The 3-4 defense has been used with great success, especially with the Steelers in the NFL. I have used the 3-4 with 5 year-old flag players and 14 year-old travel tackle players as long as it has been modified for the level you are coaching.
Looking like the 5-4 defense, the 3-4 will confuse many coaches at the youth football level. A crucial component when installing a difficult defensive system, like the 3-4 defense, is making certain it has been adjusted to the level you are coaching. If you are coaching a young team you will not need any of the fancy blitz packages in the 3-4. The stunts, slants, blitzes and corner back schemes come in many varieties in the 3-4 defense. Many of these will have to be left out or tweaked in a big way if you want to use them at the pop warner level.The younger your players are in age, the less complicated you need to make it.
The slant used by the defensive line needs to be used at every age level. This devastating technique will have your defensive line messing up your opponent’s blocking schemes and they will not even realize you are doing it to them.
With the proper preparation, including a complete scouting report of your upcoming opponent, you should be able to use the slant to confuse the blocking schemes of your opponent. The beauty of the 3-4 defense is that you should be able to mess up your opponents entire offensive line using only three players. Hopefully you have scouted your opponent and have a good idea of the blocking styles he will attempt to use against your team. Using defensive line slants, you will be able to occupy all five of his offensive linemen with just your nose guard and two defensive tackles. You will be able to play most of the game with a two man advantage. We show all the modifications for the defensive line slants and stunts in our youth 3-4 Defense Playbook.
For over 20 years the 3-4 defense has been my base defense. I have installed it with 14 year-old travel level teams as well as 5 year-old flag teams and have enjoyed tremendous success. I have coached in the smallest city in my conference and have rarely allowed greater than two scores in any game. In nearly half my games we have shut out our opposition and I have a winning percentage of over 80%. I believe in minimal, if any, blitzing and like to use the defensive line slant to keep the opponent’s offensive linemen away from my line backers. Unblocked line backers run free to make plays and I want my best athletes running free.
In conclusion, the 3-4 makes a wonderful defense to use at all levels of football as long as the coaches use a modified version applicable to the level they are coaching.