Preparing for USC's Defensive Line Slants

One of the biggest things BYU coaches will watch and learn from the Auburn game tape was the way USC's defensive line ran an inordinate number of slants that Auburn's head coach and offensive coordinator described as "the best (defensive front) they'd ever seen."

USC head coach Pete Carroll loves defense and is his own defensive coordinator. He and BYU's Gary Crowton, both ex-NFL big leaguers, now face up toe-to-toe in pregame strategic planning in a game that looms much larger than anyone knew last year.

The Auburn coaches were extremely candid in describing the strength of USC's line and their successful strategy to utterly confuse Auburn's offensive plan.

Rather than try to beat offensive linemen man to man, the Trojans correctly guessed where Auburn's plays were going and shifted their sights in that direction.

It's called "slanting." But USC added a twist. They slanted two or three times more than usual. That created chaos along Auburn's front as players tried to decipher whom to block.

"Last night was a real learning experience. It was some stuff I've never seen before. They were slanting two or three gaps at a time – stuff you just don't see much. It was really strange. I've seen them slant, but not like that," Auburn's offensive coordinator Hugh Nall told reporters afterward.

Nall is still trying to figure it out. He said he will continue to watch tape and learn from the team's mistakes. A game against Georgia Tech is up Saturday and the Yellow Jackets run a defense similar to USC's.

We hesitate to call any defensive line "the best in history" based on one game, as the Auburn coaches did. Sometimes one coach just flat outsmarts or out-guesses another. Saturday was definitely Pete Carroll's day.

BYU's new 3-3-5 defense involves all kinds of unpredictable slants of the line from different angles, into gaps, as well as slants from linebackers or the secondary. BYU's offensive line has seen a lot of slanting in spring and fall camp.

Auburn seemed frozen by the fact that USC wouldn't taken them on man to man, but shot gaps in unpredictable ways. That is one of the features of Bronco's 3-3-5 that makes it hard to predict where to block the defensive line, because they are moving targets to often shoot for gaps.

It remains to be seen how great the difference is between the USC slants versus line slants that BYU's offensive line saw from Georgia Tech or repeatedly practiced against from its own unpredictable defense.

Job No. 1 for BYU coaches is to develop a game plan to effectively prepare for and handle the Trojans defensive line slants that surprised and totally negated Auburn's highly touted running game.

Cougar coaches have the game film and 10 days to prepare for USC. Whether that is sufficient time we'll soon find out. Naturally, USC will unveil some new looks for BYU they did not show against Auburn.

This is Gary Crowton's biggest test to date as BYU head coach and a great opportunity to show his offensive and strategic counterplanning skills. That's why we still strap on the pads and play the game.

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