Random Thoughts: A New NU Defense?

For several years we've heard lots of talk about Northwestern University switching to a new defensive scheme. While Randy Walker seemed committed to the 4-3, many on his defensive staff were convinced that NU had the personnel to eventually play with one man up front in the middle, and four linebackers - the 3-4. Maybe not this year, but in 2007????

He's been saying it all along...
Anyone who got within earshot of defensive coordinator Greg Colby when he was in his "future of the defense mode" has heard all about why the Wildcats will eventually move to a 3-4 defensive front.

It seems that every time you talk to Colby, you ask about the 3-4. The question is usually raised because of NU being short of defensive linemen, or an injury to one of the big guys up front.
But in the tradition of NU debate, our Defensive Coordinator always comes back with several overwhelming reasons to change NU's long standing defensive alignment.
Over the years of following recruiting, its obvious that NU has trouble getting a pair of big "stud" tackles, and two guys who can play together in space to become ends.

This is no knock on the present group of DE's, Kevin Mims and David Ngene, backed up by Mark Koehn with Corey Wootton back in there pushing for a starting job should be considerably better this year - we saw flashes of what the defensive front could be at times last year, this year the goal has to be consistency.

As a side note: D-Line coach Eric Washington was known for developing hard charging defensive ends. The 3-4 fits his style as it puts a lot more pressure on the 5 offensive linemen. In the 3-4, they actually have to match up with 5 rushers, four with sub 5 speed, not just 4 with an occasional blitz.

The middle of the D-Line is the big question.

John Gill was there for all of the ups and downs last year, playing along side now NY Giant Barry Cofield. Adam Hahn, who apparently won the other DT postion in the spring was highly regarded by the staff when recruited and only an injury prevented him from playing last year. There's also a future nose tackle committed to next year's class, even if he's listed as an O-lineman.

While NU fans have learned over the years not to count on anything until a kid is actually on the field at NU, you hear rumbles that Niko Mafuli could develop into that big run stopper in the middle, maybe the key addition to allow a 3-4. There are also two very athletic freshman DT's in Kenosha right right now who should have the size next year to help fill that role.

Anyone who's played O-Line, or coached against a good 3-4 will tell you about the challenge facing o-linemen trying to pick up 4 fast outside guys. The idea that two of the five rushers have outside linebacker speed plus the possibility of a 6th man coming from the middle will keep you up at night.
Once Greg Colby, Fitz and company get their new scheme running, it will once again put NU out front of the pack with another new wrinkle in Big 10 football.
When NU switched to the spread offense, it caused changes throughout the Big 10 because teams had to devise a different defense in the week they played the Wildcats. The same thing happened when they added some option 2 years ago. The switch to a 3-4 defense will force the Big 10 offenses adjust, especially up front on the O-Line, the one part of a successful offense that you really don't like to tinker with with once the season starts.

The requirements are hard to fill - finding that one big run stopping nose tackle every few years isn't easy, but you recruit a style of player and grow him into the job. NU already knows how to do that.

NU has been recruiting bigger and faster players for defense since Randy Walker took over. We've made strides, especially among the linebackers to where we have kids again coming to the defense with sub 5 :40 times.

As that coach for the Ravens, who won a Super Bowl with a 3-4 once said, "Speed kiills."

I've heard that line around Nicolet more than once since Colby took over the NU D.
-- da Coach

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