Foundations of Man-Free Coverage (Cover 1)by Andy Merfeld
Playing great defense always starts with defending the middle of the field. In the modern game, defenses need to be sound against the RPO game on early downs while still being able to play tight coverage to get off the field on third downs. They need to be able to bring pressure without selling out, and they are still limited in terms of teaching and practice time. What if there was a coverage that checked all those boxes - a coverage that can be played in any situation against virtually any formation?
Coach Merfeld is here to tell you that man-free coverage can give you all of the above, and more. When you play man-free coverage, you help your defense eliminate big plays by properly defending the middle of the field. You also keep your players out of run/pass conflict by allowing them to aggessively "fit their coverage." Defenders can play confidently against RPOs, knowing that a box players aren't needed to help cover detached receivers and a defenders playing man on a detached receiver will never need to fit an interior gap.
In this first course of the Man-Free Coverage Bundle, Coach Merfeld goes into great detail describing how all of the coverage pieces fit together. The safety and low hole defender provide help in the middle of the field, which allows man coverage defenders to play with outside leverage. The first few lessons of the course focus on how man coverage defenders play to their help by using proper position maintenance and understanding their dividers.
The middle of the course provides coaching points for the middle of the field safety and low hole defender, as well as how to use the defense's numerical advantage in the middle of the field (the defense will have a two on one if there is one back in the backfield, a three on two if there are two backs in the backfield, etc.). Coach Merfeld provides clear and specific coaching and teaching points to get these concepts across to your players.
The end of the course focuses on teaching man coverage techniques to slot defenders. Coach Merfeld favors the "scootch" technique from an off alignment and a traditional inch or motor technique from a press alignment.
This course emphasizes the principles and structure of the coverage, providing an in-depth look at different elements of playing great pass defense in man-free coverage. The second course in the series will focus on the applications of what is taught in this first course: using different coverage rotations and personnel groups to align to formations, game-planning, formation and motion adjustments, run fits from even and odd spacing, and blitzing with simulated and five-man pressures.
Also included are the Powerpoint slides Coach Merfeld used in his presentation. They can be downloaded and edited to fit your needs. This course is a great value, with almost three hours of in-depth material that will help you develop a great foundation for implementing and teaching man-free coverage!
Andy Merfeld has experience coaching at the small-college and high school levels and specializes in coverages, defensive back play, situational defense, and special teams return units. His CoachTube courses are designed to focus narrowly on very specific topics. This narrow focus allows coaches to effectively implement the strategies and processes Coach Merfeld discusses.
He currently coaches at Benedictine College (NAIA – KS) and previously coached at Upper Iowa University, the University of Minnesota Duluth, and Edgewood High School (WI). Relevant coaching achievements:
- Benedictine College (CBs). In 2019 the Ravens led all NAIA and NCAA schools with ten blocked punts, and also led the NAIA in punt return yards at the end of the regular season. In 2020 the team again led the country in blocked kicks, and also finished sixth in punt return yards. The defense finished 3rd in the NAIA in sacks, 4th in interceptions, 2nd in rush defense, and led all NAIA and NCAA schools with four shutouts in ten games.
- Upper Iowa (DBs). In 2017 the Peacocks finished second nationally in punt return touchdowns and fifth in punt blocks. They also finished 10th in the country in pass defense.
- Minnesota Duluth (CBs, OLBs). In two years the Bulldogs compiled a 22-4 record, including three postseason wins and a #3 national ranking in the 2014 season.
- Edgewood High School (DC, strength and conditioning). In 2011 the Crusaders set the school record for wins and advanced to the WIAA state semifinals for the first time.