BTTV: Breaking Down Stanford's Defense

BERKELEY -- It's time for our weekly shop talk with California offensive coordinator Jake Spavital, who breaks down Stanford's defense.

BERKELEY -- California offensive coordinator Jake Spavital says that Solomon Thomas is a terror along the variable Stanford defensive front, and gives insight into just what Bears fans will see in the 119th Big Game.


What's the most distinctive part of Stanford's defense: "They do a good job, I think they play very well together as a team. They don’t defend very many snaps a game, based off of a ball control offense, but I think they do a great job. They’re one of the better defenses in our conference. They play a lot of man. Pretty much the theme for the players this is week is ‘you’ve got to win the one on one battles, and that’s going to be big for us this week. Being my first Big Game, I think it’s going to be a pretty exciting atmosphere."

On getting rid of the Texas A&M red in his wardrobe: "Yeah, I learned that lesson early, really my first week on my job, I had a shirt with a little bit of red in it, and I got pretty much ridiculed throughout the entire day, so I haven’t worn any red since I’ve been here, since that day."

What was it? "It was a striped shirt, it had some navy in it too, but I’ve learned my lesson."

On the middle of Stanford's defense, which seems to be vulnerable: "They’ve played a lot of different players at those positions. I think they’ve gone through some injuries and guys moving in and out of the things, but I think they do a good job of moving in and out of different fronts. They’ll get in three down and drop eight, they’ll get in odd fronts, in nickel fronts. I think what they do is just based off their personnel, but they do a good job of playing a lot of different guys."

On Solomon Thomas, if he’s a DT or a DE: "I think he’s both of them. I think he’s probably the best defensive lineman that we’ve faced up to date. I think that kid’s all over the field. He’s definitely going to be a guy that we have find when they’re out there on the field, and make sure we target the protection the right way, because he wrecks a lot of offensive lines throughout the league. So we definitely have to keep our eye on him."

More emphasis on the quick game: "Definitely, I think there’s got to be quick game. I think over the past three games, we’ve struggled a little bit with throwing down the field, because we got put in situations where we had to throw, especially those intermediate routes, but I think this week there’s been a very huge emphasis on getting the ball out of Davis’s hands quickly."

On intermediate routes playing a role: "Oh definitely, definitely. It’s a lot of man concepts. They play a lot of man free, so from the get-go there’s going to be a lot of contested plays right when the ball is snapped, so you’ve definitely got to be able to hold onto the ball for a little bit longer to get to those bigger plays in the intermediate level."

Wanting to run more: "I still think what I say every week, that you have to establish a run game. If not, it makes it pretty hard to call plays. I think that’s when we struggle with throwing the ball down the field because the defense knows that we’re going to have to throw it vertically and the defensive line can pin their ears back and get Davis, so I think we have to find a good balance of getting the ball out of his hand quick and establishing a running game early to have success versus this defense."

12 field goals out of their 38 red zone scores; what's stopped them from finishing drives: "A lot of it has to do with not being very disciplined, I think we’ve had a lot of penalties and negative plays that have just stalled out, and we haven’t been able to overcome it. Again, that’s something we’ve been emphasizing with the team this week, is being better at situational football. It’s not just in the red zone, we’ve also got to be better on 3rd down. I think that’s one of the weakest things if you look at us statistically, we’re not very good on 3rd down and we’re not very good at scoring touchdowns in the red zone. So we changed some things up this week in practice, hopefully it works, we’re just trying to have another approach to try and improve in this category."

Washington and Washington State have shown shifting defenses against you in the last few weeks; what does Stanford do in that regard: "They do a little bit more, they do a good job at mixing the fronts up, they drop defensive ends into coverage, and they’re going to bring them. So they’re not going to stem the fronts from an odd front to a nickel front, they’re going to play games on who’s coming and who’s going."

On rangy corners like Frank Buncom and Quenton Meeks:  "That’s always been a thing I’ve seen so far in the Pac-12, the defensive backs are especially long, especially the past three teams that we’ve played. The main thing is that we’ve got to be disciplined, we’ve got to be able to get off press, because they’re going to come up and press you a lot of the time, so that’s something we’ve talked to these kids a lot about, but you’re also going to have to be multiple with your formations and motions and bunch and stack and hopefully we can some better isolation with the DB and the receivers."

You finally get to start when the sun's out, but instead, you get rain and clouds. Will that affect the passing game? "It doesn’t have any effect, I think it’s just part of the game, it’s part of football, and we’ve got to be ready for anything, whether it’s the weather or anything the defense throws at us. We’re still going to have the same mindset, we’ve played in a lot of rain games in the past. I’ve been in those rain games where we’ve thrown it 80 times, so I don’t think anything changes from our standpoint." Top Stories