, I was thinking what would be an appropriate topic before the beginning of the 2010 season. In previous seasons, we have been busy teaching and coaching our players to give all of their effort on every play. Although, there are times in the steaming hot dog days of August that these words fall on deaf ears. I have learned that coaches can be blocked out, but a strong leader’s message is always heard. Along with blocking and tackling, leadership is one of the most important aspects in the game of football.

I am currently implementing a leadership program based off of Pat Fitzgerald’s Leadership Council that he uses at Northwestern. I personally, feel that not many college coaches get more out of their players than Coach Fitzgerald, and I have the utmost respect for him. He credits his success to his leadership council, and I also credit our team’s success to our leaders.

Our leadership program is known as “Huddle Groups” and each huddle group has a designated leader. The program is based on teaching our young men to become leaders on and off the football field.. As a coach, I meet with our huddle group leaders on a bi-weekly basis during the off-season and a weekly basis during the season. Below are the objectives and reasons why I use huddle groups.

Huddle groups objectives

• To earn an education
• To prepare for life after football
• To set goals
• To develop lifelong friendships and bonds as teammates
• To be a Champion

Huddle groups are used for the following

• Building our TEAM (Together Everyone Achieves More)
• Creating Leadership opportunities
• Create lifelong friendships
• Foster competitive nature
• Attitude development
• Accountability
• Inclusion of all athletes no matter their ability or skills
• Attendance
• Off Season Strength and Agility
• Improve Effort
• Reach Goals and Objectives

Through my experience with huddle groups, and its’ leaders, the greatest asset is the sense of ownership in their team. As the leaders take ownership and pride in their team, there is a trickle down effect, and each member of the huddle group increases their ownership and pride in their team as well. Additionally, huddle group members look to their leaders for leadership on the field during practice, games, and when a player is having personal hardships.

This is a basic overview of the leadership development program that I am currently using at the high school level. In the upcoming blog posts, I plan to go into further detail on how the leadership development meetings are run and among many other topics.

Also, there is a lot of great literature written about leadership and football specifically. The following two are great reads on leadership and football:

The Winners Manual by Ohio State Head Coach Jim Tressel

Tressel, Jim, and Chris Fabry. The Winners Manual: for the Game of Life. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2008. Print.


How Good Do You Want To Be? By Alabama Head Coach Nick Saban

Saban, Nick, and Brian Curtis. How Good Do You Want to Be?: a Champion's Tips on How to Lead and Succeed at Work and in Life. New York: Ballantine, 2007. Print.

NFL Training camps are starting up, football season is upon us, work with your players to develop them into leaders and it will turn into success on and off the field. And remember….. Attitude reflects leadership!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

1st Blog

I have started this blog to contribute to high school football, and specifically Chiefpigskin.com, which I recommend that everyone visit for great football information.

I have been lucky enough to be surrounded by some of the best coaches throughout my playing and coaching career. These hall of fame head coaches and assistant coaches have impacted my life, and 1,000s of student athletes. These coaches’ taught me many lessons on life and the game of football have helped shape the man I have become today. Their teachings are embedded into coaching style on a daily basis. For this, I am forever grateful.

On a personal note, I am currently a varsity defensive coordinator at the high school level in the state of Illinois. I was lucky enough to marry a wonderful football wife, who is as supportive and caring as any woman can be. I also welcomed my first son into the world in March.

As you read this blog, I hope to simplify select series of playbooks, philosophies, and teachings of the greatest team sport.

See you soon,

Coach Silent H