Texas Longhorns vs. West Virginia Mountaineers: Talking (Defensive) Tactics

Mark D. Smith-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

From X's and O's to Kennys and Genos - how Manny Diaz could best leverage our defensive talent to put a hitch in the Mountaineers' gitalong.

Good strategy is all about making smart choices about the most effective deployment of scarce resources - and a defense's resources seldom seem so scarce as when that D is tasked with defending every inch of grass against a high-functioning Air Raid offense. But scarce doesn't mean non-existent, and the Longhorns have more quality resources to combat the Air Raid than most teams - and far more than any opponent the Mountaineers have faced in 2012.

Strategically, we want to leverage three major strengths:

- A defensive line that can control the LOS and mount a strong pass rush

- A pair of high-end corners capable of staying with speed receivers downfield

- A versatile run/pass weapon in Kenny Vaccaro

While mitigating two major weaknesses:

- Players at LB who struggle with pre-snap complexity and dealing with run/pass or other assignment conflict post-snap

- Poor team-wide tackling, particularly among younger members of the secondary and LB corps

So what does that mean in terms of choosing the best resources and how to deploy them?

Let's take a look at some ideas.

Wvu_-_base_dime_2_man_medium

I think I’m pretty much in agreement with Nickel/Scipio/several other smart posters' thoughts on our base package for this game, and that’s what I’m trying to illustrate with this first coverage. Guys, let me know if this approximates what you were thinking, and LHS (or anyone else!) chime in with what’s good/bad about this in terms of a base look conceptually and if I’ve botched something from an illustration standpoint.

The green lines indicate gap responsibilities in the run game, and the black lines indicate coverage responsibilities. The letters that are probably too tiny to read on your screen around those lines describe the coverage – hopefully they’re semi-legible when you embiggen the image, but I’ll try to speak to everyone’s responsibilities below.

I’m calling this coverage Base Dime 2-Man because it's our base coverage (in my imaginary game-planning world, anyway), it’s a dime look with 6 DB’s, and it’s a 2-deep safety coverage with man underneath.

This alignment is the choice because it maximizes our resources to combat the pass while presenting a weakness in the run game that we're probably better off with WVU attempting to exploit.

Let's take a look at this alignment's assignments:

NT (85 – Dorsey or [hopefully] 97 – Moore) – This is one of the guys with a tough job on this call. I’m asking him to take primary responsibility for both A gaps in the run game – he’s basically going to do this by driving the center backwards on every snap and trying to win whichever way the back is coming. This is the biggest weakness of the defense right off the bat – if he gets leveraged in the wrong direction and Edmond has come up too aggressively into his B gap, there’s room to run. But if you’re playing dime and not wanting to put one of your slot defenders in run/pass conflict on every play, somebody in the box has to two-gap. And of all the things WVU can spend its day doing, running an average back into the A gap is about the first thing I’d choose.

DT (99 – Jackson or 96 – Whaley) – One of our quick, penetrating DTs gets the role of aggressively attacking the B gap and playing the run on the way to the QB, Warren Sapp-style. This is one of our key positions for getting pressure on the QB.

Buck DE (44 – Jeffcoat or 92 – Wilson) – He’s lining up on the tackle’s outside shoulder, getting upfield and looking to turn speed to power as soon as he’s able to get after the QB. Our other key pass-rush pressure point.

Strong DE (80 – Okafor or 88 – Reed) – He’s got another tough job – play head up over the tackle, drive him back while keeping the outside shoulder free for the C gap. I want him to at least be in position to squeeze that B gap a little bit since Edmond won’t always be able to fill it as aggressively as you’d like. Okafor is going to be trying to do a few things reasonably well, possibly at the expense of doing one of them at a high level. The good news is that if he loses outside contain on the run, Vaccaro is there having just laughed off a Tevon Austin block. If he can’t squeeze the B gap all that well, hopefully Edmond is there anyway. And while he’s sacrificing some pass rush initiative in this role, we’ve at least got two guys charging hard from the oppposite side.

