Boise State Cover 3 Defense

After spending the last few weeks breaking down a some of Boise States Offensive plays, I thought we could look at a defensive play.

This week I would like to talk about the cover 3 zone defense. Much like the inside zone play and if a defense is a zone cover team, the first zone scheme they usually put in is cover 3.  Cover 3 may be the most universal coverage there is in football across all levels NFL to High School.

Many colleges, NFL and some high schools employ more sophisticated coverage’s such as cover 2, cover 2 man, cover 0, cover 1, cover 4, and quarters coverage to name a few.  Many of those coverage’s are dictated by the type of athletes you have in your scheme and require an above average athletic secondary.

What is Cover 3

Cover 3 zone is a very standard defensive scheme for the secondary and linebackers.  As the name would imply, the cover 3 zone deploys three deep defensive backs to cover their respective 1/3 of the field.

The basic philosophy behind the cover 3 is to provide a good balance of run and pass defenders.  Providing more deep defenders than most coverage’s, this defensive scheme makes it more difficult for passing teams to come up with big plays down the field.

As you can see in the diagram below, the corners and free safety deep in a 1/3 of the field while the linebackers are responsible for underneath routes.


Last week versus Idaho state, Boise State used cover 3 in certain situations and although not primarily a cover 3 team, they will use it as part of their game plan.

There are a few different ways to employ this coverage (some people deploy it different than others but the concept is the same).  As you can see in the video below, Boise State disguises the coverage with 2 high safeties commonly called a  2 shell.

The the advantage of showing a 2 high safety look is it makes it hard for an offense to know what the defense is doing. With a 2 shell look, the coverage could be 2, 2 man, 4, or quarters.  Many teams will motion receivers to get the defense to declare their hand.

At the high school level where the athletes are not as talented, a defense may drop a strong safety into the box (see diagram above) and leave 1 safety high.  When a defense gives this type of look, it takes away your ability to disguise coverage’s effectively.

As you can see in the diagram below, Boise State is showing a 2 shell with the free and strong safeties.  What Boise State does here a little different than most teams who would run a cover 3 concept.  Boise State brings a 5 man pressure electing to leave the middle underneath open.

In the diagram and on the video to follow, it show Boise state rushing 3 defensive lineman and bringing 2 linebackers.  In the secondary you will see the Strong Safety come down to cover at the last second and the Free Safety getting to the middle of the field.  On the backside the broncos have elected to cover the receiver man to man.

Idaho state is in a 3X1 formation with 3 WR to the same side (WR at bottom of screen not pictured) and 1 to the other side. when some teams face a 3X1 formation in cover 3, they will lock up the backside receiver.

The reason for this is because offenses will try to overload one side (Trips) and isolate the receiver on the other side in the hopes of creating  a one on one situation and getting a big play.  That is this weeks play of the week.  I hope you enjoyed it and see you next week!

Cover 3.1



About Aaron Rodney

Aaron Rodney
Aaron Rodney will be entering his first year on the Corner Canyon coaching staff. Coach Rodney comes to Corner Canyon from Mountain Home High School in Mountain Home, ID where he served as the head football coach for three seasons. Prior to his arrival in Mountain Home, Rodney served as an assistant football coach in various capacities at the NCAA Division II and the NAIA level for 8 years. Some of Coach Rodney's stops include small colleges in Oklahoma, Missouri, and South Dakota. A native of Mountain Home Idaho, Rodney is a 1994 graduate of Mountain Home High School. After high school, Coach Rodney attended Boise State University and Ricks college as a football player and later the University of Utah as a student where he graduated with a degree in Political Science. Coach Rodney also holds a Masters degree in Organizational Management from Concordia University in Saint Paul Minnesota. Coach Rodney has taught social studies and business education at the high school level and is married to the former Sarah Larsen who is a graduate of Brighton High School. Coach Rodney and his wife Sarah are proud parents of two children Chance (11) and Marley (8). In his spare time Coach Rodney enjoys being a husband, father and spending his down time with his family. The Rodney’s are very excited about being part of the Charger football family.

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