Stopping the Run

It's the Tennessee game and everyone and their brother knows that the Tennessee Vols are going to try and run the ball on the Gators. It is what they do and what they have been known to do for decades now. For two weeks now we know that the staff at Florida has said that priority number one is to stop the run. We want to show you how they may plan on doing it.

Mike Stoeber is a long time friend of mine and as qualified of a person as you will find in teaching football to the general public. As a matter of fact, Mr. Stoeber used to teach football as a course at the University of Florida. He was the Director of Football Operations under Ron Zook and before that Stoeber really sank his teeth into game planning and learning tendencies of Gator opponents as the Game Analysis Coordinator under Steve Spurrier and his staff. He worked for many years on the staff with current Gator defensive coordinator Charlie Strong.

Stoeber was my boss throughout my years on the staff at Florida and is currently still working in the field of analyzing plays and dissecting coaches video. He works for a large company that works with teams in analyzing opponents and developing game plans. His current client list includes over 50 NFL and collegiate teams. Both teams that met in the Super Bowl last year are current client's of Stoeber and he also does work for seven SEC teams.

I guarantee when reading this you will learn something new and will not find a more qualified person to share his knowledge on the game of footballon the Internet.

With that said, here is Mike Stoeber's look at stopping the running game of the Tennessee Volunteers and how he believes the Gators will approach it.


Controlling the opponent's run is one of the most important keys for any defense. A look at last year's stats shows why stopping the run is so important. The top 20 rushing defense teams in 2007 (which included No. 10 UF, No. 12 LSU and No. 16 Georgia) averaged 10 wins. Only three of the 20 teams had less than nine wins. A look at the bottom 20 rushing defense teams in 2007 (which included No. 101 Mississippi and No. 110 South Carolina) averaged four wins with only three teams having seven or more wins.

Every defensive coordinator I worked with at Florida had stopping the run as one of their top goals. In a clinic presentation by Coach Strong a couple of years ago, he stated UF's No. 1 defensive goal was stopping the run. In fact, the five goals were...



In talking football basics, the spaces between the offensive linemen are called gaps. The A gap is between the center and the guard, the B gap is between the guard and the tackle, etc. In an offensive formation with a TE and fullback, there are 8 potential gaps. (The fullback can make 2 gaps between linemen.)

To counter this in the past, Charlie Strong would attack these formations with a 8-man front. This allows all players to be assigned to 1 gap, allowing them to attack rather than to read. There are different ways to getting 8 men in the box, but the most common way in the past couple of years has been an Under front with the Strong Safety rolling down. (An under front is when the four linemen shift away from the tight end and the Sam "S" linebacker is over the tight end.)


One of the key to look for when you are watching the game is the linebacker/safety's ability to make the correct "fits" and to play downhill. (Downhill means to be attack forward, not laterally, with their shoulders squared to the line of scrimmage.) Because of a fullback block and/or a pulling lineman, extra gaps can be formed anywhere along the line of scrimmage. It is the job of the linebacker/safety to know where to be in these situations. Sometime they will "squeeze" (attack from the outside/in) while other times they will "spill" the hole (attack from the inside/out). Below are three runs we will probably see this weekend from Tennessee versus an Under front showing the linebacker/safety fits.


When watching the defensive line, their biggest contribution to rushing defense is to maintain their gaps. By this I mean not to get push laterally, thereby increasing the size of gaps and the spacing of defensive players. If we are success in defending in the line, a good portion of the success will be to our trench people maintaining position and leverage so the linebackers/safeties can make plays.

Another thing to watch is how Coach Strong will call linegame adjustments to affect Tennessee's blocking. By this I mean we can call an adjustment where defensive line move to new gaps at the snap of the ball, such as the tackle is moving to the A gap rather than staying in the B Gap. Stunts can greatly affect UT's blocking schemes, making it more difficult to get good angles and movement on our line. Below are some examples of stunts that can be success versus the run. If we are also able to add in our blitz package, Tennessee's offensive line, and therefore the entire offense, could be in for a very long day in their attempt to running the ball.

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