Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Taking the Bull By The Horns.....

                  Throughout this season, we have watched two local universities with immense talent (South Carolina & Clemson) struggle to defend the option; not just against Navy and Ga Tech, but against Wofford and the Citadel as well. In discussing the struggles with some other coaches on the high school level and the college level, two things have stood out to me: a lack of imagination in defending the offense and a lack of enthusiasm among defenders facing cut blocks for four quarters. A friend on the college level told me that he has several players who circle the game against GT as the game in which they are most likely to be injured. They go in thinking that this game could cost them a pro career. To which I argue, Don't they cut in the NFL also? Wouldn't a player be better off learning to play the cut block properly? The other issue is one of strategy or alignment and the risk of thinking outside the box.

           In an earlier post, I mentioned a certain front that we used called BULL. We started off using BULL vs Double Wing Power teams but, over time, we have adjusted the defense to combat various run-oriented offenses. After watching GA Tech / Clemson and USC / Navy, the other assistants on my staff wanted to speculate as to whether BULL would be effective vs these attacks. So I thought that I would address this question in this blog post. Please respond if you have thoughts; any feedback is welcome.

         I will start off describing BULL vs a Double TE / Double WB set because that is how we first designed it. We are a 3-3 BASE defense, but often we can get into our BULL front without changing personnel. Other times, I will substitute an extra LB and pull a CB. For the sake of this article, we will treat this as playing with 3 DL, 4 LBs, 2 SS/ OLBs, and 2 DBs.

Up front we will play with a 0 tech NG and two 3 tech:
  • The NG has a 3 way go depending on the skill set of the Center. The best case is for the NG to drive the Center straight back.
  • The 3 techniques are told to penetrate B gap. Against tight split teams, they must put their hat in the crack between the OG and OT. They will get into the hip pocket if the OG pulls.
The key to the entire front is what we call our Bull LBers. They play in a ghost 6 or a 7 tech if they have a TE. The way we coach these positions is what makes the BULL front so effective:
  • Against a TE, the Bull LB will line up in a 7 tech tilted toward the TE, 3 point stance with his inside foot back and his eyes on the TE. (His butt will point at the inside LB). At the first movement by the TE, the Bull LB will fire out into the v of the neck of the TE; think of this an an anti-down block. After a hard collision with the TE, the Bull LBer will almost bounce back inside and find the ball. We call this a Ricochet technique.
  • Against formations with no TE, the Bull LB will align in a ghost 6 technique, usuallly in a 2 point stance with his inside foot up. Depending on the opponent's offense, we may alter his aiming point, but usually it will be the hip of the nearest back. On flow away, he gets flat down the line of scrimmage and chases. (Note: Do not be afraid to use a smaller, quicker player at BULL LB. He will make a ton of plays running this down from the backside.)
  • An important key here is that in most of our BULL calls, the Bull LBers secure C gap and then are free to the ball, with no contain or force responsibilities.
  • I cannot stress enough the importance of coaching the Bull LB to attack out into the TE. This technique is hard for opponents to see on film and TEs are simply not prepared for this.
  • Vs Option, the Bull LBers are QB players.
The Inside LBs are the positions that make the whole thing fit together. Their key may change according to the type of offense, but their technique does not.
  • The LBs align in a loose 30 tech over the opponent's B gap at a depth of no closer than 4 to 5 yds (very important). Their key is usually the back furthest away. For instance, vs Double Wing, the LBs key the opposite WB.
  • If the key comes to the LB, he is blitzing from depth, at the snap, not before. If he comes from depth, the OT will often block down on the 3 tech and the ILB should fit right off the OT's butt. If he cheats too soon, he could get washed down as well.
  • If the key goes away, he has eyes on the FB right now, looking for Dive, Trap, or Counter coming back at him.

The 7 positions described so far are playing the run all of the way. We tell them that if it turns into pass, your keys will turn your technique into a great pass rush. The 4 remaining players will play a few different ways.

The OLB/SS will usually align at LB depth
  • 3 x 3 outside against a closed set (No WRs)
  • 4 x 4 inside #1 against an open set (1 WR)
Two or more WRs usually causes us to check the coverage. The DBs align as follows:
  • On the Hash 12 yards deep vs a closed set
  • Splitting the EMOL and the WR 12 yds deep vs an open set

We start off teaching against a closed set with WB motion. The OLBS and the DBs are both looking at the opposite WB and reading overall motion or flow. The 4 spoke secondary will roll towards motion or flow. We call this 3 Roll coverage.
  • If flow/motion comes toward, the OLB is attacking the line of scrimmage now, keeping his outside arm & leg free for contain, but still squeezing the running lane.
  • If flow/motion goes away, the OLB checks for reverse then bails out to deep 1/3.
  • If flow/motion comes toward, the DB is rolling over to cover the outside deep 1/3
  • If flow/motion goes away, the DB is rolling into the middle deep 1/3

If we are presented with an open set to one side, the defense simply treats that alignment as its key and disregards motion or flow. They are automatically rolling toward the split receiver.

This works especially well against teams that use the unbalanced principlie with the TE & SE on the same side.

           We will also run a coverage which we call 2 Safe. In this coverage, the 4 spoke secondary plays a predetermined responsibility without regard for motion or flow.
The OLBs are Flat / Contain / Pitch players and the DBs are Deep 1/2 safeties. In this coverage, the deep safeties are told to simply be safe and prevent the long pass.

      The next question we face is what to do vs a spread formation (split receivers to each side). Against a 2 RB set, we will simply check to 2 SAFE coverage.

When faced with a 1 RB look, we will usually just check to what we call Dallas .  In Dallas coverage, the DBs lock up man on the widest WRs and the OLBs will man up the inside receivers. I will then bump one of my LBs to FS depth and tell him to play "playground" ball. ("Playground" means look at the QB and try to intercept the pass. Don't overthink it.) While this means we are in some dangerous man coverage, keep in mind that we are not playing this against a true spread passing team. Also remember that I still have a 5 man rush coming very hard against an OL and a QB that play in a predominantly-running offense.

I realize that he who has the chalk last wins and I realize that there are some weak points in this front. When we play this, we are careful to emphasize that the opponent will get us sometimes; we just cannot let them get for big play touchdowns. This front may give up some first downs and some moderate gains, but it also will put huge amounts of pressure on the line of scrimmage and it will create negative plays. As long as we don't give up the quick big-play score, we will eventually catch that TFL or QB sack and we will be able to stop the drives.

            Would this work against some of the DI run-oriented attacks? I would like to think so, especially with creative placement of your talent. For instance, for those of you that follow the SEC, imagine Melvin Ingram and Jadaveon Clowney playing the BULL LB techniques and tell me that wouldn't have given Navy some headaches....Tackling and Pursuit ultimately win games but the BULL front has been good to us. I would be interested in heaing your take on this , as well as some things other coaches do against these types of run-oriented offenses.

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