Understanding Jeremy Pruitt’s split safety coverage
Jeremy Pruitt is one of the best defensive minds within the game of football.
One of Pruitt’s most successful defensive looks is a split safety coverage. The coverage allows his defense to cover offensive schemes when they field at least four wide receivers. When an offense shows four wide receivers, a linebacker, typically the SAM, cannot cover an additional wideout. This prompts a defensive back to substitute in place of a linebacker.
The MONEY position is a defensive back, or a versatile player, that replaces the WILL linebacker in DIME personnel (six defensive backs). MONEY is a hybrid linebacker with responsibilities defending the run.
The STAR takes the field in NICKEL personnel (five defensive backs), serving as an inside cornerback and as a safety with a slot receiver in motion.
Below is a more in-depth look at Pruitt’s split safety coverage scheme.
Cone is the ability to take the X-receiver out of the game.
If the defense is playing an offense in which they cannot defend a wide receiver in man coverage, then the defense has to do something.
The cornerback lines up slightly in outside leverage on the X-receiver. If the X-receiver takes an outside release, the cornerback can then defend the X-receiver in man coverage.
If the X-receiver goes inside, then the cornerback and free safety will double team the X-receiver.
Stump is referred to as being on the front-side of the formation. Stump starts on the weak side.
The cornerback will play eight yards off of the Z-receiver and one yard inside or outside.
The cornerback will play inside third, covering the receiver in man coverage unless he is short and not vertical.
A quarter zone takes place if the wide receiver runs short and under. The defensive alignment also has the STAR playing one yard outside and six yards off of the Z-receiver, playing flat.
Air Raid and veer and shoot concepts can cause for the STAR to play the Z-receiver on vertical routes. Communication is key between the cornerback and the STAR.
SMASH is a call that informs the STAR if the wide receiver is playing short. If the wide receiver is playing short, then the STAR will play within the flats.
The strong safety has an alignment of being 10 yards off and two yards outside of the tight end. If there is a No. 3 receiver that is flexed out, then the STAR is 10 yards off and positioned against them.
This is also where a vertical route comes into play. If the No. 3 receiver runs a vertical route, the strong safety will provide man coverage on him. The strong safety will double-team the No. 2 wide receiver inside if the route is not vertical.
The POSTER is an inside linebacker that will read run-pass, typically from 5-7 yards. If the No. 3 wide receiver goes underneath, the MACK linebacker will play him in man coverage.
If he reads pass, he will then post the No. 3 wide receiver at 5-7 yards, forcing the No. 3 receiver to go over the top against him. If he goes underneath the POSTER, the inside linebacker will play him in man coverage.
The POSTER linebacker has the first inside of the No. 2 and No. 3 receivers.
The run fit is having a defensive lineman or a linebacker plug into a gap so that the running back cannot have a lane, having the ability to run.
When playing split safety coverage, to be able to stop running plays, the defense needs an extra defender in the box. This allows for the fit to come away from the running back.
STUBBIE is when the cornerbacks play tight coverage and are not off the ball. On the weak side, STUBBIE and STUMP are the same.
The MONEY is the POSTER. The field cornerback will play press coverage on the No. 1 wide receiver. The STAR has the No. 2 wide receiver, six yards off, unless the third wide receiver goes into the flat. If the No. 3 wide receiver enters the flat, the STAR has him. If the No. 2 wide receiver goes underneath, the STAR also has the responsibility for him.
The weakness of STUBBIE is vertical passes and post routes against the safeties.