3-5-3 Defense Overview

What is the 3-5-3 defense?

This page will:

  1. Define the 3-5-3 defense
  2. Discuss the 3-5-3 defense’s strengths
  3. Discuss the 3-5-3 defense’s perceived weaknesses

The 3-5-3 defense refers to the personnel used by the defense to stop the offense.  The 3-5-3 defense uses 3 down linemen on the line of scrimmage, 5 linebackers within 5 yards of the ball and 3 defensive backs deep to cover the pass.

wing t buck sweep defending the wing t

There are other variations to this defense.  For example, the 3-3-5 defense uses a very similar alignment but a different personnel grouping.  The 3-3-5 defense uses 3 down linemen on the line of scrimmage, 3 true linebackers within 5 yards of the ball and 5 defensive backs to support the run and defend the pass.


The 3-3-5 defense

The outside linebackers are replaced by defensive backs

This flexibility allows you to run the 3-5-3 defense with any available personnel.  Examples:

  • An overabundance of linemen – use different groups of 3 to always have a well rested defensive line.
  • An overabundance of linebackers – Use linebackers at the front 8 positions, even on the line of scrimmage.
  • An overabundance of defensive backs – get more speed by playing smaller fast kids on the 2nd and 3rd levels.

Why run the 3-5-3 defense?

There are many reasons to run the 3-5-3 defense.  Here are a few of the strengths of the 3-5-3 defense:

  • The 3-5-3 defense is fun to coach, play and watch - Coaches can create unlimited plays, stunts, blitzes and coverages.  The kids get to run around and just play football.  The fans love it because its different and aggressive.
  • The 3-5-3 defense is flexible in regards to personnel - No matter what kind of kids you have on hand, this defense can be modified to fit your personnel.  This is not true in other defenses. The 4-3 needs dominant tackles, a good 50 defense needs a solid nose guard that can 2-gap.  The 3-5-3 defense just needs players that are aggressive and love to run.
  • The 3-5-3 defense lets the Coach be a factor – the 3-5-3 defense gives you countless options for fronts, stunts, blitzes and coverages.  It allows the coach to design schemes that put kids in great position to make plays and overcome superior opponents.  The 3-5-3 defense is also a very easy defense for game planning and attacking what an offense does best.
  • The 3-5-3 defense allows you to put more speed on the field – In the 3-5-3, players will never be asked to take on an opponent head on.  You don’t need large defensive linemen or linebackers in the 3-5-3 defense. The 3-5-3 defense allows you to play smaller players who are often quicker and faster.  In football, speed kills.  Especially on defense.
  • The 3-5-3 defense easily adjusts and lines up to any offensive formation - The possibilities for offensive formations and schemes are endless.  Because the 3-5-3 defense is balanced on both sides of the ball, you can easily adjust to any offensive alignment by moving only 2 or 3 of your players.
  • The 3-5-3 defense is easy to teach – The 3-5-3 defense only requires each position to learn a few basic techniques and alignment. Because your focus is on perfecting a few techniques and alignments, your kids will play faster and be more successful.
  • The 3-5-3 defense allows your best athletes to shine – The 3-5-3 defense allows you to put your best kids in strategic positions that protect them from being blocked easily.  This allows your best players to run around and make plays like no other defense can.

 The 30 Stack Defense is the BEST defense for high school, middle school, and youth football!


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About the Author

Shane Sams

Shane Sams


Coach Sams has over a decade of coaching experience in the 30 Stack Defense, and has ran the scheme in youth, middle school, high school and college!

Through strategic planning and relentless execution, Coach Sams has perfected the installation process of the 30 Stack Playbook.

He learned the defense as a Graduate Assistant at the University of West Virginia and modified the 30 stack to work at all levels of the game.  His system works with any personnel (335, 353, etc.).

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