The Modern Bear Front – Georgia vs Notre Dame (2017)

Georgia used a Bear variation in thier Tite Front to help combat Notre Dame’s Pro Style offense.

The Modern Bear Front

Though the Georgia Bulldogs are known primarily for their three-down Nickel package known as Mint, their base package reflects a traditional 3-4 package. In their game versus Notre Dame in 2017, the Bulldogs featured two hybrid OLBs (not including their Jack ‘backer who is similar in every package) versus the various 12 pers. formations the Irish chose to run against them. One a true Sam linebacker (Base), the other a Nickelback (referred to as the Star/* – seen in the Mint package). When Notre Dame would switch to their 11 pers. package, Georgia could opt to sub in their Nickel package (in comes the Star). Even though new players come on, the packages function in similar ways. The pressures and fits many times only need minor tweaking.

01 Base Tite Fits

The natural alignment of the Tite Front (above) lends itself to multiplicity. The ability to gap out the box allows a defense to stay in lighter packages versus heavier formations like 12 pers. When defending offenses like Oklahoma that feature a hybrid (flex) TE and a traditional inline/H-back TE (blocker), the ability to keep a Ni on the field while still being able to match the size in the box is critical. Modern offenses with the addition of hybrid TEs have made it difficult for defenses to match sub-packages with offensive personnel. Add tempo, and it’s next to impossible.

When a defense wants to match the size of an offense, it can take it’s Ni off the field and sub a traditional OLB or another hybrid DE. Georgia bases out of a traditional 3-4 with two hybrid OLB/DEs with the Sam usually being more athletic and having the ability to play to the field. The Jack and Sam versus a 12 pers. formation will function similarly. In Georgia’s case, the Sam in 2017 was #7 Lorenzo Carter, who currently plays for the NY Giants (3rd Round).

The main difference, as illustrated below, is the Sam aligns in a true 9 tech. and will relate to the TE. He can even be used in coverage, working the vertical Hook or taking the 1st player to the flat (called a ‘Backer 9). This type of thinking is what helped Georgia match up with Notre Dames multiple formations and sub-packages. The ability to get into a Bear Front in multiple ways also factored in against the Irish’s Zone heavy scheme.

01 BS vs 12p [ND]

In a traditional Bear Front, the defense will align in two 9s, two 3s, and a “zero” Nose. The ILBs will be in 30s or stacking the DTs (the ILBs can align wider depending on where the back is set). Coverage variations can stem from a multitude of two-high or single-high coverages. Obvious adjustments need to be made with the overhangs attached to the box, but most coverages can easily be modified to fit a defense’s needs. Plus, this package is mainly used versus 21 or 12 personnel, which in modern football are basically the same grouping.

If a team isn’t inserting the OLBs as contain, the overhangs can be used to cut the flat versus a two-back set or press and carry a TE in 12 pers. Below, the Jack and Sam could be “first-to-flat” players allowing them to sit next to the LOS, which is more natural, and carry the first back into their zone. Essentially, the Bear Front clogs all interior gaps and creates free-flowing ILBs with two contain players to funnel runs inside. Drop a SS or Rover on a TE and the defense has something that resembles the old Bear 46 (below).

04 Bear Str Roll

The “modern” Bear Front aligns similar to it’s older counterpart but uses 4i techniques instead of 3s (to align with the Tite Front). The Nose can play similarly as well from a “zero.” The overhangs, like their traditional counterparts, can play contain or assist in coverage. The beauty of the Tite Front is that the defense can get to a Bear alignment in a multitude of ways, even stemming to it (moving to it pre-snap) on the QB’s indicator. It really boils down to a DC’s imagination. A defense can even blitz to a Bear Front.

The Bear Front is a great front against Zone schemes for the same reason the Tite Front is so popular, it clogs all interior the gaps and forces runs to go East and West. The two edge players create natural walls and inhibit Zone Reads (hybrid on the QB – match speed with speed). The front constricts the offenses space, funneling everything inside to free-flowing ILBs. In 2017, with Notre Dame featuring a heavy Zone Pro Style Spread scheme, it is no wonder Georgia used this front in numerous ways to defeat the Irish in South Bend. Watch any Georgia game, and this front will be used in one way or another. It is versatile and adaptive. Exactly what a modern defense needs in its toolbox. Continue reading “The Modern Bear Front – Georgia vs Notre Dame (2017)”

Defending 10 pers. 2×2 Pistol

Three ideas on defending the spread’s most even set.

