The Fifth Man, Breaking Down Brent Pry's 5-Man Zone Pressures

2,200-word, 8-play film analysis examining the ins and outs of Brent Pry's five-man zone pressure packages.

[Mark Umansky]

According to Brent Pry, his defenses at Penn State were habitual blitzers, blitzing between 35-45 percent of the time. While blitzing that often introduces confusion and stresses the opposing offense, it also makes a defense susceptible to giving up explosive plays. Mitigating those backbreakers requires properly fitting gaps even when blitzing. Behind the blitz, defenders must deliver sound coverage principles and roll coverages in ways that force quarterbacks to hesitate.

Pry often forces offenses to account for pressure by way of an extra defender blitzing off the edge; a five-man pressure. Two positions in particular are heavily featured as blitzers: the SAM linebacker from the field-side, and the WILL linebacker from the boundary. Unlike his mentor Bud Foster, in the film I watched I only saw one example of the boundary corner blitzing. It happened against Wisconsin, which does some scheme things that are rare in the ACC, so I don't know how often to expect this look in Blacksburg.

However, this corner blitz does show Pry's primary coverage behind his pressures, deep Cover 3. In this case, Penn State was in a dime look, and despite the corner blitzing, you can still see one defender in each deep third. Three-high is a common coverage that Pry will run behind a blitz.

Cover 3 Zone Pressure

An edge pressure— where one blitzer comes off the edge to create a five-man wall at the line of scrimmage — is a common Pry pressure. Behind the blitz, the defense will often play an inverted Cover 3. The two corners play deep thirds zone outside the hash marks, and a single high safety covers in the middle of the field. The other safety usually drops down into the box or lines up in the box and becomes a short zone defender. Underneath, either the box safety or a linebacker moves into the flat to replace the blitzer and ideally get a chuck on any kind of slot receiver or tight end to that side. Then the remaining two second-level defenders "match" in a man-to-man posture against any wide receivers coming from the blitz side. Let's break down a Cover 3 with a pressure coming from the boundary.

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