Defensive Technique Numbering System

Here was a fun comment by Georgia Tech Head Coach Paul Johnson in the 2009 Nike Coach of the Year Clinic Manual regarding how they number the defensive technique spots.

We use the same system of numbering the defensive alignment that Coach Bear Bryant did. If there is a defender heads up on the center he is a 0 technique. If he aligns on the guards shoulder his is in a shade or 1 technique. Moving outside from the center all the head up positions are labeled with even numbers. Heads up on the guard is a 2 technique, over the tackle is a 4 technique and the over the tight end is a 6 technique. The shoulders of the offensive lineman are the odd-numbered techniques. The outside shoulder of the guard is a 3 technique, the outside shoulder of the tackle is a 5 technique, and the outside shoulder of the tight end is a 9 technique. The inside should of the tight end is a 7 technique. No one knows why that is the case but Coach Bryant numbered it that way and no one has the guts to change it. There are two special techniques on the inside eye of the guard and tackle. Those are called the 2i and 4i techniques. (Paul Johnson)

Here is a drawing from Bear Bryant’s book Building a Championship Football Team that shows his sketch of what Johnson was referring to for the numbering system.

A neater diagram looks like this and also includes the 2i and 4i alignments that Paul Johnson was referring to. On Bryant’s diagram those techniques were not in evidence at least in this version.

Regardless of that difference if you read Bryant’s passage in his book about the numbering system it is interesting in at least two aspects to me. First is the notion that he recognized the need to simplify things instead of using confusing names. Secondly is the fact that O.A. Bum Phillips is who Bryant really gives credit to for developing the system. Here is the passage:

After coaching for a number of yeas and always trying to find something that would make football easier to understand for the average player, I came upon a system of defensive numbering that has proven very valuable to me since then. In the past I have used many different defenses. I always employed the technique of giving each defense a “name”. Most of the time  the name had little in common with the defense and this confused rather than helped the players. After discussing the possibility of the numbering with my own and other college and high school coaches while at Texas A&M in 1956 I finally came across a feasible plan for numbering defensive alignments. I must give credit to O.A. Bum Phillips a Texas high school coach for helping work out the solution as he experimented with the numbering system with his high school team. Paul “Bear” Bryant

So as the old joke goes if you dig deep enough a Texas high school football coach was always doing it first. Bryant and Phillips were worrying about this in 1956 given the problem of multiple defenses and explaining them to football players. Here we are over 50 years later and the general football announcer on TV or writer in print media today still thinks that there are only two defenses possible: a 4-3 and a 3-4.  Maybe they can figure it out sometime in the next fifty years?

2 comments to Defensive Technique Numbering System

  • Texas A&M under R.C. Slocum ran a defensive scheme that used 3-4 personnel but showed multiple fronts using defensive numbering. This would be a great piece to appear on the website to show how to create multiple fronts from a defense and to keep it simple.

  • al sowins

    The simpler the count, the better. Our playcaller identifies the “O” man,(over center), and we count out from there, everyone within about 5 yards from the LOS.
    We call the gaps, “Blast, Smash, Iso, Power, and Sweep”
    If TE blocks O or 2, the run is going outside. If TE blocks 3,4, or 5, the inside is the initial target. This is not easily read due to the zone blocking principle,”Where possible, chuck the nearest DL before whacking your real target”.
    Our FB is our best blocker, all other considerations notwithstanding, and our two Tights, who may deploy as WBs or Tights two yards deep in the GT gaps, are the # 2 and 3 blockers. They are the ballcarriers on the power option.