Random Thoughts: Div I Defenses

Once upon a time, Division I Colleges ran a 4-3 defense, four down linemen and 3 linebackers. Sometimes defensive coordinators snuck a fifth d-back in to slow down a passing game, but a basic Div I defense, including Northwestern University, almost always had 4 down linemen, until recently...

Its been a forgone conclusion that NU would eventually wind up in a 3-4 defense....
3-4 as in 3 down linemen and 4 linebackers, even though the pre-game depth chart still shows a traditional 4-3.

But the 4-3 [and the 3-4] is pretty predictable and once you know the keys is easily attacked. Unless you are one of those powerhouse teams that cares little for what the opponent throws up, just about every offensive coordinator worth his salt knows how to break down a 4-3 or a 3-4.

So defenses had to change.

Air Force was one of the first to adopt a 3-3-5 with the outside linebackers on the line of scrimmage and two safety sized "Falcon backs" outside. They went to that because they didn't have the 4 traditional D-Line sized players available.

As you watch games this week, you'll also note defenses where a safety moves up next to the middle linebacker - a 4-4, and you'll see the 4 man front with either a safety or ouside linebacker up almost on the line of scrimmage - what looks like a 5-3, a staple of high school football.

Penn State shook up Akron Saturday with a 2-4-5 defense - 4 linebackers and 5 d-backs - when the Zips were in 3rd and long. Almost an invitation to run, but tough to pass into.
Looking ahead, you can guess that New Hampshire will show many different sets against the Wildcats.
but remember that this is their first game and you try not to tip your hand too early with new things. New Hampshire also makes up for a smaller size with speed. One of their O-Linemen noted that the NH D is Fast, and agressive - how fast is the question.

Those Wildcats have a few big O-linemen to stuff up the middle. In their end of summer scrimmage, the New Hampshire D-backs didn't allow any passing TDs against a passing game that stressed the running game but still threw for over 400 yards.
I did get to watch Nevada's defense in action over the weekend.
They mostly had 5 men up front, although one was a linebacker. You have to hope that by the time NU gets to the 4th game we'll have a passing game going. You'd love to see the NU O-Line come out and totally dominate an opponent, giving Kafka [or Bacher`] time to throw and Sutton room to run.

The Penn State D-shuffle continues next week at Notre Dame. I'll be watching, if only to see just what the Lions might be planning.

Meanwhile, NU's Greg Colby & Co. should be working on fine tuning a D that bent a lot last Thursday but never broke, keeping Miami to just a field goal.

Whatever happens, the old 4-3 defense, long a staple in college and pro football, might become another forgotten set, like the Wing T, or full house backfield, until some old coach sneaks it out to get another win.

Its a commonly held belief among defensive guys that Speed Kills. The guys with speed are usually d-backs and linebackers.

Putting another speedy kid out there can't hurt, can it?
-- da Coach

Agree or disagree?
You can send your direct comments to Coach Roy. Or post them on the Purple Boards.
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