My intent is go a bit beyond "tackle well!" and "get pressure!" and "hit hard!" as the remedies for stopping Tech. Those three things are all absolutely true, but I'm going to assume them as a given.
One of the things I appreciate about Muschamp is his practicality in addressing an opponent's offense. Many coordinators invest their ego in statistics or a certain philosophy (hi Gene!) and that doesn't serve you well in a league that attacks you in as many different ways as the Big 12 does. Will Muschamp is very multiple and our defense and his wife appreciate it.
I've argued that Muschamp is at his best with this defense when he can take an opponent's offense and distill defending it into simple assignments and packages for young safeties and a specialized LBing corps. When our talent and experience improves at LB and S, we'll be able to defend much more instinctively and leave open-ended scenarios to the players, but until then Will Muschamp is giving our personnel at our hinge positions a Choose Your Own Adventure book with only two or three options at the conclusion of each page:
1. Do you follow Mr. Crabtree into the darkened cave? He has something he wants to show you! (turn to page 86)
2. Do you say,"No thanks!" and tell the others what you've found? You're worried about leaving the evil Baron at the lighthouse! (turn to page 44)
3. You demand to know where Mr Harrell went! He'll surely know where the stolen douche is kept! (turn to page 38)
Harrell's Introductory Guide To Clubbing
So how can Will keep our choices limited but of quality?
Test Leach's Patience
First and foremost, we must test Tech's commitment to the running game. The best way to do that is to roll out dime personnel - 4 cornerbacks and 2 safeties - a 3 man DL, Kindle & Muckelroy. If that package can legitimately stop Baron Batch and Shannon Woods from murdering us 7-10 yards at a time, or even better, we can get Leach to abandon the run even when it's working to serve his pass-happy trigger finger, we'll have won a great victory. We'll have reduced the game to covering, pressuring, tackling. That is a good thing.
Kindle Dooooon't Be A Hero
Roy Miller is the foundation of this dime defense and he must demand the double team. Houston, Orakpo, Lewis & Melton can keep legs fresh at the other two DL spots. They need to blitz the gaps like James Randi at a seance. Kindle is my hero blitzer - he can line up anywhere on the LOS and his job is to take a gap, disrupt, and make hustle plays. He's very good at all three. Lining him up on Orakpo's ass while both stunt through contiguous gaps would be fun. Harrell can't run so contain isn't a major concern. I like Acho in the hero blitzer role as well if Sergio needs a rest. Muckelroy draws the toughest assignment of all - he is the clean up guy from tackle to tackle who has to get Batch or Woods on the ground if they squirt through. If he can do that consistently and hold them to five yard gains instead of popping for twenty five, we're well on our way. Getting pressure on Harrell with only three or four is imperative.
Stranger Than Friction
We're also placing a tremendous burden on our DL for screen and shovel recognition. They're going to need to sniff them out, bat balls, and still hit Harrell. The best way to defend Tech isn't just competent X's and O's - it's introducing frictions. Clausewitz wrote that everything is very simple to execute, but the simplest things are very hard. For Tech's offense those frictions are a batted ball, a slightly disrupted timing, A DL sensing a screen, an unexpected late look from your front, Harrell getting a helmet in his chin, a hustle play from a trailing Kindle who pops the ball out. You try to play Tech on the back of a cocktail napkin and you're done. Leach has thought through the counters to the counters to your counters. The question is whether he can physically do them. Really good athletes playing hard and smart introduce a lot of friction into what Tech is doing.
Don't Let A Point Guard Cover A Power Forward
This Should End Well
In the secondary, I like cover two medium depth safeties and man under with four corners. We can zone if we must to give a different look, but it better be with pattern reading and recognition. Meaning, you run zone but with man principles - if a WR takes off straight up the field, you have to turn and run with him. Otherwise, Tech will run four deep and overwhelm our safeties. We have five viable cornerbacks: the Browns, Palmer, Beasley, Williams. That depth will serve us well. Earl Thomas can run with a Tech receiver. Blake Gideon can't. Protecting both of them in a cover two shell makes sense, but I don't mind playing with Gideon nearer the LOS occasionally. We need Gideon to be a traffic cop and this gives Earl some potential to jump routes over the medium middle. Split the deep halves and keep everything in front.
Personnel matching is key and I want Chykie B (if healthy) or Curtis B on Crabtree no matter where he goes. Michael Crabtree is great because of his physicality, aggression, and ball skills. He's Quan Cosby plus 5 inches and thirty pounds. Keep big on big. Playing dime allows you to do that. If Deon Beasley covers Crabtree, Michael will stiff arm him into the dirt on a two yard hitch, run for 55 yards, and then tinkle on Deon during the touchdown celebration. It will also introduce a physical confidence into Tech that will be outrageous to overcome. Eric Morris is same-same but different. There's no value in having a 6'1 cornerback (or a LB) with a high center of gravity chasing a growth-hormone deprived gnome on five yard crossing routes. Match him with Palmer or Beasley. Give him a paper route. Ground him. Whatever. Hell, we may have even found a guy that Beasley would feel comfortable roughing up. My basic point is: big on big, small on small.
My Sanford And Son Defense
I'm comin' Elizabeth!
On unlikely running downs, there would be some value in playing a five corner dime (it could work with Gideon, but a CB gives you more ball skills) with some zone/man blitz principles. Appear to man up across the board, put Earl 15 yards deep in Cover 1, and roll up the extra corner to give the appearance of bracketing Crabtree at the LOS. You roll him up late. Except he doesn't have Crabtree. He has a shallow zone and he's heading inside. On the other side of the formation, your DE drops back and stands in a zone. He's looking for a hot route or screen too. You overload on the extra corner side and bring four. You now have an overloaded blitz on one side of the field (Orakpo, Miller, Muck, Kindle) that will bring great pressure and men attacking shallow hot routes. You haven't sold out coverage to do it. A lot of what Harrell does is rote and if you can suggest lazy and obvious reads (Texas is selling out on a blitz, Crabtree is doubled, throw hot) but do something else entirely your athletes may be able to make a game-changing play on the ball. Or create the indecision that allows a sack or pressure. This defense is madness over the course of a game, but used a few times, it could cause some stress.
Of course, all of the above may be wrong and we may end up with: