Eugene, Ore-- Defense isn't something that comes to mind when the University of Oregon's football program is mentioned. Those thoughts are reserved for the Alabama's, Ohio State's and Michigan's of the college football world. Oregon's new defensive play caller, Brady Hoke, wants to change the bend don't break philosophy traditionally associated with Oregon's defensive unit.
During Hoke's tenure at the University of Michigan, the wins weren't there which ultimately led to his departure from Ann Arbor but one thing his Wolverine teams never lacked was defense. In 2014--Hoke's final of four years as head coach--Michigan finished seventh in total defense, and finished within the top 30 in total rushing, passing and scoring defense in FBS rankings, all despite a 5-7 record and missing out on a bowl bid. This year the Michigan defense improved to fourth in overall defense and while Hoke was not present a lot of his recruits were a big part of that success.
Coach Hoke came into Eugene and was adamant about not coming in with any preconceived notions about any of his players; starting with a clean slate if you will. According to Hoke, even his returning players are subject to the clean slate philosophy.
"You've gotta earn it," Coach Hoke stated today after practice. He has kept the same philosophy alive regarding the installation of his new 4-3 defense, "pretty much. that way for them and for us, we mentioned the clean slate, everybody has that and everybody has to start from square one."
The buzz from his players so far has been that this new defense allows players to be much more aggressive and play downhill in pursuit of the ball. The four down linemen base allows a lot more freedom for the guys in the trenches. The 4-3 assigns one defensive lineman to one gap instead of the two assigned in the 3-4. With less to think about it allows the front four to rush the passer and let's talent become a bigger tool in the down lineman's arsenal.
"One gapping is a lot easier than two gapping," Hoke said today, "We wanna be a defense that will be explosive and will create negative plays and when you create negative plays you have the chance to get the offense behind the sticks."
In regards to naming starters, Hoke confirmed that no such announcements will be made until fall camp. In the spring game two weeks from now, expect to see heavy rotations at all levels of the defense as Hoke looks to give everyone a fair shake at starting this fall.