One question I get on a regular basis is how does a Pistol backfield change the way a defense adjusts to the spread. When utilized with even formations (2×2), the Pistol can create hesitation in how a defense traditionally sets up against the spread. If setting the front formationally, a defense can align quickly and efficiently to most formations. For most four-down defenses, the front is set to a TE (Over Front) or away from Trips (Under Front) to allow maximum cover downs. The main issues arise when offenses employ the Pistol from a 2×2 or Doubles formation. Like Ace and Diamond, 10 personnel 2×2 Pistol forces the defense to choose where to set the front by field or boundary. If the offense aligns in the middle of the field (MOF), the defense has to make a choice between right or left. Because of the Pistol’s unique backfield alignment, the offense can identify the conflict player and attack, leaving the defense vulnerable.

In traditional “gun” formations the offense has put the back on one side of the formation. Teams can run same-side zones and gap plays (pulling runs), but many utilize the offset running back to read the defensive end or conflict player to that side of the back. There are three main front adjustments for defenses when defending 2×2 gun: 1) set the front to the back (Over), 2) set the front away from the back (Under), or 3) set the front to the field. The later becomes difficult in the MOF. I suggest in my book that a defense should, at the least, set the front to the back to maximize Sam’s cover down and deter read side RPOs. Versus a true even set like 2×2 Pistol, this can be impossible to determine if in the MOF.

Versus a 2×2 gun formation, the defense is broken into two parts, the read side (back’s side) and the fold side. Against a team the sets their back in the Pistol alignment the offense can easily establish where the conflict player is located and attack. This two-way-go can make it difficult for defensive coordinators to game plan against teams that run Pistol. Establishing front rules against a “gun” team is relatively easy, but to understand how to set the front versus 2×2 Pistol a defensive coordinator must first understand the formation.  Continue reading “Defending 10 pers. 2×2 Pistol”

The “Nub” Side

Defending single-width formations.

There are certain formations that pop up during a season that can give a defensive coordinator pause. Unbalanced sets, for instance, are used by many offenses to force 16 to 18-year-old athletes to think on their feet or force a defensive coordinator to burn a timeout. Pro spread offenses use tackle-over sets to confuse the defense and gain leverage, while 10 personnel spread and two-back offenses utilize unbalanced sets to work quick motion from the single receiver side (“X-off”). Though “nub” formations are not unbalanced, they are very similar and continuously give defenses trouble. When the formation is combined with RPO and Air Raid schemes, it can put immense pressure on DCs.

Single-width formations are paradoxical. On one side an offense has multiple receivers, while on the other it has a running formation. “Nub” formations force the defense to acknowledge a true “run” side, while also defending multiple receiver formations. Offenses that utilize TE sets can create leverage issues or force a secondary player to be left by his lonesome against a bigger player. Many defenses will choose to spin against “nub” formations to gain extra men in the box and replace lost overhangs.

As modern football progresses, more offenses are choosing to go away from under center formations. This allows the offense to have a two-way go in a Pistol formation or a “read” side in an RPO offense from the gun. There is nothing more threatening than an offense that is powering the ball down the field while implementing RPOs. Packaging plays forces the defense to stay even and protect the run fits and pass distribution, all at the same time. Instead of spinning, a defense needs to stay in a two-shell look and develop a game plan dependent on the tendencies and personnel preference of the offense.  Continue reading “The “Nub” Side”

Lining Up to Ace

What to do with those two extra gaps.

.01 ACE-TREY HEADER.png

Lining up to an Ace set can be one of the most difficult formations for any defensive coordinator. The two extra gaps created by the TE’s force the defense to account for them in the run fits. If the offense decides to line both receivers up on the same side (Trey), it creates a three-receiver formation, with the added pressure of an extra gap to the strong side. Away from the Trey side, there is a “nub” TE (TE with no WR) and another gap created that the defense has to account for and subsequently defend (versus a traditional 11 personnel set, the defense can easily address the newly created gap). The concern in 11 personnel shifts to how a defense addresses the cover down to the two-speed side.

When offenses run Ace Trey, the defense has to account for two extra gaps as well as the cover down on the two-speed side. If the offense runs its sets from the pistol, they literally have two strong points of attack. The Ace grouping of formations is very similar to the Diamond in the fact the offense can max protect and run with extra blockers from an even set, essentially gaining a two-way-go and the ability to  attack the side the offense feels it has the most advantage. Unlike the Diamond formation (inverted Bone), where the extra gaps can be created by the backfield post-snap, the Ace formations establish the gaps before the snap of the ball. This immediate addressing of the gaps forces the defense to show its cards. Continue reading “Lining Up to Ace”