Inside the Game: "The Art of Defense"

I’m sure many of you have read edited versions of Sun Tzu’s "The Art of War." I bet Coach Robinson has. One of Sun Tzu’s precepts to managing troop movement while setting the trap is to show strength where you are weak and to show weakness where you are strong. The basic concept is to make your opponent defend ghosts and confidently attack where he is outnumbered.

I can’t tell you how many times the University of Arkansas football team max protected a rush of only three or four defenders while sending two unsuspecting receivers into the teeth of a seven or eight man coverage.

I’ve broken down a lot of film in my days. I don’t think I have ever giggled as much as I did while working over this film. Coach Robinson is either a hyperactive, bipolar, manic schizophrenic, or he just believes in one of my favorite tenants to defensive coaching: play defense the way you want to play it, not under the dictate of an offensive coordinator’s use of formation and motion. So, if you have a track of the late British comedian Benny Hill’s theme music, put it on while I give you a half of a game’s dose of Coach Robinson’s Art of Defense.

Deep breath, here we go: Geigger played typical cover 2 SS, on the LOS, linebacker depth, and walked in from the slot to blitz — only to leave and trail in a bracket coverage; Crowder played a 7 and a 5 on the TE side and a 5 on the weak side, and he did both on the boundary (short side) or the field (wide) side with or without a TE; the Texas tackles played on the nose head up and with a strong shade, 1’s, 3’s ,4’s and 5 techniques; Robison played strong and weak, field and boundary and he played in a 2-pt stance as the Horns showed a 3-4, he often sat on the LOS spying Matt Jones scrambling while looking for a kick-out block, and seldom was he turned loose to penetrate or get in the backfield; D.J. played over the center when UT rotated the other LBs to the strong OR THE WEAK side, he played on the LOS for one blitz in the 3rd quarter, and he played A or B gap depending on the front’s alignment ahead of him as Texas showed a 50 and double 1 techniques with an even front; Hall played on the LOS mostly, but once in the late 2nd Quarter he played SAFETY while Geigger played SAM (yes, I double checked); the corners played left/right but would often walk in from their man to blitz position only to drift back into the flats after making sure Jones called for max protect and did not scramble; oh, and just in case you were wondering, one time the Horns blitzed Hall and Harris off the same edge (it was the play that D.J. and Aaron Ross forced the fumble that rolled out of bounds on a flair pass to the RB in the second quarter); and last but not least, if you were to take away jersey numbers and just look at the players like chess pieces, Texas ran a 4-3, 3-4, 5-3, 4-2, 5-2 and a 6-2.

Now here’s the kicker. For the most part, the Texas D played together as a unit. There’s an old adage in defensive football that says "defense is knowing where your help is." The fact that Coach Robinson was able to put all that in, and have his boys play cohesively, is reason alone to feel encouragement about the improvement of this team. So, if you’re ever by the stadium and you see Coach Robinson flinging paint up on a wall, leave him alone. He’s probably working on the OU gameplan.

Tom McLaughlin has coached high school football in the Phoenix area, coaching OL, DL, LBs and serving as both a defensive coordinator and head coach. McLaughlin also contributes on the Inside Texas message boards under the handle of Hitwrapdrive. His "Inside the Game" column appears after games during football season on

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