Middle linebacker Mike Tanner Speaks Out

Senior middle linebacker <b>Mike Tanner</b> has seen a stark defensive shift since he was thrust into the starting slot last year – in a defensive scheme dominated by linebackers. No longer.

The 6-1, 235-pound Tanner told TotalBlueSports.com today "the old defense was based on linebackers. We had a guy up on the line that took care of the tight end. We had four guys down in front of me tacking up blockers and my job was basically to scrape and make plays."

With the 3-3-5 defense in place, the offensive line may look a little more imposing to linebackers who now have to adjust to the new defense.

"You always seem to have a block coming at you," said Tanner. "An adjustment for me is I've always been decent at getting off blocks. An adjustment I've had to make is just flying up and being physical on that first block, and making sure he doesn't make the step on me, then getting off the block."

The level of accountability and the stakes have risen significantly within the new defensive scheme.

"(Before) I would just run by the guy (offensive player), but now I have to make sure I take that guy, put him in his hole, then scrape. The whole defense has to be physical or it doesn't work. My job is to take up my gap just like everybody has their gap and scrape, get off blocks as fast as you can."

Tanner continued: "The way it's changed now is there is just commotion everywhere. There's not one guy that it's centered around. Everybody flies to the ball. No one has just the sole responsibility to make ‘the play.' It's everybody's responsibility, which is nice."

Despite the changes, Tanner has no problem mixing it up more with the offensive line hogs. He says his role in the new defensive scheme suites him just fine, adding his strengths as a player fit better under this new defensive philosophy that allows him to become more involved.

"It's fun and exciting because I have the chance to blitz a lot too. In our old defense, we blitzed a lot with our outside linebackers and the middle linebacker just scrapped."

Not anymore.

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