A zone blitz is a relatively conservative defensive system that is used to nullify plays downfield by forcing everything underneath. If the scheme is executed properly, then the opposing offense will be hard-pressed to get much of anything deep down the field.
"A zone blitz is designed to keep the ball in front of you to match up after the play is determined to be able to have leverage rather than put as much risk and potential big plays on your secondary," said head coach Bronco Mendenhall as reported on byucougars.com. "It requires more coordination once the play is snapped to find your match ups and to provide the leverage necessary."
The Arizona secondary feels very confident that they can find their match ups quickly with given the speed they have in their secondary. Antoine Cason, who is widely considered one of the top cornerback in all of the PAC-10, leads the defensive backs. He will be joined by Wilrey Fontenot. Both are returning starters.
"They're good," said receiver Matt Allen about the Wildcat secondary. "I believe that they're worthy of a lot of the press they're getting. They have a lot of speed. They're not too physical, but they have a lot of speed. They have a lot of experience in games and they've proven that they can do some damage."
Although Arizona's defense and secondary in particular have some experience and have shown success running their system, the Cougar offense is not a bunch of spring chickens either. The system run by Arizona is something the Cougar offense has seen and has had success against.
"We've seen it a lot," said Beck. "It's a system that they run well, but if we do what we do well, then we should be able to move the ball and make yards while hopefully putting up some points. We have a lot of respect for what they can do defensively, but we also know that if we execute right that we can score against them."
The key to beating a zone blitz and pretty much, any other defense for that matter, is to give the quarterback time to pick apart the coverage and find the seams created by zone coverage. If the offensive line nullifies the blitz then those seams will become apparent, and a potent offense will be able to exploit it.
"If zone blitzes are done correctly with the ball thrown on time, usually underneath, the catch and tackle approach is used and very few big plays happen," explained Mendenhall. "If the pressure is not effective then seams are created because every zone blitz has seams and then there are risks. Zones are only effective as the pressure is designed to be the protection."
Protection is key against a zone blitz that looks to disrupt the motion of the offense and the opportunities to throw downfield. Fortunately for the Cougars, their line is armed with experience and talent in three returning starters, two of whom have three years of experience.
"We have Jake [Kuresa], Eddie Keele, Dallas [Reynolds], Ray Feinga and Sete Aulai up there," said Allen. "All those guys are solid offensive linemen. The offense starts with them, and having those guys in front gives us so much confidence in running routes and everything we do. We know that they'll get the job done."
Arizona will be mount a capable and promising defensive front themselves to put pressure on John Beck in hopes of disrupting his reads and flow. Leading the charge will be three defensive ends that have 29 starts among them. They will be joined by stud JC transfer Louis Holmes who was arguably the top junior college defensive line recruit in the nation last year.
"They have some experience coming back and added a lot of good guys," said Beck. "For me though I have so much confidence in the guys up front to give me time against anybody. They did it last year and they'll do it this year as well. We have everything we need to be productive and we aim to be just that against Arizona this Saturday."
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