Whether employing eight or 11 men on the field, the main goal of the defense in American football is simple--stop the run or the pass. However, there is nothing simple about the drills practiced by a defense in an attempt to disrupt both. The best mix of strength, speed, strategy, technique, coaching acumen, analysis, theories, risk and luck produces the season's best defense.
Eight and 11 Man Football Differences
While eight-man American football is generally played by small high schools, it has also been adopted by the indoor professional leagues. The most recognized difference between eight- and 11-man football is the elimination of three players on offense (generally two tackles and one wide receiver) and on defense (two backs and one lineman). The size of the playing field is smaller, scores tend to be higher and the tempo of the game quicker in eight-man football.
Eight Man Defense Formations
Defensive formations are based on the total number of linemen, linebackers and backs in a formation. Seven-, six- and five-man fronts make up the three basic types of formations. A seven-man front (defenders lined up in a 3-4-1, 4-3-1 or 5-2-1 formation) defends primarily against the run and short yardage situations. The six-man front (4-2-2, 3-3-2 or 5-1-2) guards against a balanced run/pass team and a five-man front (3-2-3, 4-1-3) protects against a strong passing offense.
Defenders' responsibilities will vary based on the type of formation used. In a seven-man front with a 3-4-1 formation, there are three down linemen or one down lineman and two up linemen, four linebackers and one safety. Linebackers will have all pass coverage duties with two up linemen and one down lineman, but with three down lineman they will have both pass coverage and contain assignments. However, the linebackers in a six-man front and 3-3-2 formation will be primarily run stoppers.
Drills and Practices
Drills and practices for eight and 11 man football are geared to simulate game day situations and strengthen individual as well as team performance. They also focus on developing skills unique to a position. Some basic drills include: one-on-one bag drill, shed blocker drill, goal line drills and dropping into zone coverages. Others focus on exploding off the line when the ball is snapped. Some sled drills are designed to teach proper roll of the hips and power, and explosion out of a stance. Drills teach and emphasize blocking schemes, contain responsibilities and quick response to an offensive lineman's movement. Linemen also practice techniques such as the rip, swim and bull rush. Losers of these practice drills can expect to run additional wind sprints or do extra push-ups.