If you have read this site at any length, you know that I love the idea of implementing modern football concepts on NCAA 06. It is amazing how close we can get to using these new-age concepts and thrive with them in this game.
I want to share with you something that is near and dear to my heart. We know how much fun playing offense is in NCAA 06, but defense can be a lot of fun too once you settle down on some core concepts that work for you.
I have always liked the idea of having one defensive concept that can basically handle all types of situations. In the past, my defensive mainstay has been a 4-3 defense with other 4-man fronts to complement this. In one game I can switch from a 4-3 to 4-4 to Nickel, and sometimes to Dime packages.
There is nothing wrong with this idea as I have fielded top 5 defenses across the board in the past with this philosophy.
The problem with this, at least for me, is that this defense is complex in which I had to use a ton of plays from all sets to succeed. I also had to recruit more heavily on that side of the ball due to having to play so many formations and personnel groupings. I needed depth at every position to succeed.
Those days are over for me now due to a new and much simpler philosophy. I want to share this philosophy with you in hopes that it will help you as much as it has helped me.
This philosophy is called the Quarters Coverage Defense!
Have you ever wondered why Michigan State has been a consistent top 10 team over the last few years? Current Pitt head coach Pat Narduzzi (former defensive coordinator at Michigan State) made the Quarters Coverage Defense into perhaps the most popular defense in football today.
And guess what, you can use this defense and flourish with it in 06.
I have been using this defense for the last couple of years and I haven’t looked back.
Let’s take a look at the basics and reasoning as to why I switch my defensive mentality to this defense.
Quarters Coverage Defense Basics
I love this defense because I can basically use the same play from the same formation against any type of offense and thrive with it, as long as I have the personnel to do so (which is true with any defense really).
I guess you can use any type of line front but I, along with Coach Narduzzi, prefer strictly a 4-man front.
What sets this concept apart from most defenses is that it contains multiple concepts within one play. It is basically a defensive version of the PA Read.
The image above is a great visual of what Quarters Coverage is all about, at least at the real football level.
Here are some points about the defense with regards to stopping the pass:
- The safeties are the most important players in this defense. Basically, they are responsible for the inside receiver on their side of the field (slot receiver, TE, etc.) only if that receiver goes deep in any way. If not, then he helps his CB cover his WR.
- CBs are to shut down their WR with help from his nearby safety if needed, but mainly plays deep coverage, even though they start out in bump and run.
- OLBs cover the flats where the CBs were originally at.
- MLB handles anything this in the middle of the field, above or beneath him.
- The D-Line goes after the QB
Here are some points about the defense with regards to stopping the run:
- Since the safeties are normally positioned 10 yards from the line of scrimmage, the defense can basically show a nine man front!
- Read the previous statement.
Now what I said above is all well and good and it helps to understand the basics of the defense, but we want to implement this entire scheme in NCAA 06.
The play that we will use for 90% of our defense is 4-3 Cover 4 Zone.
First, you need to know how to get your defenders in position before every snap. Don’t worry, after awhile you will be making these adjustments in your sleep.
After you select a play on defense, you players go to their default spot, CBs five yards off the line, no shifting by either the LBs or the Line, that sort of thing.
In order to make this scheme work, we have to make some adjustments every time.
Hare are your only pre-snap adjustments you have to make:
- Triangle/Y, Down on the D-pad (to bump and run your CBs)
- Triangle/Y, Right on the D-pad (to shift your OLBs to the slot receivers, if any)
- L1, Left or Right (to shift your D-Line to the strong side, if any)
These three steps set your players up in their base alignment.
Here you will see I have made all of three adjustments before the snap. I bumped up my CBs. I shifted my OLBs to cover any slot receivers, and I shifted my D-Line to the offense’s strong side.
Remember that the play we are using is Cover 4 Zone. If you did not control any of the players, all four secondary players will drop in Cover 4 and your LBs will be in basic zone coverage. Your left CB might not be over his WR but he is designed to cover deep so it will not matter.
Which Defender Do I Control?
Here is a general idea of who to control in which situation:
- SS – against heavy run teams or a team with a high impact HB, for run support. Also, since not as much happens on the deep right side compared to left, controlling the SS is your safest option. If you feel good about your open tackle skills, the FS is fine to control too.
- Grass-side OLB – control him if you face a pass heavy team that likes to throw a lot of short stuff, think West Coast teams and Air Raid attacks. The AI Doesn’t do a great job of covering that much field so controlling him works in this situation.
- CB – only on plays where no receiver is on his side of the field (will be explained later)
Now let’s go over the main situations and how to handle them.
On pass plays as a safety, you either defend the slot if he goes deep in any way or help your nearby CB defend his WR. While controlling the SS, I notice that the slot receiver is cutting in so I can let my LBs take care of him while I help my CB.