LB (33 – Edmond) – Edmond isn’t perfect right now, but he’s the best we’ve got, and in this package we’re trying to play to his strengths. He’s reading run first and aggressively getting into that B gap if the running back crosses the center. If it’s a pass, he’s got the back in man coverage – none of the slot defenders should expect help from him.

Slot (4 – Vaccaro) – In my base coverage, I want Vaccaro plastered to Tavon Austin all day long – beating him up in his release off the line, coming hard after him on any screens or smoke routes and overpowering him in run support. In coverage, if Austin releases outside then Vaccaro would pick up the (former) outside receiver in man and Byndom would have Austin up the sideline, but on anything else Vaccaro has him. Line up with inside leverage to prevent any easy releases into a wide-open middle if Edmond isn’t there, jam him and make his life hell for four quarters.

Corner (23 – Byndom) – I’d ideally have my corners split like this against 2x2 wide receivers since I’d like my better tackling safety paired with my less physical corner and vice versa. Play with outside leverage, ride the outside receiver for as long as he goes vertical and squeeze him inside where the safety can help. Staying outside is also important so that on any 2-man WR screens he’s in good position to keep Austin inside him where Vaccaro will be pursuing with intent.

Slot (17 – Phillips) – Basically the same coverage rules as Vaccaro on the opposite side.

Corner (6 – Diggs) – Basically the same coverage rules as Byndom on the opposite side.

Deep Safety (2 – Thompson) – Your basic deep half coverage – nobody gets behind you. Byndom should be squeezing his guy inside on the vertical while Vaccaro should be squeezing his guy outside, so if they’re both going deep Thompson won’t be split between two distant points.

Wvu_-_base_dime_fly_motion_medium

One of the scariest aspects of WVU’s offense is their Fly Sweep package with Tavon Austin. He’s obviously lethal if he gets around that edge with any kind of room, and guys being gulled by the fly fake probably gets their halfback more yardage than anything else they do. I think you’re in pretty good position to defend this kind of sweep action from our base look – this is what I’d have our guys do in response:

Slot (4 – Vaccaro) – I prefer bumping to chasing Austin across the whole formation and hoping to come out ahead on the other side. If Austin goes in motion, Vaccaro gives a "Bump" call and slides down to become the force man/take the C gap on his side. If he reads pass we can have him be aggressive and blitz (aiming for a ‘hug-up’ on the back and being VERY aware of any screen action) or drop back and lend help to Byndom underneath or look out for a crosser from the opposite side.

Linebacker (33 – Edmond) – Edmond will ‘bump over’ a gap and now take the fly-side A gap in the run game. If the fly handoff is made, Edmond pursues and makes dead certain any cutback by Austin doesn’t cross his face - he’s still got the back in man coverage if he reads pass.

Safety (25 – Turner) – At the ‘bump’ call, Thomas comes up to force on the sweep. If it’s a pass off a fake, he’s got Austin if Austin stays inside or picks up the innermost crosser if the receivers cross.

Safety (2 – Thompson) – At the ‘bump’ call, Thompson rotates over to play deep coverage on the trips half of the field.

Cornerback (23 – Byndom) – At the ‘bump’ call, Byndom knows he’s playing straight man-to-man on his guy with no expectation of safety help. If his guy his Stedman Bailey, he’ll be doing yeoman’s work.

Defensive End (80 – Okafor or 88 – Reed) – With Vaccaro coming over to take the C gap, Okafor shoots the B gap to get after the QB and disrupt things if the ball goes to the tailback against the grain of the fly motion.

Nose Tackle (85 – Dorsey or 97 – Moore) – Getting more aggressive here and hitting a single A gap to plug the run, and with the awareness that more pressure may be needed on a pass because Jeffcoat’s rush could be compromised by respecting the fly motion.

Defensive Tackle (99 – Jackson or 96 – Whaley) – Hit the B gap fairly hard, but try to maintain some degree of ability to not get washed out if the back takes a step left and the counters back.

Defensive End (44 – Jeffcoat or 92 – Wilson) – Get upfield in a hurry – try to at least push Austin deep/wide if he gets the handoff. Go get the QB after that, and maintain awareness to jump up/get in the lane if Smith tries to fire a screen pass to Austin (a truly scary possibility on this play).

