The Evolution of the Odd Dime: Baylor vs Oklahoma Pt. 2 – Fronts and Fits (2019)

In Part 2 of MQ’s Baylor Defensive series, we take a look at how Baylor fit the run & used their fronts.

Dave Aranda, the newly appointed Baylor Head Coach made an interesting comment during his appearance at 2020’s Lone Start Clinic in College Station, TX. When speaking about his new job, Aranda pointed out that he was interested to watch 2019 Baylor because they lived in a 505 front. If you are new to Aranda, he is considered one of the Tite Front gurus.

The Tite Front (4i/0/4i) and it’s Saban counterpart Mint, have become all the rage in college football when stopping the Spread from a 3-4. In terms of Odd Stack defenses, Iowa State is the obvious starting point. Baylor is different from the Cyclones in the fact they lived in the 505 look regardless of the offensive personnel on the field. Iowa State usually aligns depending on the backfield or personnel on the field:

  • 10p = Back Front – Set the 4i to the RB and the 5 technique away
  • 11p/20p = 505
  • Empty = Tite Front

As Aranda pointed out, Baylor had tremendous success from the 505, or what I refer to as the Buck Front. Like Iowa State, Baylor would “heavy” the 5 techniques and allow them to crash down on the offensive line. Aranda and the Cyclones call this a “fist” technique (I call it “heavy). This allows the LBs to be patient and read their Guards through to the ball carrier. The two 5 techniques also allow the Bears to create natural walls on the edge of the box. Below is a typical look the Bears showed versus a Y-off formation.

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One issue with the Tite Front and the use of 4i’s is the lack of a natural edge setter. The 505 solves this issue but opens up a gap in the interior. In the clip below, Baylor is ripping both of their 5 techniques into the “B” gaps. The addition of the Twirl motion pulls the Sam LB away from the box. The Mike LB steps inside, even though the Nose is “lagging” or falling off into his “A” gap. This allows the TE to seal the edge and the MOF Safety is the stop-gap six yards down the field.

Though this is from the 505 perspective, the Tite Front would fit the same. The Mike has to understand that he is a free player and all his help is to his left. By working into the box, he inhibits his ability to rock out. Had he of been patient and sat on the “B” gap, he would have been able to cross-face with the TE and hold his contain.

When utilizing heavy 5 techniques those interior gaps get squeezed shut. Add a Safety in the middle of the field (MOF) and the LBs are allowed to roam free. This combination made Baylor’s defense one of the best in the country in terms of efficiency (8th). Rushing wise, Baylor was middle of the road, 49th in Total Rushing (143 per game) and 27th in average rush per attempt (3.66 – 1st in the Big 12). Though not elite on the ground, many around the country took a pause and are interested in how Phil Snow fit the run. In the second part of MQ’s series on Baylor’s Odd Stack defense, we take a look at the fits and fronts Baylor used to create a historic 2019 season. Continue reading “The Evolution of the Odd Dime: Baylor vs Oklahoma Pt. 2 – Fronts and Fits (2019)”

Attacking 3rd Down With Multiple Fronts

Using packages & “problem” fronts to attack the Spread on 3rd Down.

Though 3rd Down is probably one of the more overrated downs in football (in terms of importance), being able to get off the field is an important concept for any defensive coach (yes, I’m being dense). Any series is won on 1st Down. Win that down and now the offense becomes more predictable on each subsequent play. By winning 2nd Down and forcing the offense into an obvious passing situation, the defense can now attack the offense. This is why looking at efficiency stats are important.

Looking at BCfToys.com’s DEff, you will only find two teams in the Top 25 with losing records against FBS teams, Northwestern and Miami (N’western’s OEff is 124 and Miami’s is #76 which explains their 6-6 record). Winning early downs is key to winning 3rd. That being said, defenses need to have a plan for 3rd Down and it’s variations (short, medium, long). The ultimate goal is to get off the field. Understanding how your opponent attacks 3rd should reflect your gameplan too. If a DC regularly goes to the same pool for 3rd Down, an OC will learn your rules and beat you at your own game.

Predictability in football is the holy grail. It is why coaches spend hours diagnosing film and coming up with a plan. Wining the base downs (1st and 2nd) is key to a successful defense. 3rd Down efficiency is a decent metric and does, to an extent, help with win probability. T. Tony Russell of Blue Stampede wrote an interesting article on the topic of 3rd Downs and win probability. Russell found that “3-and-Outs” doesn’t necessarily correlate to win probability. Yes, defensive coaches love to get off the field, especially if you have a dominant offense, but this stat over time doesn’t directly correlate to wins.

As Russell explains, the use of 3rd Down Efficiency (the percent of 3rd downs that a team is able to convert into a first down) ignores about 71% of all other plays. 1st Down conversion rate or just passing down efficiency are better stats to use when looking at win probability. So what does this have to do with winning 3rd and Long?

First, there is always a point at which a team chooses to pass at a high rate. This means a defense needs to win its passing downs. In the NFL, any yardage mark is a throwing down, but generally, if the yards to gain is around 4+, most NFL teams are throwing. In College, that mark moves to around 6+, which is probably similar at the High School level. Second, defensive coaches need a plan for passing downs, especially on 3rd Down. Finally, not all schemes are created equal when it comes to pressuring the QB. A defense needs options. A DC needs to consider several things:

  • Is the QB a runner? Is he a thrower?
  • Do they have a dominant WR?
  • Do they slide, Big-on-Big, or Combo their pass-pro?
  • What is the RB doing, or who is he responsible for?

All these questions need to be answered as a plan for 3rd Down is developed. This particular article gives you several ideas and ways to attack an offense in obvious passing downs, especially 3rd Down. As Russell pointed, winning passing downs is a better metric for win probability. Win your passing downs, or get a sack/turnover, and you have a higher chance of winning the game, which at the end of the day, is the only thing that matters.


1) The Overload Front

1 Overload

One of my favorite ways to attack an offense on 3rd Down is the Overload Front. In an Overload Front, the defense will put all its numbers to one side. This front mainly runs from a four-down look, otherwise, you have something completely different. Above, the Georgia Bulldogs align three linemen to one side. The boundary side only has a DE and a LB that is responsible for the “B” gap and RB. Versus a nub-set, as shown above, the CB will be over there as well.

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Defending 11 Personnel from a 3-4

How to adjust to TE sets without a natural adjuster.

Spread and Pro-Style offenses utilize a Tight End versus three-down defenses because the defense lacks a natural adjuster. Unlike a four-down defense that can distribute their anchor points evenly across the formation, the 3-4 lacks the extra lineman to defend the extra gap (hence the name “Odd Front”). When faced with an 11 personnel formation, many 3-4 defensive coordinators choose to spin to single-high coverage to gain an extra man in the box. Another adjustment for many DCs in this situation is to attach the outside linebacker to the TE’s side. With the loss of a coverage man and overhang, the DC is forced to spin. When defending an 11 pers. offense from a 4-2-5 or 4-3, these little adjustments aren’t needed because the anchor points are evenly distributed and don’t need to be created.

In a four-down scheme, the defensive ends act as the walls of the box. When a TE is introduced into the formation, the DE to the TE’s side moves to a 9 technique (unless it is Trey and then he is in a 7 or 6i). The four defensive linemen allow the defense to stay even and adjust with the linebackers and secondary. The evenness of the four-down is why many spread teams attack 4-2-5 and 4-3 defenses from 20 pers., utilizing an H-back. In 20 pers., the offense can use the “H” to attack either side of the defense, reading the overhangs to determine what play to run. If the “H” was attached to the formation (TE) he would lose his two-way go.

Defending 11 pers. formations from a 3-4 boil down to understanding how certain fronts react to the extra gap. From a single-gap fit 3-4, a defense can easily adjust to TE sets and stay within a two-shell scheme. The lack of an adjuster is an issue, which is why many 3-4 teams that face the spread, and Pro-Style spread, choose to defend from an Okie Front because it reacts much like the four-down Under Front. Using the offense’s formations as a guide, it is easy to build simple rules within the defense, setting the strength and when to attach the OLBs, to alleviate the issues seen in many 3-4 defenses. Combining an Okie Front with a match quarters scheme can adapt and flex with any formation an offense throws out, it just boils down to how a DC chooses to line up.

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