In this play I notice the offense in the I-Formation and expect them to run the ball. I can bring my safety up for support (or not, your choice).
They do decide to run but thankfully I moved my safety up to make the play.
Covering the Flats with the OLB
Here I decide to control the grass-side OLB to cover the flats better. If the offense has been continuously attacking the short field, I will continue to control the grass-side OLB.
The QB decides to throw it to the flat but I am there ready to pounce on it. I love defending pass heavy teams that throw short stuff because I just dare them to throw it my way. Sometimes the game recognizes that your defender may be out of place and will throw it your way. If you feel confident in your open field skills, then go nuts with your OLBs.
Special CB Situation
The only time you should be control a CB is when the offense has no WR on either side. What Coach Narduzzi likes to do in this situation is run a Cover 2 on that side while maintaining the basic Cover 4 assignments everywhere else.
Notice that the defense is in a Twins set with no WRs on the right side. In this situation I control that CB and cover the flats on a pass play while supporting the run at the line of scrimmage.
The offense decides to run to my side with an option play by my controlling CB is ready to stuff the run.
Can I Run This Play On Every Down?
You can but you don’t need to. I can run this play/scheme on all first and second downs without a hitch, but even Coach Narduzzi likes to switch it up from time to time.
On third downs when he wants to really get after the QB, Narduzzi loves to throw crazy blitzes at the offense. You can pick your favorite blitz schemes and have fun with it.
Against teams with running QBs, you might want to control one of your LBs more than usual, as a spy basically.
There have been games where I ran this scheme 100% of the time with great success, other times less than 75%. Just use your best judgement.
Sometimes, the best plan is to simple dial in on the impact players. The AI in the game is good about trying to get the ball to their playmakers so plan accordingly.
One the big reasons why I love this defense is how simple it is to recruit to the scheme. Before I mentioned how my previous defense needed considerable depth at a lot of the positions.
This is not the case with Quarters Coverage. This defense needs specific players to do specific things, but since we are only dealing with one personnel grouping, this simplifies our recruiting quite a bit.
Let’s run down the basics of what I like to have in the defense.
- Safeties – AWR, SPD, Height, TKL. Since your safeties are the most important guys in this scheme and have tons of responsibility, you need smarts, wheels, and decent tackling ability (in that order). They have to cover a lot of grass and since you can only control one at a time, it is imperative to get smart players. Just recruit these guys from their normal safety pools.
- CB – AWR, SPD, Height. Your typical CBs work here but make sure your CBs are tall or can at least jump really high. You don’t know how many times these guys can save your hide by tipping balls.
- OLB – AWR, SPD, TKL. I actually prefer to recruit from the SS (preferably strong and over 200 ponds) pool since these guys are usually much fast than any regular OLB you find. Again, these guys have a lot of responsibility and need to cover ground in a hurry, so speed is imperative here. If you can find an OLB that runs a 4.5 or better, than by all means go after him too. Otherwise, get big strong SSs that can run some.
- MLB – AWR, SPD, TKL. Get these guys from your MLB pool. There are plenty of them out there that are big, fast, and smart.
- DE – AWR, SPD, TKL. Since you will be in a 4-man front exclusively, it helps to have guys who can run around big tackles. I like getting these guys from the LB pool, especially at MLB. MLBs in this are perfectly designed to play DE in 06 due to their size and strength, which more often than not is better than most of the true DEs anyway.
- DT – Weight, Height, TKL. Get the biggest, strongest, baddest DTs you can find, period.
You will notice a theme with most of these positions. Awareness and Speed really matter in this defense and it is imperative that you recruit to those things. Since most of your defenders have multiple responsibilities, it helps that they are smart and your players can handle it mentally.
Finally, look at the prospects’ squat numbers to determine how good their tackle rating will be.
I absolutely love the Quarters Coverage defense. It is one play with my concepts underneath it that can handle any situation. Recruiting is simple since you need specific players but a not a ton depth to execute it since you are only using one personnel grouping.
The only downside to running this scheme in 06 is that when you control one safety or one OLB, you cannot control the other. Thankfully, the default assignment for these guys is good enough to where it won’t matter much since you are basically in a prevent defense anyways.
This will take quite a bit of practice to lock down your pre-snap adjustments and to know your reads post-snap, but please do not give up on it.
Trust me, you can a dominant defense with this scheme if you give it enough time.
Go online and read some more on the defense itself. There are tons of material out there that cover this in much greater detail and can shed more light on certain aspects of the defense that I may have failed to cover.
Practice controlling different defenders and see what you are most comfortable with.
And who’s to say you can’t run this scheme from the 3-4, Nickel, or Dime?
Make defense fun again with Quarters Coverage Defense!
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.