Denauld Brown assumes the position of defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania. Brown has coached at Columbia University and at Blinn College, of Brenham, Texas, which won the 2006 junior college national championship. After Brown's departure, Blinn won another National Championship in 2009, with the 2011 #1 NFL Draft Pick Cam Newton. Brown has also coached for the Barcelona Dragons, Scottish Claymores, Hamburg Sea Devils of NFL Europe. He had begun coaching at his alma mater, Kutztown (Pa.) University, where he was a graduate assistant coach from 1999 to 2001. Brown was a graduate assistant at the University of Connecticut under then head football coach Randy Edsall from 2001 to 2003.


How to defense the spread with the 5-3-1 Triangle Defense

By: Denauld Brown

What are top 5 things you address when defending the Spread Offense?

  • You have to know the Spread Offense in order to defend it.
  • The spread offense is a pass oriented offense, but to me you must find out how extensive their running game is within it. This will help your transition to understanding their passing game better. If they are truly a spread team, their run game should marry directly into their pass protections.


  • Do not be reluctant to acknowledge that scheme does matter on defense. It is more important to have good scheme.
  • Figure out inventive ways to vet your defense other than just practice film.


  • In my experience, the play by play can give you 80 percent of the information you need to formulate an effective game plan. It gives you the intent of the offensive play caller, and what I term as their call sequences. However, you still have to sort through all the useless data. The play by play is much underutilized tool. Watching the film will just give you the characters of the story.


How does the 5-3-1 Triangle Defense Differ from the more Traditional Spread Defense?

If you conceptualize and understand your defense from the offensive perspective then you will learn more about who you are schematically. The 5-3-1 Triangle defense allows me to do this. There are no formations, route combinations, or blocking schemes that I have not already drawn or simulated vs. this defense.

You gain a great appreciation and respect for the offensive side of the football and I think that is necessary. I study and simulate offense playbooks relentlessly. I have studied playbooks by Mike Leach 1999 Oklahoma, Andy Reid Eagles Mini Camp 2002, Mark Richt 1994 FSU, and Steve Mariucci 1997 Cal. I figure if I can get good at defending these guys I can defend anyone.

Defense is such a reactionary segment of football. As a defensive coach there is a natural evaluation period after the fact rather than prior to the play. Study your defense through offense and you will gain a natural anticipation of post snap play.


When defending the Spread Offense, How should I defend the pass?

First, I think you have to figure out a progression when it comes to teaching yourself the offensive sets. I prefer starting out with an empty set then condensing the formations to an I pro set. Therefore you have given the extended sets enough attention.

Second, I look at pass protection from the free releasers stand point rather than where they are going to slide. You get a better feel the pass game this way. A back that free releases into the pass pattern especially to the two receiver side indicates protection. Thanks to Nevada and their gun pistol we have to find alternate indicators other than the offset back to reveal protection.

Lastly, you need to have a general knowledge about what a good run or pass set is.


When defending the Spread Offense, how do find success in defending the Running Game?

First thing to find out is if the particular spread team has an option element to it? Option takes a commitment. If they don’t run option on 3rd & 3 +? They are not committed to the option.

Second, know when they are going to run. Down and distance is good but field zone studies yield great run tendencies. Also, wide receiver may run pass routes but their pre-snap alignments also tell you a lot. Lastly, if the offense has a player that seemingly does everything especially aligning in multiple positions, follow him! 


How do you handle the Spread Option, in the 5-3-1?

Spread option is handled pre-snap by counting the amount possible running threats that can get directly
carry the ball or get into pitch phase by alignment. You always have to have 4 defenders on 3 threats
or 5 defenders on 4 threats vs. the spread option. Your backside safety has to engage in the running game once he clears any vertical threat to his side. I will not discuss the specifics of how the 5-3-1 defends the option but I have always liked the quarters approach to playing option.  


How would I address the QB as a Runner?

The QB as a runner is something that you have to define. In my opinion the only time that the QB is considered a runner is when the OC designs plays by hat have him attack the perimeter. Sprint out, QB Sweep etc. Outside of that it comes down to a contain thing that has to be addressed by the defensive line. I am partial to 1 defender behind 2 defender type movements and quick penetrating movements. 

The QB perimeter run game is handled by the coverage. Usually some form of 1/4's with a crack replace component to it. No matter what the defense does someone is going to have to be a two gap player and get off of a block and make a play. You have to know who the two gap player will be in your particular scheme.  


Resent Trends in College Football has seen exceptional runners and run strategies at the QB Position. How do I defend against those types of players?

Players are players; while some are more gifted than others. Game plans for players like Cam Newton or Tim Tebow should be based on their passing ability, and not their running ability. I would rather keep a runner from passing that keep a runner from running. Reason being the more he runs it the more hits I can get on him. A defense will always step up to punish a good running quarterback.


Which Spreads set should I look for, and why?
(List of three)Set Name, Reasoning

Let me answer this question by telling you what my favorite offensive sets are. Yes I have offensive sets that I like more than others. Why? I feel that you have to love offensive concept football not just understand offensive plays. I would think that a fire fighter who loves fire would be more successful in prevention and efficient in operation.


Prophet's Recommended Reading:

2000 Valdosta State Playbook

Top Gun QB Academy's Multiple West Coast Spread