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5 3 down hill penetrating defense
5-3 Down hill penetrating Defense





Why the 5 3 is our base defense
Why the 5-3 is our base defense

  • It is designed to stop the run

  • It is a pressure defense which is great for high school

  • Difficult to prepare for because very few teams use it as a base defense

  • It is very easy to teach and allows the players to play fast without thinking about assignments

  • Easily adapts into 3-3-5 when playing against spread offense by dropping the ends.

  • The kids love to play it

T n t technique tackle nose tackle
T.N.T. technique (tackle, nose, tackle)

They are strictly penetratores, they align head up over the center and tackles there first responsibility is to stay low and fire into their gap. They want to get to heels depth and then read the play, if it is a run they then will pursue down they line, if it is a pass they then will rush the Q.B. staying in the proper rush lane.

They go into the gap which they are dealt to by the linebacker behind them, Which way they get dealt all depends on the call. The down linemen and the linebacker behind them work together in the base 5-3 they will always go to opposite Gaps making sure all gaps are covered.

The T.N.T. position is very simply and only requires that they be aggressive, low and quick to their gap.

Linebacker play in 5 3
Linebacker Play in 5-3

The linebackers align them directly behind down linemen. Sam and Will between 3 and 4 yards depth and the Mike aligns between 4 and 6 yards deepening on the situation and his ability. Just like the down linemen they are responsible for a gap, they must fill they gap opposite of the down linemen. For example if the nose is dealt to the right A gap then the Mike is responsible for the left A gap. The backers first step must be down hill in this step they will read the offensive linemen in front of them if he run blocks the linebacker must continue down hill and fill the gap taking on any blockers with there shoulders square to the line of scrimmage and pad level low. If they read a pass set by offensive lineman they must get into their pass drop responsibilities. Will and Sam have the flats while Mike drops straight back. The secondary will be in 3 deep behind it. If they are to blitz they attack at the snap of the ball and do not just get to their gap they fly through it and get the football on a pass or a run. The middle linebacker will make a lot of tackles in this scheme and he is usually the best tackler and pure football player on the team. He will be running free a lot the time.

Defensive end play
Defensive End Play

They will align 1 yard out side of the last man on the line of scrimmage in a three point sprinters stance angled in pointed directly at their key, which is the nearest to the deepest person in the backfield. (Ex. I formation Key the eye back, split backs key the back nearest to them). They have two expectations the first is contain every thing nothing can get outside of them. The second is to ATTACK, ATTACK, ATTACK. They must get pressure into the backfield on runs and passes. If they read run towards them they must take on all blocks with there inside shoulder keeping outside should and arm free. They must attack the blocker squeezing the running lane down and force everything to the pursue of linebackers and T.N.T. On a pass they are going to get the Q.B. They must get pressure. Put your best pass rusher’s on the ends I have found that speed and quickness is the best to have at end in this defense even if they are smaller players that are not typical defensive ends like in other fronts.

Defensive backs
Defensive Backs

The Corners will align 7 yards off and 1 yard outside of the widest offensive player to their side. The safety will be at 12 yards depth shaded slightly to the tight end or will cover twins if offense aligns in that. The base coverage is cover 3 and nothing can get behind them. Bend do not break in the secondary, Can also play man coverage with Corners taking # 1’s and Free safety taking #2 if offence aligns in trips we will automatically go man with Corner taking # 1 Free taking #2 and Linebacker to that side taking #3. If you get a steady does of trips and spread formations this defense easily morphs into a 3-3-5 just by dropping the ends, which will allow for many different types of coverage's.

5 3 stack
5-3 Stack

In this defense the Outside linebackers align directly behind our D-Ends who now align in a two point stance on the outside eye of the last man on line of scrimmage.(Could also align on outside eye of wing or slot depending on game plan.) The end and linebacker now key the first step of the man lined up across from, if first step is down the d-end will close hard taking on any blocks could be a full back, or pulling lineman, the outside backer will go outside and have contain responsibility. If keys first step is outside, the D-end will stay flat on L.O.S keeping outside arm and shoulder free have contain, the linebacker must fill the gap immediately. If they read pass, get into pass responsibilities.

5 3 stack1
5-3 Stack

Key steps down




Tight End is the stack key.

Keys first step is to outside




Tight End is the stack key.


What I have shown is our base defense, we show many different fronts out of it and the possibilities are endless. The 5-3 penetrating defense is a great high school base defense because it is very flexible and has proven to be effective. Have fun with it and be creative the stunts are endless. For this reason it is really fun to coach and the players love it, because allows them to be aggressive and too go get the football!