Let's Speak Technique: OSU's Chris Ash on Press Coverage

Upon hiring Chris Ash away from Iowa State, OSU switched from primarily a Cover 6 look to a press Cover 4 base. The change was part of a plan to put more pressure on the offense, from the front 7 to the back 4. And there is no bigger push in college football than the implementation of press coverage. All coaches have their tweaks to the technique based on leverage, offensive formation, play call, and player abilities. After the jump, Chris Ash goes into detail from his ISU days about Man Press technique.
I've taken the liberty of screen capturing the power point slides, which should give you a primer before watching the video.

Notice we start with the stance. If you are in an incorrect stance, the rest of the technique is going to be extremely difficult. It's important to be able to start correctly in order to be able to finish correctly.

Next we'll look at alignment. Notice that Ash doesn't teach his DBs to align nose-to-nose, but actually to give a yard (to on-line WRs; 2 to off WRs). Your leverage on the receiver (width) depends on his split (how far from the offensive EMOL) and where help is. If your safety is playing middle field and the receiver is aligned far outside, he won't be able to provide a lot of inside support, so you'll shade inside. If you're receiver is aligned tight to the LOS and the safety has deep half over the top, you can align in an outside shade and force him back inside to help.

It's always important to give players a key, something that they can base their reactions off of. Without a key we're guessing, and when we guess we're often wrong, we often second guess ourselves, and that causes us to play slow. We want to play fast.

Notice we're starting with the feet. If the feet don't do their job, whatever hand technique you have is inconsequential. It's important that you're patient, if you lunge you'll get caught off balance and behind the play. Try to maintain the receiver inside the body frame as long as you can and make him release wide around you (either inside or outside).

Next, he looks at a few drills

The mirror press is a focus on the footwork. When you watch the video, note how the DBs have their hands behind their backs. This puts the focus on their footwork and balance. Mirroring the receiver forces the receiver to go wide around the defender, and being able to do it with the hands inside your frame prevents the DB from lunging forward or laterally; it forces him to be good with his feet first.

Eventually, though, the receiver will be able to release, so you must have tools (i.e. footwork) for when this happens, this is the kick step. Notice that you don't want to cross over, again, it's all about balance and explosiveness. Here, Ash talks about "lead position". This means being "in sync" with the receiver, or having your hip over the top of the receiver's hip. At times, the DB will be forces into a trail technique in which case he won't be able to maintain position on top of the receiver, we'll discuss that later. For now, understand that when you're in lead position, you slow down the receiver (he can't run through you even when you're both running) and you can control and feel the receiver without your hands, allowing you to find the ball and not allow separation.

I'll also point out something the Ash doesn't say explicitly, but that's about how the step is taken. He does reference not opening the gate, which would require a wider step and put the defender in a position where he doesn't have a strong stance in which he can impart force from his feet (essentially he's off balance and in a stance that isn't powerful to hold off the receiver). I'll also add that you don't want to elongate your stride simply because your flipping 45 degrees. Part of the reason you only open 45 degrees is that it still forces the receiver to go around you rather than be able to release vertically ("maintain lead position"). If you widen your stride, you lose the strength you have because your feet aren't underneath you, and you don't have the balance or power to prevent the receiver from crossing back over. By maintaining your stride fairly tight and only opening to 45 degrees, you're able to control the receiver with your body still; if the receiver wants to fight back across your body, he either has to go all the way back underneath (so parallel to the LOS) or actually through you, which he can't do (he's walled off). This allows you to maintain your lead position and control of the receiver, so you can perform the next technique (the switchback).

If you maintain a lead position, a prime way for receivers to attempt to gain leverage is to stem outside first and then work back inside, or vice versa. When the receiver tries to cross the defender's body, you'll want to be able to switch back. This allows the defender to maintain his position and not get cross up. By having proper footwork (yes, we're still focused on the feet, hands still aren't involved) you can smoothly get in and out of transition phases of coverage with balance and explosiveness. This makes it so you maintain your lead position and can continue to control the receiver.

Now we can focus on the hands. Note the first bullet: "Your hands must work in conjunction with your feet". If they don't you'll get off balance and have no strength.

Now the focus switches to the actual jam. We focused on footwork first and then using hands properly with your feet through transition. The last phase is the actual jam. Good technique (thumbs up, locked elbows) gives you strength, just as it does at any other position.

Once the fundamentals are down, you can start focusing on specific scenarios, such as inside/outside releases....

And specific routes (video goes through most of the route tree).

Now for the video: