Last year the big question seemed to be how would a team with personnel built towards an Option style offense transition to the new Spread attack, led by Major Applewhite? The defense seemed to be less of a concern. After all, the former coach with TG as initials was a heralded defensive guru who had built solid units both at West Virginia and at Tulsa. Turns out the offense shined while the defense didn't fare much better statistically than before the "guru" came.
Much like the coach before him, David Bailiff comes to Rice with a reputation as a stellar defensive coach. Supporting that reputation is the fact that his TCU unit led the nation in total defense in 2002. Unlike the rarely seen 3-3-5 defense (Georgia Tech) incorporated last year by TG, Coach Bailiff incorporates a 4-2-5 as his base defense. The 4-2-5 is currently being employed by several schools, including Rice's former SWC brethren Texas A&M and Baylor. Rice plays Baylor Sept. 8 in Waco. Coach Bailiff really believes in his 4-2-5 alignment, noting that the alignment can effectively stop the run, while also putting 5 defensive backs on the field to defend the pass. He recently told reporters at the C-USA Media Blitz that the alignment has the ability to show multiple formations from a base set, but is actually quite simple. Bailiff added, "the front four always aligns to the run strength; the secondary always aligns to the passing strength."
A concern for some is that switching back to the 4-2-5 means we're back to needing more D linemen on the roster again, historically a difficult position for the Owls to recruit. To make matters worse, the coach who preceded Coach Bailiff didn't sign a single D-line recruit two years ago - definitely not the ideal scenario for Bailiff to walk in to. However, the coach and his staff did a great job of finding defensive line players in his first signing class last February - signing a couple of big linemen to play inside (Cameron Thompson and Brian Stacey), and some fast edge players (Cheta Ozougwu and Scott Solomon) to play defensive end. Kramer Lucio has the frame to possibly grow into an inside player down the road - for now he's at penciled in at DE too. The staff made a couple of other roster moves after the spring, retooling the roster to find numbers for a possible 10 man rotation this fall.
Basics of the 4-2-5 Defense
We'll focus on the defensive front, the 4 of the 4-2-5:
4 down linemen:
WDE plays 5 technique or outside shade of OT on Weak side (no TE)
NG - plays a 2 technique or inside shade of OG on Weak side
DT plays 3 technique or outside shade of OG on Strong side (TE)
SDE plays 7 technique or inside shade of TE
Here are the Owl personnel that the coaches will work with heading in to the 2007 season:
George Chukwu the cornerstone of the Owl front four, Chukwu has developed into a workhorse upfront. He's one of the strongest Owls and is hard to handle one on one. At 305 pounds he still looks lean. He can play DT or NG; I think he's an impact player at NG.
Jonathan Cary Cary has added almost 50 pounds since arriving at Rice. He originally committed to Baylor. Should build on the 14 tackles he had last year. He has the tools to be a solid defensive tackle after seeing extensive playing time last year.
Todd Mohr after a serious ankle injury in 2005, Mohr basically had to start over last year. He saw limited action last year. At 6-2 285, he has the build to be an effective DT, but also the quickness - having been timed in less than 4.8 seconds in the forty coming out of Cy-Creek HS in Houston.
Cameron Thompson - an incoming freshman from State Champion Cedar Hill, Thompson played a lot of football at a high level of competition last year. He had 7 sacks last year and at 6-1 285 has the ideal build to play NG.
Brian Stacey - another freshman, Stacey brings a high motor to the Owl front four. He was Defensive MVP of District 16-5A and utilized his quickness to total 16 sacks in his high school career. Needs time to grow but may force his way into the rotation at DT this fall.
Chris Ptaszek - he's got prototypical size - 6-5 300; speed - sub 5.0 forty; and strength - 422 lb. bench, 330 power clean. If he can utilize those tools on the field he could be an impact player in the D-line rotation. He can play either inside position but the coaches like him at NG because of his size and strength.
Will Moss - a roster move made after the spring by the coaches has Moss trying defense now. Moss has transformed his body into a strong 6-4 270 pounds - perfect size to see time both inside and out on the line. The move looks like pure genius because it provides more depth at two positions. If Moss has retained his speed after being injured last year he could be a nice addition to the rotation. Moss reportedly ran 40's in the 4.6 - 4.7 range coming out of high school. He could pose a problem with his size/speed ratio. He could contribute at SDE or at DT.
Victor Brooks - another young player with the physical tools to become an impact player at DE. He's struggled with injuries while at Rice - delaying what still could be a bright future. Brooks has the look of a SDE.
Will Shoppa - like Will Moss, Will Shoppa has been seeing time at TE since he arrived at Rice. However, he was a two-time All Private League player in high school (LB), mostly for defense. With a name like William Rice Shoppa (both parents were Rice athletes), you know he'll do whatever the coaches ask. At 6-3 230 he'll need a few pounds, which he'll have plenty of time to gain since he's a redshirt freshman. Could play SDE.
Kramer Lucio - one of 5 freshmen defensive line recruits, Lucio brings the potential to play several positions. He played TE in high school and at 6-4 245 could play SDE. Eventually could move inside to DT as his frame fills out.
Dietrich Davis - the coaches thought enough of his potential at DE, the position he was recruited to play at Rice, to give him the #21 worn by Aaron Schobel at TCU, now with the Buffalo Bills. Another player hampered by injury, he needs to stay on the field to display his excellent pass rushing skills. Davis has the motor to be the Owl's sack man at WDE.
Cheta Ozougwu - a speed player with flash, he's perfectly suited for WDE. At 6-2.5 and 240 pounds Ozougwu runs a sub 4.6 forty. The Owls hope this freshman will be the next N.D. Kalu.
Scott Solomon - another freshman player who can rush the passer, Solomon recorded 9 sacks on his way to becoming Defensive MVP of District 28-5A. The San Antonio Marshall product is already 6-3 250 and has run a 4.68 forty. Can play either DE position, but I think he's a nice bookend opposite Ozougwu at SDE.
Part 2 of our look at the 4-2-5 will spotlight the linebackers ...