MQ Pressure Tape: UCF vs Pitt (2019)

MQ breaks down one of Pitt’s game-planned Safety blitzes.

Pitt had a monster year on defense in 2019. Prior to this season, the Pitt defense had been relatively mediocre, sitting in the median of Defensive Efficiency. 2019 would see the Panthers tie for the first in sacks per game (SMU/3.92) and tied for seventh overall in tackles for loss (TFLs) per game with 7.9. Pitt would even finish in the top-25 in 3rd Down efficiency (23rd) at 33% efficiency. Until 2019, Pitt’s highwater mark for DEff had been 58th (2017).

2019’s defense was Narduzzi’s best since his arrival in Pittsburgh in 2015. Pitt would do all this with only one draft pick, CB Dane Jackson (7th Round), and four All-ACC 1st or 2nd Teamers. Beginning with his time in East Lansing, Narduzzi has been known for his unique pressure package that features a six-man rush and what is referred to as HOT or EYES coverage. This is a three-deep/two-under concept that has the two under players read the QB and “periph” the WRs they are matching. This gets the underneath players into the lanes.

There are multiple coverage variations to each pressure/blitz. Most people are familiar with Fire Coverage (3u/3d), but Narduzzi can also tag his pressures with SQUAT (Trap 2) or CAT (man). This allows him to change to presentation for the QB or play different coverages to match the routes he is getting. This article will focus on a Safety blitz used multiple times in Pitt’s game versus UCF. When Narduzzi likes a pressure he will run it until the offense stops it. This was no different versus the Golden Knights.

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MQ Pressure Tape: Virginia vs Notre Dame (2019)

Virginia’s Head Coach, Bronco Mendenhall brought his attacking defensive style with him to Charlottesville after his long stint at BYU. Though the Cavaliers are not in the upper echelon of defense, the defensive staff at Virginia has found ways to cause havoc for opposing QBs. The program as a whole has been slowly rising their standard of play with 2019 being a high watermark accumulating nine wins. The most wins since 2007.

Defensively, the Cavs are not the most efficient defense in the country (#71 in DEff), but they made it count in “havoc stats” (3rd Down, TFLs, & Turnovers). The Cavs didn’t accumulate many turnovers (18/t-64th), but they were in the top 2t in TFLs (#22/7.1 a game) and Sacks (#9/3.29 a game). Their 3rd Down percentage was in the top third as well, with opponents only gaining a 1st Down on 36% of their attempts. Finally, the Cavs were 23rd in Busted Drives, which is the percentage of opponent offensive drives that earn zero or negative yards.

MQ will take a look at Virginia’s matchup with Notre Dame. The Irish were a top-25 offense in OEff (#25), winning 11 games, and only losing to Michigan and Georgia. Virginia would lose the battle but accumulated five TFLs and four sacks against a program that is known for offensive line play.


Pressure Tape

This particular pressure is a favorite among those attacking the middle of the line with a Bear Front. The Cavs align in a four-down Bear. They get to this from a typical four-down Jet Front (5s/3s) used by most four-down teams to attack pass-pro on 3rd Down. Mike shades the center to the RB’s side making it a five-man front. This type of alignment forces man blocking across the front. The RB will be in charge of the Will LB. This places a static blocker on a rusher coming from depth.

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MQ Pressure Tape: Clemson vs Ohio St. (2019)

Venables takes on Day for a chance at the National Title.

Since Clemson’s Defensive Coordinator Brent Venables’ arrival, the Tigers defense has been one of the top units in college football. Outside 2012 (Venables’ first year) the Tigers defense has found itself in the top 25 in Defensive Efficiency, finish #1 twice (2014, 2019). The Tigers have a unique brand of aggressive four-down defense in a time were the Tite Front is king.

One thing that makes Venables stand out among his peers is his willingness to try new things. During their game against Texas A&M, Clemson trotted out their own version of the Odd Dime to combat the Aggie Spread. It was documented last Spring that the Iowa State and Clemson defensive staffs had conversed. This should come as no shock because Venables is a Big 12 guy, having grown up in Kansas, played and coached under Bill Snyder at Kansas State, and cut his proverbial DC teeth at Oklahoma under Bob Stoops.

2019 would see the Tigers play for their fourth National Title in five years. That is on the same par with Alabama who has become somewhat of a recent rival. Though the 2019 Tigers would eventually fall short versus LSU in the National Championship, the defense was still #1 in DEff for 2019.

One highlight from 2019’s defense is the jack-of-all-trades, Isaiah Simmons (#8 overall in ’20). Venables used him as a true hybrid player by placing him all over the field to create matchup issues (even at “Post” Safety!). The Tigers matchup versus Ohio State in the Fiesta bowl would highlight the flexibility of Venables’ scheme versus one of the best examples of the modern Y-off Spread. Below are three of the best pressures from that game.


Film Study

The first clip is a simulated pressure that attacks the edge of the Ohio State line. The Buckeyes initially align in a Trey formation and shift to a 2×2 Pro Twin set. Clemson is in their 3rd Down Dime package with Simmons on the TE (Ni) and the Di on top of the Slot WR. As the Buckeyes motion, both the Ni and Di stay on the same side, the Safeties just rotate to the hashes.

On the line of scrimmage (LOS), the Tigers are in an “Overload” Front. This means that there are more defenders on one side of the line than the other. In this particular look, the Tigers have the DE, Nose, and Mike LB all to one side. The proximity of the Ni also stresses the defense because he is in position to blitz (along with the Ni). Away from the TE, the Tigers have the Will in the “A” gap and another DE as a wide-5.

04 Overload Front

I’ve explained before how an Overload (above) look can force the offense to do two things. First, the offense can slide to the two “bigs” and lock the backside tackle on the opposite DE or EDGE player. Second, the mugged LBs in the middle of the formation can force man blocking or five-on-five, which is illustrated in the clip below. Clemson runs a different look with the Mike and Will mugged in the “A” gaps. Venables is known for his four-down “Double-A” pressures, but this is a great example of giving different presentations to force the offense to work. Continue reading “MQ Pressure Tape: Clemson vs Ohio St. (2019)”

MQ Pressure Tape: Clemson vs UNC (2019)

MQ reviews three of the Tar Heels best pressure schemes.

North Carolina Defensive Coordinator, Jay Bateman, made a name for himself at Army with his use of delayed pressures. Most notably the one that hit home versus Oklahoma in 2018 (below). A delayed pressure is a great way to give the presentation of drop-eight (rush three) only to have the ILB away from the RB insert on the guard. The goal is to get a static guard to block a more athletic LB.

The design of a modern 3-4 is to get LBs that can pressure yet drop out into coverage. This use of 240 lbs LBs as rushers is nothing new. The main transition has been to put them in the middle of the formation instead of always on the edge. This has fundamentally changed defenses. The 4-3 Under was created to get an athletic 3 technique in a one-on-one on a run-blocking guard. The natural evolution as the Spread has grown in popularity is to have LBs become major players in rushing the passer. James Light had a great tweet from a college coach explaining the idea behind using LBs, something Belichick has been using to kill the NFL for years.

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