Warning: Actual Football Content. Another warning: this is a ridiculously long post. War & Peace-esque, if you will. But if you really dig defense you're in the right place. Let me preface this post by saying I am neither a football coach nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn last night. I'm writing this as a primer so we'll have an idea of what changes we will see on the defensive side of the ball next season. Please post any corrections/comments if I've missed something. If you have a question I'll try & answer it.
In all situations, we will defend the inside or middle of the field first – defend inside to outside. Against the run, we will not allow the ball to be run inside. We want to force the ball outside. Against the pass, we will not allow the ball to be thrown deep down the middle or inside. We want to force the ball to be thrown short and/or outside.
… Finally, our job is to take the ball away from the opponents’ offense and score or set up good field position for our offense. We must knock the ball loose, force mistakes, and cause turnovers.Turnovers and making big plays win games. We will be alert and aggressive and take advantage of every opportunity to come up with the ball . . . . The trademark of our defense will be effort, toughness, and no mental mistakes regarding score or situation in any game."
Expect Tech's defense next year to adhere to the same mantra. Our goals will be the same: defend from the inside out, focusing on the run first & the pass second. We'll be much more of a "bend but don't break defense", focusing on limiting big plays & forcing opponents into sustained drives where they are more likely to make mistakes. How do we do that? Let's start with our defensive line.
- "Jack"- this is our hybrid LB/pass rush specialist. Think James Harrison of the Steelers or even Lawrence Taylor (who Groh coached with the Giants). Will need to be bigger than an average linebacker. Michael Johnson would have been perfect in this role. Expect Egbuniwe, RS freshman Euclid Cummings & Chris Crenshaw, and Albert Rocker to get a shot here. Perhaps the frontrunners here are perpetual Jacket A.T. Barnes & Osahon Tongo. Barnes has struggled with consistency throughout his seemingly endless career but this looks to be a great position for him. Tongo was an undersized, pass rushing end in our 4-3 & projects to have the size & speed for the position. In the future incoming freshman Anthony Williams will be a good fit at "Jack".
- "Mike" & "Will"- these two, along with our nose tackle, form the triangle that is the heart of our new defense. They must be physical players who can stop the run by reading the flow of the play, evading or shedding blocks, & then make a tackle . This is emphasized by the fact that there will always be an offensive guard that is not "covered" by a defensive lineman who will fire out & try to block one of them on every running play. So they must be able to take on this guard, defeat the block, & make the tackle. Expect bigger, more physical linebackers in the middle going forward. Brad Jefferson, at almost 240 pounds, will likely start here. Kyle Jackson, although a little undersized, also has a shot depending on how his foot heals. Lucas Cox is moving to LB from A-back & will also get a chance at one of these spots. Other names in the mix include Hash favorite Julian Burnett & B.J. Machen.
- "Sam" - Our other outside linebacker will have the obvious run stopping responsibilities of the other LB's but also be more involved in pass coverage. If Barnes doesn't win the "Jack" spot I could see him here along with Stephen Sylvester, Malcolm Munroe, RS freshman Brandon Watts, & true freshman Quayshawn Nealy.
- Cover 2 Zone. Expect to see this a great deal, particularly on 1st & 2nd down. We'll generally rush four & drop the other players into pass coverage where they each have a zone or area of responsibility. One note is that Coach Groh & those from the Belichek tree of coaching use the concept of pattern reading extensively. I'll get into this superficially in a bit & more in depth in a separate post as it's a very detailed concept that I've just scratched the surface of. Below is a diagram of Cover 2 zone:
- Cover 2 Man Under. A Cover 2 shell deep with man-to-man coverage from the cornerbacks & linebackers underneath. A strong variation which we will use frequently if we feel our corners have a favorable match-up with our opponents receivers. Groh prefers this on 3rd down & intermediate distance.
- Cover 3. We'll use this to try & confuse quarterbacks as we vary coverage. The field is divided into deep thirds where three players then have zone responsibility (usually both corners & the free safety). A variation on this is the famous Tampa 2 where the middle third of the field is covered by the dropping middle linebacker.
- Cover 1 Robber. A very aggressive coverage that is ideal when you can bring pressure on the QB. Man-to-man underneath (corners on WR's, LB's on the TE & RB) with a lone safety having deep responsibility and the other safety (the robber) patrolling an intermediate area 8-12 yards deep off the line-of scrimmage looking to either read the pattern or the QB & create an interception by getting a great break on the ball before it's thrown. The idea is that the pressure from the rush hurries the QB & he does not see or account for the "Robber" who is then able to make a play. Nick Saban loves him some Cover 1 Robber (a great breakdown by Chris Brown at Smart Football).
- Cover 0. Straight up, good old fashioned man-to-man. Groh prefers zone & I seriously doubt we'll play much Cover 0 as the entire object of our defense is to limit big plays.