Before we get heavily into pre-game chatter, we'd like to share a thought our two on the Tech defense. We are by no means experts. The following is idle speculation. Also look for another post from Fourth Down.
A few weeks a go the Chef put a bug in my worrying about Dave Wommack. Can he do the job? Last year the team finished 28th in scoring defense. Not great, but with how young the linebackers and secondary were and all the injuries the defense suffered its hard to say the coaching staff didn't do a good job. Still, its hard to ignore all the points Jacket opponents are scoring this year.
My peaked interest picked up a repeating theme in Coach Johnson's press conferences. Every time the defense has a bad game, Johnson says the defense has to get simpler, back to basics. Wommack is a 3-3-5 guy, though he's not dogmatic about it. If he has 3-4 or 4-3 personnel he'll line-up in a 3-4 or a 4-3 and run 335 concepts out of that formation leaning more heavily on the personnel's strengths. The thing is the 335 is based on complexity. Every position is a hybrid position. This allows the defense to use zone blitzing effectively, to switch up angles of attack on the opposing offensive line and run a bunch of crazy coverage packages. 335 concepts are designed to minimize an offenses' physical advantages by utilizing the defense's intelligences. By asking his player to do more things Wommack should be able to confuse the opposing offense into making mistakes.
At first blush the 335 would be a perfect fit for this year's personnel; lots of LB's an DB's and a few small but smart defensive lineman. Isn't that what Southern Miss built their great defenses on?
Wommack has a pretty solid reputation. I don't think people realize that his system represents as much of a change as Johnson's offense does. Look at Michael Johnson's highlights from last year. MJ lead the team in sacks and was second on the team in passes broken up because in thee 335 defensive ends have to be able to drop and cover as well as rush the passer.
The difference between Johnson and Wommack is that Wommack didn't hire his own assistants. Giff Smith, Brian Jean-Marie and Charles Kelly are all hold overs from the last regime. There are goods reason for keeping those coaches. Smith and Jean-Marie have both been big recruiters for Tech and they have a good record of coaching up talent. None of the former Tech players in the NFL right now were not highly recruited out of high school. Kelly on the other hand did a good job with the special teams the year before Johnson arrived. Despite the advantages these coaches bring to the program one wonders if some of Wommack's individual technique concepts aren't getting down to the players because the assistant coaches are still learning Wommack's system.
Of course it all could come down to the fact that Tech is starting two underclassmen on the defensive line, and one other note of caution, simple was what John Tenuta was all about, cover two and blitz like its winter for Poland and France! It was effective to a point, but better teams figured it out. At that point the system became rigid.