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Multiplicity But Simplicity | The Five Spoke Secondary

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Way back in 1997, as a defensive coordinator for New Mexico under head coach Dennis Franchione, Gary Patterson wrote a paper about the 4-2-5 defense, Multiplicity But Simplicity: Why the 4-2-5 Defense. This is a seven-part look at the 4-2-5 defense and trying to figure out how it all works. Patterson wrote a second paper, The 4-2 Defensive Package that goes into greater detail of the mechanics of the 4-2-5 defense.

Part I: Introduction.
Part II: Sizing up the defenses.
Part III: Create offensive confusion at the line of scrimmage.
Part IV: Play with great leverage.
Part V: Establish the eight man front.
Part VI:
Establish a pressure package.
Part VII: The five spoke secondary.

Luckily for us, Patterson goes to great lengths to discuss the five spoke secondary in the first paper, while the second paper goes more into the mechanics of the defense, the first paper goes into philosophy.

Patterson lists the four reasons why he utilizes the five spoke secondary and we've already talked quite a bit about the first reason, but since Patterson talks about it so often, we'll continue to discuss.

Reason #1: Tell Me Where You've Heard This Before . . . Speed Is A Priority

Who, and how, we recruit is the first big reason we have changed to the five defensive back system. This philosophy allows us to recruit a certain body type athlete, which gives us a chance to pinpoint speed as a priority. We believe that you recruit corners who might be safeties and better athletic safeties who grow into linebackers. By following this philosophy we end up with an overall faster, athletic defensive unit.

It seems fairly evident by this year's class, especially the linebackers, that Glasgow wants speed and I think this philosophy meshes well with Tuberville's philosophy. The fact that it makes sense for both Tuberville and Glasgow is a win for both and would guess that this is part of the reason why Glasgow was hired by Tuberville.

More after the jump.

Reason #2: Ability to Disguise

The second reason we like this system is for disguise purposes. All coverage packages have their positives, but there are always certain personnel groups that cause four man secondaries disguise problems. Because of the fifth secondary player in our scheme, the disguise factor is already built into the system. Each player can basically work independently from the other four players. This allows our disguise movement to be totally independent from four man coverage alignments, because once one of their secondary players moves, they all must move together. With the five spoke secondary, we can actually show blitz to one side and zone to the other side without losing continuity.

This absolutely makes sense. Take a look at RUNCODHIT FOOTBALL and their take on the 4-2-5 Split Field Coverage


Look at the safeties and imagine how they could go between coverages, switch off, blitz, pick up a receiver, etc. For example, pay particular attention to the free safety. The free safety could essentially move to either side of the field and other than the linebackers shifting, the free safety could go to either side with relative ease.

When Patterson says that he could show blitz, especially with the free safety without losing continuity, you can see how easy it would be to flip-flop on either side of the field.

Or . . . how easy would it be for the free safety and the strong safety to switch in the coverage of the Y-receiver. Sure, they're playing cover-2 in this example, but you could see how the strong safety could cheat up after the ball is snapped and the free safety could take the Y-receiver in man coverage.

Reason #3: Natural Leverage and Blitz Alignments

The third reason is the natural leverage and blitz alignments that the three safety system gives us. As we have continually discussed throughout this article, because of the leverage positions of the safeties, we are able to move our front six around without risking leverage problems. This allows our linebackers to show in their gaps without worrying about being an overlap player. The outside blitz position by our safeties makes offenses account for them on all run and pass plays. Again, we want to limit how much game plan they are putting in.

Remember leverage? Just to clarify, leverage, at least I think in terms of what Patterson is talking about here, is about having a spatial advantage and that he feels that with the way that he has the safeties positioned, he can move the front six players without any consequence to the secondary. That last sentence by Patterson, which is that the outside blitz, discussed above and that it could come from two different spots at the safety position, makes the offense account for both safeties prior to the snap of the ball.

Reason #4: Mirrored Teaching

The fourth and final reason for using the five defensive back system is the mirrored teaching in practice. We break down teaching pass coverage like we have always taught run progression. We start out with individual, then we go to half zone and follow this up with full pass skeleton. The reason there is better overlap teaching is the mirrored look of the safeties and linebackers. Again, the reason this is able to happen is the fifth safety. The free safety allows us to be able to teach half the field coverage in a ball game, just like we do in practice. We believe this gives our coverage players a higher confidence level because they are only in charge of their half of the field!

This goes back to the idea of simplicity, which is that other than the free safety, you have a cornerback and another safety responsible for their half of the field and that philosophy continues with a linebacker, a defensive tackle and a defensive end. The only player that doesn't learn this half coverage is the free safety.


I've had quite a bit of fun researching and checking out all of the quirks of the 4-2-5 defense and what it will mean for Texas Tech. I'm excited to see how it will play out this year, especially from a personnel standpoint. I think it's going to be interesting to see how quickly Glasgow will be able to implement his scheme from a confidence standpoint. I hope you enjoyed this series and when you watch the Texas Tech defense this fall, you can see some of these concepts and ideas come into play.