Tony DeMeo

Football’s Eagle and Stack Defenses by: Ron Vanderlinden

I have been intrigued with Ron Vanderlinden since his days as the DC at Northwestern University. Gary Barnett was the Head Coach and together with Ron led Northwestern to the Big Ten Championship and the Rose Bowl! They did this in an unbelievable four year turn-around. Northwestern had been transformed from the Big Ten doormat to the Big Ten Champions – a feat that would make Cinderella envious. The interesting note was that the Wildcats led the Nation in Score Defense 2 years in a row. Wow. No offense to Northwestern but this is a remarkable stat considering the Wildcats typically are on the low end of the talent pool. The Northwestern formula for success is a model for any David facing a Goliath: Play great defense & control the ball on offense. Navy and Air Force have used the same formula with great success. At the University of Charleston we had the single biggest turnaround in WVIAC history using that very formula.
Football’s Eagle and Stack Defenses is a tremendous resource for playing great defense. The Eagle & Stack complement each other and provide good flexibility for today’s multiple offenses. Coach Vanderlinden provides a detailed playbook for installing this system.

The Eagle Defense with 1/4, 1/4, 1/2 coverage is his base defense. It’s the best run defense vs. a 2 back attack because it puts 9 in the box. Obviously, the first objective is to stop the run. Coach Vanderlinden details the coverage adjustment vs. various formations – checking to Cover III vs. trips, or playing Twins in Cover III or an overloaded Cover II. He goes into a variety of Zone Blitzs to pressure the Quarterback without putting your secondary in Man coverage, although he also has some interesting Man coverage stunts. The Eagle Defense is a gap control defense with the entire front responsible for one gap so it is very simple to play.

The Stack Defense can be a 43 or 44. The 43 is Jimmy Johnson’s Defense which also puts nine in the box against the run. The 44 is basically Tampa Two with one of the Safeties coming up into the box. So the 44 is played with Cover III.
Coach Vanderlinden does a great job explaining Cover IV (Quarters) and how effective it is against the run and how it really helps vs. four verticals. Coach V also goes into the strength and weakness of every front and coverage. In addition he shows how to fill the gaps against common run plays from every front and coverage.

Coach Vanderlinden also shows the Evolution of his defense since joining the Penn State staff. The 443 Stack became PSU’s base Defense in 2004. They still use Eagle vs. 2 back or 2 Tight End sets but they feel the 44 Stack gives them more flexibility.

This book also does a great job describing the techniques and drills for every position in detail.
I think this book is a great addition to a coach’s library whether he’s a defensive coach or an offensive coach. You can purchase it at Coaches Choice (see my links section) – it’s a good investment.