Some youth leagues prohibit defenders from lining up in the gap. Here are some suggestions on how to use a gap-8-like defense in such leagues. Copyright 1999 by John T. Reed

Idiotic rule

Some youth leagues prohibit defenders from lining up in the gaps. This is idiotic. No doubt it resulted from a past competent defensive coach in the league causing a bunch of incompetent offensive coordinators to go whining and crying to the board to outlaw the tactic that they could not stop. Apparently, the crybabies had more political power in the leagues in question because they got their way and the kids in that league have been playing with “training wheels” ever since, thereby reducing the effectiveness of that feeder program for preparing their kids for high-school play.

If I were an offensive coach in such a league, I would go to 8-foot offensive line splits, secure in the knowledge that no defender could line up in those huge gaps, then I would line all my backs up in the two A gaps and run the sneak and blast all day.

See my article on stupid youth rules for more on this angle.

Gap-8i and 10-1i

In the defensive alignment terminology invented by then high-school coach Bum Phillips (according to Bear Bryant in his book), a defender who lines up on the inside shoulder of an offensive tackle is said to be in a "4i technique." I do not like the use of the word "technique." I think Phillips should have said "4i alignment." But technique it is. The "i" refers to the inside or perhaps to being lined up on the inside eye ("i") of the offensive tackle. See my online football dictionary for definitions of the various technique numbers and my suggested replacement system.

In using the terminology gap-8i and 10-1i, I am saying that the defensive guards and tackles will line up on the inside shoulder of the offensive guards and tackles. I assume that this is as close to the gap as the defender is allowed by this rule. On the snap, the defenders would slant slightly so they end up in the gap the same as if they had originally lined up in the gap. You might even have your defensive guards and tackles line up pointing at the gap they are going to like a “tilted” defensive end or nose in college or the pros.


In a short-yardage situation, you might not want to have both of your defensive guards that far away from the center. You would be vulnerable to a quarterback sneak. In that case, I suggest having your boundary-side defensive guard and tackle line up on the boundary-side shoulder of the center and boundary-side guard and slant into the boundary-side gap next to each. The boundary side is the side closest to the sideline. The opposite of the boundary side is the wide side. For example, if the ball is on the right (from the defense’s perspective) hash, the right (from the defense's perspective) side is the boundary side and the left side is the wide side (also called the “field” side in many books and articles).

You may find you have to have a man lined up on the center in all situations, although a middle linebacker could probably take care of non-short-yardage situations.

In all other respects, the gap-8i and 10-1i defenses would be the same as the gap-8 and 10-1.

I like to try such things before I recommend them, but I never encountered this rule so I never used the gap-8i or 10-1i. I hope readers in such leagues will try it and report to me what results they get.

Good luck

John T. Reed