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The 5-2
By Coach Wade

The 5-2 Monster is the defense I was a part of as a player through junior high and high school. Although my own personal success was dismal, with one win in five seasons, I believe the 5-2 still has much to offer the youth football coach.

The defense as it's shown here is designed to be as simple as possible. Therefore the slants and stunting is kept to a bare minimum. When I was a player, the defense we used aligned defensive tackles and nosetackle head up on their offensive counterparts, and slanted them to one side or the other (strong or weak) depending on the defensive call.

For the youth coach, I think you'll have your hands full teaching the base responsibilities and the pass coverages. Stunting should be kept to a bare minimum at all but the highest levels of youth football. Remember, precision beats confusion.

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Figure 1: 5-2 Monster Basic Alignments

Here are the basic alignments and responsibilities for the 5-2 Monster:

Position

Alignment

Run Responsibility

Pass Responsibility

Sam

3 yards deep aligned on the strong side guard/tackle gap

Key deepest running back

Zone: strong side hook-to-curl. Man: first running back out.

Strong DE

Head up on TE

"C" Gap.Trail flow away through offensive backfield.

Rush passer with hands high, maintain outside leverage

Strong DT

Inside shade of strong tackle

"B" Gap

Rush passer with hands high

Nosetackle

Strong shade of center

Strong "A" Gap

Rush passer with hands high

Weak DT

Weak side shade of weak guard

"B" Gap

Rush passer with hands high

Weak DE

Outside shade of tackle, head up on TE

"C" Gap. Trail flow away through offensive backfield.

Rush passer with hands high, maintain outside leverage

Willie

Head up on weak side guard, 3 1/2 yards deep

"A" Gap

Zone: weak side hook-to-curl. Man: first running back out.

Monster

1x1 outside TE

"D" Gap

Zone: strong side curl-to-flat. Man: TE.

Free Safety

7-12 yards deep depending on down and distance, 5 1/2 players to side.

Read and respond to flow. Do not approach closer than five yards to LOS until the ball crosses the line.

Deep zone, follow passer laterally, keep all receivers underneath.

Weak CB

Inside shade to widest receiver. 2x3 outside widest offensive player if no wide receivers

Man or zone pass coverage until ball crosses LOS

Zone: deep 1/3. Man: cover widest receiver to your side.

Strong CB

Inside shade to widest receiver. 2x4 outside widest offensive player if no wide receivers

Man or zone pass coverage until ball crosses LOS

Zone: deep 1/3 Man: cover widest receiver to your side that is not the TE

Against non-standard formations such as wing formations and slot sets the 5-2 generally uses the monster as an adjuster to counterbalance the strength of the offense. Figure 2 demonstrates this.

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Figure 2: Non-Standard alignments.

The 5-2 Monster is obviously a linebacker intensive defense. It requires disciplined athletes that can follow their keys precisely, and not get suckered in by misdirection plays. Defensive linemen have the enormous task of keeping the offensive line off of the linebackers and allowing those linebackers to do their jobs. This takes a great deal of training in technique work, as well as sheer athleticism to perform. The system is best suited for the larger, slower athletes, so if you have a preponderance of them this is a good defense to consider.

Pass defense is usually zone-based, which I personally do not like. There is no doubt that zone defense is better suited for stopping the run than man to man is, but it is difficult to teach, and requires a vast amount of discipline to condition the players to stay in their zones after seeing fifteen or twenty running plays in a row. It is for these two reasons that the defense, as I played in it 1985-1990 was a disaster, allowing an average of 48 points per game and helping us to finish 1-36-1 after five seasons from junior high through my sophomore year.

This is not to say that the system has no usefulness. In 2005 the Tomales Braves JV squad held opponents to just over points per game using this defense while en route to a N.C.L. II League Championship. Linebackers Bailey Tucker, Steven Moody, and Michael Severson eradicated other teams' running plays and harassed quarterbacks all season, while defensive ends Reed Soloman and Lonny Peterson sealed off the perimeter.

I think these two examples serve to show that the measure of this defense is in the players and the coaching, rather than the defense itself. While I still prefer the Gap-8, 7-diamond, and 4-4, the 5-2 still has the potential to be an amazing defensive front with the right talent and coaching.

~D.

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Copyright 2007 Derek A. "Coach" Wade. All rights reserved.