Its kind of a funny question but it gets asked all the time. Is there truly a difference when a defensive coach says his team is running a 53 vs a 35 vs a 33 scheme? Some coaches believe that there is no difference at all and it is just semantics or the personal choice of the coach who chose what scheme for his team to run. And there is some truth to that. Sometimes it really is as simple as Coach X prefers the name 53 or whatever.
However, sometimes there are differences. Personnel and Techniques often dictate what you are actually running. In the question of 53 vs 35 vs 33 the player placement and techniques of the DOG / SPUR / BANDIT (pick your name for the DE/OLB/SS) is the real indicator.
Example … we call our defense a 33 Stack ??
This is a youth level defense and most of our teams under the age of 10 are truly in more of a 53 type of defense with DE personnel and techniques. This is based on the overwhelming amount of run first, throw never teams that you face at this age.
As the kids get older and the offensive schemes get more varied, we end up with LB type kids playing these spots and we vary the alignment and techniques to better take advantage of what those kids can do for us. Most offenses are still running the ball most of the time but they are starting to employ better passing attacks to take advantage of a defense that ignores this possibility. Therefore we have to be ready to defend the passing game.
However, when we ran it at the HS and half of our schedule was loaded with Spread teams, we used SS type kids so we could better match up with the type of plays those offenses bring to the table.
This different approach to personnel really dictates how varied you can be in your defensive scheming.
Example 1 … with DE personnel you really cant go to a ‘Cover 4’ by dropping a DOG back into quarters coverage … or 2 Deep Man Under … or any coverage that requires more than the DE knocking the snot out of a RB trying to get out into the flat.
Example 2 … with SS personnel you wont be as effective against a full house backfield that is running power off tackle all day long … it can be done and has been done but it isn’t nearly as effective as using DE personnel.
Most (or many) younger youth teams are actually running 53 …
Most (or many) older youth teams are actually running 35 …
Almost all the HS and College teams are actually running 335 …