MQ takes a look at the Vols defense versus Indiana’s Empty sets from this years Gator Bowl.
Having a detailed plan of attack for Empty is something all defensive coordinators need to carry when going into a game versus a Spread team. An Empty formation stresses the defense in many ways by placing three WRs to one side and aligning two the other direction. This 3×2 set “zeros” the box, meaning it forces the defense to cover down to every wide WR. Regardless, if the defense leaves a linebacker(s) in the box, the offense has created an advantageous situation where the defense must run blitz or “max” coverage to overwhelm the offensive front.
Most defenses will carry three types of schemes versus Empty: Cold, Warm, and Hot pressures. In a “Cold” pressure the defense will use line stunts to create one-on-ones for the defensive line while dropping eight (or seven if a four-down) into coverage. This type of thought process maxes out the coverage ability and bets on the front to win with games. “Warm” pressures create man blocking upfront with five-man pressures. By sending five defenders the DC has guaranteed the offensive line must account for every defender.
The man-blocking creates one-on-ones for the defenders. Win one of those and the defense can get to the QB. Coverage wise, the defense can either run man to the pressure and zone away or run single-high coverages with no “Rat” or hole player in the middle (This is Cover 0 in Saban). Finally, “Hot” pressures sound exactly like their name, the defense is sending the maximum number of defenders, creating a man free somewhere along the line. Blitz coverage (or man) is ran behind it with the assumption that the ball is coming out HOT!
When defending a team the runs a good amount of Empty, a DC must understand what the offense is trying to do out of the formation conceptually, but more importantly, how are they protecting with the offensive line. Max pressure will almost always trigger slide protection. Offenses can slide either way, usually to the best pass rusher. This ensures that the one player is free off the edge (below). By knowing this, the secondary can tighten up and trigger on short routes. Any long developing route will lead to pressure. Pressing in this situation is probably not the best because the offense can hit a quick-strike Fade route with no help deep. Better play off-man or Bail (look like press then work deep).
One of the greatest luxuries in football is when a defense has enough depth in the secondary to create a Dime package. As spread has become the norm in football, the Nickel package, replacing a linebacker with a secondary player (usually a safety), has become the norm and many defenses’ base. Most teams have “tween” or hybrid players. Utilizing these players on defense has made it easier for defensive coordinators to adjust to the onslaught of spread teams. The Dime package, in particular, is different than its sister the Nickel package. Instead of replacing a LB with a safety, the Dime package puts two defensive backs in and replaces either two LBs (four-down) or a LB and a defensive lineman (three-down). The specific package being discussed in this article will cover the three-down, three safety Dime package most generally seen in college today.
A 3-4 Base
If a defense’s base is a 3-4, it can easily adjust to the spread by putting a Nickleback at Sam, much like its counterpart, the 4-2-5. A three-down Dime package takes the Mike off the field and inserts either a safety or a CB depending on the DC’s preference and the scheme being used. The front most used in a Dime package is the Buck Front or a 505 front. This ensures an edge rusher on either side of the quarterback that will define the box. The Nose’s role is to get a vertical push on the pocket and make the QB move. Below is a diagram of a 3-4 Buck Dime Package:
The first decision that has to be made when developing a Dime package is who is going to be part of the Dime package personnel? If looking to run more of a man scheme, a DC is more likely to bring on two cornerbacks and leave the two most athletic LBs on the field. As stated earlier, more defenses are shifting to a Nickel/Hybrid base. This means the traditional Sam LB is actually a safety. In the case above, the Nickelback is more than likely a third CB while the Dimeback is another safety. Continue reading “The Dime Package”
Running an Okie Front to defend the modern spread attack.
Defensive linemen are at a premium. For many teams, it is hard to field a deep roster that can lend itself to a four-man front. Running parallel to the defensive dilemma of lineman depth is the popularity of the spread. A natural conclusion for many defensive coordinators around the country has been a shift away from a four-down front and into a 3-4 scheme. The flexibility of the 3-4 and the added athlete on the field makes the scheme spread friendly. The multiplicity within the scheme allows DCs to attack the offense from multiple directions without sacrificing pass distributions. Running a two-high scheme behind a three-man front meshes well with teams that have a history of running a 4-2-5 or 4-3.
The Okie Front, in particular, can be of service when defensive coaches are looking to defend the spread from a three down front. With a 5 technique, a shaded Nose, and a 3 tech. (or 4i) to the weak side, the Okie’s anchor points fit the spread much like its four down sister, the Under Front. To the weak side, the Jack linebacker (boundary OLB) is technically a wide “9” in the run fits and controls the edge of the box to the boundary. The Jack LB, in particular, is useful when defending offenses that like to attack the boundary through the air. Even though the Jack is technically a conflicted player (he is responsible for the “C” gap), his alignment allows him to read the offensive tackle and slow play the run. In most four down fronts, the boundary OLB (Will) is the “fold” player and is considered conflicted because his gap is in the box. The Okie Front eliminates the fold and replaces it with a loose overhang (much like a natural Will/DE exchange in a four down front). Continue reading “Defending the Spread From a 3-4”
The Double Tex line stunt is a great way to use all five linemen while keeping gap integrity in the middle of the formation. The point of using a Tex stunt is to bait the quarterback into stepping up the field, or the offense into running a QB draw. Many DCs are afraid to blitz Empty because of the threat of the QB draw. Using Tex stunts allows the DC to gain all back seven defenders in coverage while putting pressure on the offensive line.
The defensive ends screaming up the middle eliminates the threat of a QB draw. In the diagram below, the DEs presses upfield to get the tackles to kick out to them. The Tackle and Nose loop to the outside shoulder of the offensive tackles and secure contain. Once the offensive tackles kick back, the DEs loop in and aim for the inside hip of the guards. Against “big-on-big” (BOB) protection, the Center should step to the Nose. This opens the weakside “A” gap for the incoming boundary DE and looks like an enticing window for the QB to step up into. Even if there is a draw on by the QB, he will be stepping into two incoming DEs.
The coverage piece behind it can be whatever the DC is most comfortable with against Empty. In the case below, a “loose” Special scheme is the chosen coverage. The Mike and the Will are allowed the luxury of hanging outside because the DEs are responsible for the interior gaps. If the Nose or Tackle cannot get to the outside, the Mike and Will are able to attack the QB once he leaves the pocket or the QB bounces outside on a draw. The great quality of the Double Tex stunt is it gives the DC the best of both worlds, it protects the interior line from a QB draw and allows all the back seven players to drop into coverage.