The "3-4" Defense: Why The Move?
"These days the Big Ten has become more of a passing conference. And therefore Big Ten defenses need to have the flexibility to stop both the run and the pass."
"That being said, if you have outside linebackers who are big, are athletic, and who can run ... in other words big athletes who can stop the run, AND cover a tight end or 'big receiver' in pass coverage -- then you have the potential for real flexibility in a defense. And you can also disguise your defenses in a 3-4 by have one of the outside backers start with his hand down. So a 3-4 is better than a 4-3 in taking advantage of flexibility -- if you have the personnel to play the outside linebacker position."
"With a 4-3, you can twist your DL's, but they don't ever stand up. So there is less ability to disguise things or to move people around. Had U-M stayed in a 4-3 this year, Lamarr Woodley wouldve been one of those four down guys. And Pierre Woods would've been the one outside (SAM) linebacker, with Shawn Crable backing up only Pierre and so not getting many snaps."
"So that should show you right there -- the main reason for Michigan to switch this year is that they have the personnel for it. Pierre Woods and Lamarr Woodley both have the athletic ability to play both the run and the pass -- and so does Shaw Crable who will be able to get double the snaps backing up BOTH Pierre and Lamarr than he would've just coming in for Pierre. Jeremy Van Alstyne (out for the year with a knee injury) would've been the 4th outside backer. I expect we'll see Woods and Woodley flip-flop from side ti side, with Crable playing a lot of snaps substituting for both of them."
"So, the idea is to get those three guys on the field -- Pierre Woods, Lamarr Woodley and Shawn Crable."
"Woods and Woodley are far more experienced than the three guys up front. Remember, Michigan graduated Norman Heuer, Grant Bowman, and Larry Stevens. And replacing them are young guys: Gabe Watson, Larry Harrison, and Pat Massey, none of whom have played much. Pat is the most experienced of the three. So Pierre and Woodley will be able to put their hand on the ground some and help them ... against running teams, and to disguise things."
"Having Woods and Woodley both as backers also protects the two inside backers from the standpoint of pass coverages - a lot of Big Ten teams run multiple wideout sets, and a team like Purdue uses a tight end as one of its 5 receivers. And in Michigan's blitz packages -- now U-M will be able to blitz the OLB's instead of the ILB's."
"So just think of the possibilities. Michigan can use Woodley 'up' or 'down'. They could even put Woodley and Pierre on the same side sometimes. They could put Woodley down at times and bring Ernest Shazor up to blitz. Michigan also has two safeties that can hit like linebackers. Woods and Woodley, the safeties and Marlin Jackson -- those are the anchors of this Michigan defense."
"If Michigan wants to stay in a 3-4, that also effects recruiting down the road ... with a 3-4 a team can bring in safety-type kids, and make them into linebackers. And in recent years there seems to be more real good high school safeties around than linebackers - at least in the Midwest."