I know this is a simple question, but in a cover 3 defense where the outside linebacker has the Curl/Flat zone, can the OLB make contact with a receiver on a flat before a ball is passed? I’m in 8th grade and the season has started, and we’re 2-0. I just need to get this question out of my head and translated on the field.
You are in 8th grade. In all junior, middle school, or high school programs the rules are either based on NCAA rules or NFSHSA. There is a 95%+ chance that your league is governed by NFSHSA. So please throw out all NFL rules out the window that you see on TV.
Here is what you can do:
You can make contact with a receiver past 5 yards. In fact you can make contact all the way downfield until the ball is in the process of being thrown. There is no 5 yards or 10 yards or a point at which you have to initiate contact. For instance lets say you line up at 7 yards and give the WR a large cushion. You are playing the out route. The WR comes off the ball a good 10 yards straight upfield, you backpedal a little with him. You see he is cutting towards a post route and want to vacate route to cover outside zone. You are free to push his butt down when he makes the cut.
Given #1 you are not allowed to pull the WR which is a hold. All of the contact that you make as a DB has basically the same rules as a blocker on offense. No hands to neck or face and no holding. Any grab or clench will result in a hold. The ball does not have to be in the air to get this call, and is not technically pass interference.
If you do commit pass interference and ball is not throw in general direction, no call.
If you hold WR and ball is not thrown in direction, still a penalty.
If you hammer a guy while ball is in the air and he is behind the line of scrimmage. Good for you! (big difference between high school rules and NFL. Still can't hold him though)
On the flip side if you go up to press the refs do give WRs a little more leeway to throw your butt to the ground in the first 1-2 yards. After that WRs can get touched but not touch defenders. If they do it is illegal block downfield or offensive pass interference.
Let me know if there is anything else to clarify.
Also if you want to be a great coverage OLB you have to be a bully to WR leaving your zone and really understand formation strategies. If you are on a single WR side you should be handing off sooner and taking risks on short zone.
Here's a good thread for you to check out, but in short a defender can play bump and run coverage within 5yds of LoS while the defender is in front of him until the receiver has started running the route.
As an outside backer I'm sure you can do the same if you line up wide.
Edit: forgot to post link :p