Beating Man to Man Coverage in Youth Football
The best way to beat man to man coverage is with play-action passing plays. Most of the time an outside linebacker will be responsible for a tight-end or wing-back. When they see run action, the linebackers will bite up for run. After the defense bites on play-action they will never be able to recover. A lot of coaches want to jam and hold up tight-ends at the line of scrimmage, but that’s why I use at least one wing-back. Wing-backs will usually be able to get a free release off the line of scrimmage (they are off the ball).
Combination routes are really difficult to defend in youth football. Post/corner, post/wheel, slant/ arrow are some of my favorites. Crossing routes also work well against man to man coverage. Running combination routes off play-action is how you really beat man to man coverage. Many youth football coaches and players do not know how to defend combination routes. Kids get caught looking into the back field and usually aren’t disciplined enough to cover combination routes or they are out of position because they played run.
Slant: The slant pattern is a great pattern for youth football. Most defensive coordinators will not even teach their corners to play with inside leverage. Meaning, if the split-end lines up really far out, the corner probably will not take away the SE’s inside. If the receiver is lining up really wide it is for one of two reasons- the split-end wants to take the corner out of the game or he wants to run an inside pattern. Most cornerbacks will not take away the inside, which will give the split-end the slant all game long. When we call our slant we line our split-end wide and hit him right in the seam. If the corner plays with inside leverage we check into a go pattern and take him deep. Test it out, split out a wide receive and see how the corner aligns to him, I bet 9 out of 10 times he play the receiver head up, especially on the younger youth football level.
Go/Fly: The GO route is a man to man killer for one reason, youth football cornerbacks do not open their hips and run with receivers. Most cornerbacks will stay in their backpedal for too long, which will allow the receiver to run past them. Many defensive backs will get caught looking into the backfield as well. There is also a high pass interference rate because youth cornerbacks have problems opening hips, running with the receiver, and finding the ball when it is in the air. The only thing that will save a defensive back that plays with bad technique is a bad throw from a QB. If the corner is playing with inside leverage do a fade. Make sure the receiver does an outside release on the fad so the cornerback turns his back to the QB. This makes it difficult to track the football in the air.
Motion is a very under utilized tactic in youth football. If you send a kid in motion and the defense is playing man to man coverage, the defender assigned to cover the motion player has to run with him. Many times the defender will not keep up with the motion pace and will end up playing with too much cushion. They will have to navigate around other defenders standing when they are following their motion player. There are also many occasions where the defender following the motion back does not keep pace and the motion player out runs him on a passing route. You can also send a player in motion to clear out a side and run the ball that way.
Attacking with Jet Motion
I see man to man coverage 90% of the time, and I love it. We watch how the linebackers and secondary react to our run game. Once the defense starts over playing the run we will hit them with our play action passing plays. The slant, TE pop, post/corner and post/wheel combinations are there all day against man to man coverage.