We've nearly installed our defense for the year as of this week. I'll work on a few minor additions over the next 2 weeks, and we will always make small adjustments based on scouting reports, but our core scheme is in place. The split 6 is very similar to the 4-4 stack, and the best online resource I've found that describes most of our scheme is the Jaws of Death hybrid by John Carbon. I ran the split-6 exclusively the last three years with great results - last year we allowed an average of under 12 points per game; 8 points per game if you throw out the first game of the season where we ran the 3-5-3 (poorly) and allowed 33 points.

So why introduce a 3-5-3 when the split-6 has worked so well for us? Two reasons:

  • Sherwood High School runs the 3-5-3 and these kids are getting close to playing at this level.

  • We have better athletes this year, including a very strong core group of linebackers. Running three inside linebackers gives me more options for blitzing and pressure.

The teaching points for the two defensive schemes are very similar, and in fact identical for our hawks and secondary. For the defensive line there are critical differences that are easy to teach. In the split-6 they are aligned directly in gaps and we will not slant or stunt (though we could run exchange stunts with linebackers if we wanted to). In the 3-5-3 they will always align heads up (on center and the two tackles) and slant variously depending on my play calling.

WhiteKnightDefense2009 3-5-3 Alignment. Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

When I call a split-6 front (either Able where the tackles align in the A gaps or Baker where they align in B), we move the stud linebacker into the left DE position and slide the 3 down linemen to the right. I will not be shifting the linebackers and D-line to strength - it leads to confusion for some of these young kids and I don't think it would be significantly beneficial to us in any case.

WhiteKnightDefense2009 Shifting from 3-5-3 to Split 6. Uploaded with plasq's Skitch!

Why include both fronts? I like to be able to show different fronts (odd and even), and if we encounter a team that is showing almost exclusively an inside running game I might stick to split-6 fronts for most of the game. I was able to install the split-6 after teaching the 3-5-3 in less than 30 minutes of practice time. We'll see how it works in our first game a week from today.

Check out our 2009 defensive playbook. This is what we share with the players and parents.