Beaver Football 101: Defensive Ends

Hello ladies and gentlemen – that bell means that it's time for another session of Beaver Football 101. Kindly take your seats, and spit out that chewing gum. Take notes if you wish, and as always, Mr. Greule prefers stadium ‘dogs to apples, as long as it doesn't take you 2 full quarters to get him one.

During our first session we brought to you a clinic on how the defensive tackles operate within Oregon State’s base 4-3 defense, which as you know means that there are four members of the defensive line and three linebackers in the formation, along with four secondary players.

Bill Swancutt and his teammates.

Along with the two defensive tackles (DT), there are two defensive ends (DE) who complete what is commonly referred to as “the front four.” Oregon State has had some fantastic defensive ends come through Corvallis in the recent future, from Inoke Breckterfield to DeLawrence Grant, to arguably the best defensive end to ever play in the orange and black, the Pac 10's 2004 Co-Defensive Player of the Year - Bill Swancutt.

Let’s get a little better acquainted with the job that Mr. Swancutt does week in and week out.



Q: Last session we learned that OSU's base defense is an "over." Where do the DE's typically line up in our defense?
A: Typically, the DE can line up in up to six positions. When there is a tight end (TE) on the DE's side he can line up in three different positions:

  • With the inside edge
  • Head up (straight in front of)
  • Outside edge of the TE.

Typical base formation has the DE lining up head up of the TE.


When there is no TE on the DE side, he can line up in three different positions:

  • Head up
  • Outside edge of the offensive tackle (OT).
  • Inside edge of the tackle with a major shade to the gap between the offensive guard (OG) and the OT. This is generally only in goal-line situations.

Typical base formation will have them lined up outside edge of the OT.


Q : What are the different ways you may see our DE’s line up?
A: Since Oregon State runs a gap-cancellation scheme with the front four, you will often see the defensive line (DL) line up in any number of combinations, as long as the linebackers (LB) cover the gaps not controlled by the DL.

This allows the LB's to make the majority of the tackles/plays and to prance around like they are the best thing that ever put on a uniform. But do the down linemen get credit for filling gaps, NooOOooOo! The announcers just talk about what a great read it was by the linebacker.


Q: What are the keys for the DE to read?
A: The DE's keys and responsibilities are similar to the DT's keys and responsibilities, in that they read the hip of the player to their inside for their key (see BeaverFootball 101’s article on DT’s), unless it is a pass formation. In a pass formation, they read the man they are on.

One important aspect of the game, one that is unique to the DE's, is the screen read. Being on the outside of the line gives you a much better read on where the play is going, and if you are released too quickly, or cut after a three step drop by the OT, then the DE will get up and run towards the running back (RB) who is trying to slip behind the line.

OSU has had two DE's who were amazing at this: 1998 Morris Trophy winnner Inoke Brecketerfield and 2004 Morris Trophy winnner Bill Swancutt. Their ability to read screens saved countless yards worth of plays – and even netted Swancutt an interception in the Civil War.


A defensive player (in black) in a four point stance.

Q: What are the different stances you'll see our DE's line up in?
A: 3-point stance is the norm, but in a goal line stance many DE's will be in a four-point stance: Head down, butt up. In the three-point stance, the down hand is the one splitting the crotch of the player you are covering. If you have the wrong hand down, you lose a step. Often you will see a player with the incorrect hand down, because he is stunting in a different direction. But an intelligent and well-coached offensive lineman can spot that key and block accordingly.


In my opinion, defensive end is the best, most fun position to play on the field. You get blind side shots at the QB and also get to stretch plays out to the sideline. A good DE can negate an entire side of the field for the run game. Some offensive coordinators will attempt to neutralize that type of DE by leading with a fullback or a motioning a wideout.  BUT… if it takes two guys to stop you, someone is coming free....probably one of those damn linebackers.

If you have any questions that you'd like answered in future installments of Beaver Football 101, e-mail them to with "Beaverfootball 101" in the title. Go Beavs!

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