The 5-3 Defense Offers Balance and Flexibility

5-3 defense

The 53 defense offers balance and flexibility and is a widely used youth football defense. I see the 53 about 4-5 times every season.  This youth football defense is great because it is balanced, but very flexible as well. This defense can adjust very easily to any offense. This defense features a loaded box (8 defenders in the box) that is very strong against the run. You can also implement a variety of different pass coverages.

The 5-3 Defense Offers Balance and Flexibility


The 5-3 defense features a nose guard, two defensive tackles, two defensive ends, a middle linebacker, a strong side linebacker, a weak side linebacker, two corners and a free safety. The best thing about this defense is that it is strong against all types of offensive attacks.  It features 8 players in the box which will allow your defense to shut down the inside running game. Most youth football coaches love to put their defensive ends in a 9 tech and have them contain the outside. The 5-3 defense allows you to do that. The 5-3 defense features three distinct levels of defense which gives you sufficient pursuit to the ball carrier ( first level: DE, second level: LB, and third level: secondary).  

This is a good defense because you can do pretty much anything you want out of it. It is a very blitz friendly defense. You can blitz your middle backer, or outside linebackers.  You can blitz your outside linebackers through the c-gap- which is a commonly attacked gap in youth football.  You can bring double A-gap pressure by blitzing the middle linebacker.  Another great tactic is to slant your defensive end in and loop the outside linebacker. This is a great way to attack an off tackle or sweep play. The different combinations of blitzes and slants are endless. You can put your best 3 defenders at the linebackers positions and just have them attack. The five defensive linemen will occupy all the offensive linemen which will allow your linebackers to come free. 

(Playbook) Swarming 5-3 Defense Playbook  

The youth football 5-3 defense is also great in pass coverage. You can play man to man coverage and/or a variety of different zone coverages as well.  This defense will also allow you to hide some of your minimum play players (MPP). You can put them in at nose guard to get their plays done.  Putting a MPP in at nose guard will not hurt your team as much.  The only problem you could face is if the offense you are playing runs wedge or inside trap. Wedge is a tough play to stop, regardless how good the players you got in are.


There are some downsides to this defense. This defense has trouble adjusting to the unbalanced formations. In order to adjust the defense to the unbalanced side, you have to shift the defensive line and linebackers. Many defenses will only force you to adjust one or two defenders to match the unbalanced formation, but in the 5-3 you pretty much have to shift you entire DL. If you play zone coverage the flats will sometimes be open if the offense hits you with a play-action pass. The OLB has a lot of ground to cover to get to the wide side flat. If you are in a base 5-3 it is very difficult to adjust to spread formations like empty. 


The 53 defense is a great defense for youth football. It has a high success rate and it is easy to implement. Remember, defense is all about getting off blocks and tackling well. If your defenders can destruct blocks, swarm the ball carrier, and tackle well you will have success on defense, regardless of the defense you run.

(See Also) Storm Blitz out of the 5-3 Defense  

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