The Baylor Bears are going through a transition across their program. How will the Bears new defense look under Phil Snow?
With new coach Matt Rhule beginning his first spring as the Bears football coach, new schemes and systems will start to be installed for the Baylor program. After speaking with the Scout Oregon site to review Chip Kelly's offense,it is time to turn our attention to the defense.
The entire Temple defensive staff made the trip down to Waco, TX to bring a Top-10 defensive scheme to Baylor. We spoke with Shawn Pastor from OwlsDaily.com to get the scoop on what Baylor fans should expect to see from their new defense.
Most defenses either focus on speed or strength. Which would you say better defines Phil Snow's approach?
Shawn Pastor: Snow would probably tell you that he values fundamentals and intelligence more than speed or strength. When the Owls burst into the national rankings in 2015, their defense wasn't particularly fast up the middle at linebacker or safety. But they tackled well and didn't make mistakes. Up front, Snow values speed rushers in passing situations, going so far this past season as to use four defensive ends -- one of them being a two-way wide receiver -- on third-and-long.
Does Snow use more of a 3 or 4-man front?
SP: It's usually a four-man front, with the nose guard plugging up the middle and the three technique in more of an attack mode. Snow will vary his looks, though, and doesn't hesitate to drop one of his linemen into coverage on a zone blitz. On third-and-long, he'll often switch to a three-man front, or even a two-front man, and play everyone else in zone coverage.
How adaptable to the opponent is the defense?
SP: Given the variety of offensive systems in the American Athletic Conference, the adaptability of Temple's defense has been one of its strengths the last few years. The personnel and look didn't change that much whether teams were spreading the field and pushing the tempo, or if it was Navy running the option. The flexibility of the front four was certainly a key ingredient in that regard.
Baylor has run bend, don't break defense recently. Would you classify Snow's as such?
SP: Snow's primary goal is to prevent explosive plays, and to play really well in the red zone. So in that sense, yes, it's a bend but don't break philosophy. But that doesn't mean he's willing to give any ground in the running game. He's willing to bend but not break, but he would just as well not bend at all.
It appears positional flexibility on the defensive line is a key for success. How does Snow mix and match personnel?
SP: Temple's defensive linemen were asked to do a little bit of everything, from stopping the run to rushing the passer to dropping back in coverage. The 2015 team had a defensive tackle who sometimes flexed out to defensive end, while the 2016 had a "cheetah" package in which two defensive ends moved inside and were joined by two more speed rushers on passing downs.
Does Snow use more man or zone coverage in the secondary?
SP: The Owls probably played more zone than man, and a lot of combination coverages, too. Pass coverage was the area that took the longest time to come together. Snow's first Temple defense (2013) was plagued by broken coverages at critical times -- leading directly to several last-minute losses. But once they figured out the scheme and the checks, the secondary became a real strength.
Development seemed to be such a bright spot with Matt Rhule and Phil Snow at Temple. What would you credit for that success in finding diamonds in the rough and developing them?
SP: Player development has definitely been a key to Temple's success. The Owls sent three defensive starters to the NFL last season, and two or more will probably join them next year. And none of these players was a highly-rated recruit coming out of high school. In some cases, it was a matter of identifying a great football player who didn't necessarily have all the measurables. But they also found some great athletes who somehow slipped under everyone else's radar.
How often was Snow willing to blitz, or send 5+ defenders during his tenure?
SP: Snow is more likely to send a zone blitz than an all-out blitz. And it's rare for him to blitz a cornerback or safety. But, on occasion, he does position his linebackers in coverage and then send them at the quarterback. All things considered, he seems to prefer to get his pass rush from the front four.