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Monday, May 16, 2011

4-3 Defense vs. 3-4 Defense

Two of the most popular football defenses that are being implemented today in youth and high school football are the 4-3 defense and the 3-4 defense. Both defences have their advantages and disadvantages,but how do they compare, and which one is better for your program?

Like everything else in your football system your personnel will determine which the best defense for your school. The 4-3 has the extra defensive tackle in the box so ideally you would need 4 quality defensive linemen. This can be hard to do especially at the high school level. Compared to the 3-4 defenses, the 4-3 is more of a power defense that puts a lot of bodies in the box. It is a solid run stopping defense that is designed to allow your middle linebacker to flow to the football basically untouched as offensive linemen have a hard time getting to the second level of linebackers as a result of the extra linemen on the line of scrimmage. A key component of this defense is that the defensive ends on the edge have to be strong athletes as they should have good size to battle with the larger offensive tackles as well as good speed in order to maintain their contain responsibility. Again, finding two of these types of players at the high school level is tough.
In passing situations the 4-3 is vulnerable to the spread offence as one or two of the middle linebackers could be pulled out into coverage leaving one middle linebacker. Against a solid trapping team they could expose this one middle linebacker by getting their guard down on him while trapping the defensive end.
The 3-4 defense has only 3 defensive linemen in the box but has an extra linebacker. This linebacker can be used to go out into coverage or to blitz. The drawback of the 3-4 defense is that you have to have a solid nose tackle that is strong enough to withstand and hold a double team block. This is the key to this whole defense. If the nose tackle cannot handle the double team and play two gap responsibility, then this defense is done! The appealing part of this defense is its ability to be able to attack the offence multiple ways and directions. It is not a read and react defence compared to the 4-3 but an attack defense that is successful because of the pressure it brings along with having good downfield coverage. Most 3-4 schemes are gap attackers so can be hard to run on as well. Another drawback is that with this pressure,its easy to become too predictable and give a good offensive co-coordinator a chance to exploit your blitz.

When choosing which defense to run my advice would be to evaluate your team personnel and determine what type of players you have and then go from there. I find if you have an athletic bunch but lack size and strength, the gap attacking 3-4 defense may be the best fit. As well, if you find your group has good size and strength but lack an abundance of athletic players, perhaps you're more suited to play the 4-3 defense.