Slot (17 – Phillips) – Same basic coverage rules as in the base package, with awareness of what Austin’s doing to start fighting through a block on a handoff or screen as well as awareness to switch properly if the receivers cross. This action will put a lot of pressure on Phillips.

Corner (6 – Diggs) – Same basic coverage rules as in the base package – his outside leverage will be a plus since it’s absolutely vital to force Austin back inside if it’s a handoff or screen pass.

Wvu_-_base_dime_quarters_medium

Here’s a simple change-up in coverage look from the same personnel and alignment, with the slot guys playing more short zone than man-under. Our slot coverage guys could be in position to step in front of a throw if WVU runs an in-breaking route for the outside receiver underneath a vertical from the slot guy. It can also place Vaccaro and Phillips in better position to support the run than if their backs are totally turned in man coverage, but they still have pass-first responsibility so they aren’t put into conflict at the snap of the ball.

NT (85 – Dorsey or [hopefully] 97 – Moore) – Same responsibility as our base look – nothing’s really changing from a run gap perspective for our box defenders.

DT (99 – Jackson or 96 – Whaley) – Same responsibility as our base look.

Buck DE (44 – Jeffcoat or 92 – Wilson) – Same responsibility as our base look – in theory he could have a little better support behind him from Phillips, but with Phillips’ pass-first read he can’t count on it.

Strong DE (80 – Okafor or 88 – Reed) – Same (big) responsibility as our base look, and same note applies with possible-but-don’t-count-on-it run support from Vaccaro.

LB (33 – Edmond) – Read run first, then drop into a short zone in the middle.

Slot (4 – Vaccaro) – Try to keep pre-snap alignment and as much post-snap action looking the same as base to avoid giving Smith an easy coverage read. Drop into a short zone with an eye for the outside receiver breaking in. If both guys on his side go deep, look for a crosser coming from the other side and keep an eye on what the back is up to.

Corner (23 – Byndom) – This basically becomes Quarters coverage for the outside corners and safeties. Byndom takes all of the vertical while maintaining outside leverage – if the receivers cross and Austin is going deep, Byndom picks him up and carries him up the sideline.

Slot (17 – Phillips) – Basically the same coverage rules as Vaccaro on the opposite side.

Corner (6 – Diggs) – Basically the same coverage rules as Byndom on the opposite side.

Deep Safety (2 – Thompson) – Your basic deep quarter coverage – he’s got the inside vertical if one of the guys on his side goes deep.

Deep Safety (25 – Turner) – Same rules as Thompson on the opposite side.

Wvu_dime_prowler_medium

I think this is the personnel package we use when we’re referring to our Dime Prowler package – basically 3 down linemen and 2 LB’s. Out of this look I’d have one of our two linebackers blitzing most downs – my rule would be based on the back’s motion. If he’s moving towards your side of center, read run first then man up on him in coverage if it’s a pass. If he’s moving to the opposite side of center, blitz into your A gap – in theory, the NT will be moving towards the back and away from you so you’ll have some space to fire into. Even if you're picked up, you're at least preventing the G from helping out the tackle against the DE’s rush and can hopefully crash into any cutback by the back.

NT (85 – Dorsey or [hopefully] 97 – Moore) – Same responsibility as our base look – protect the A gap that the back’s moving towards.

Buck DE (44 – Jeffcoat or 92 – Wilson) – Same responsibility as our base look – get the C gap and get after the QB.

Strong DE (80 – Okafor or 88 – Reed) – Same (big) responsibility as our base look, though the B gap is better accounted for now so he can get outside with a little more abandon.

LB (33 – Edmond) – Read the back and follow the blitz/coverage rules above.

LB (35 – K. Thompson or 7 - Cobbs) – Read the back and follow the blitz/coverage rules above.

Slot (4 – Vaccaro) – Same as our base – we could also call the dime quarters coverage look from here instead of man under.

Corner (23 – Byndom) – Same as our base/dime quarters depending on the call.

Slot (17 – Phillips) – Same as our base – we could also call the dime quarters coverage look from here instead of man under.

Corner (6 – Diggs) – Same as our base/dime quarters depending on the call.

Deep Safety (2 – Thompson) – Same as our base/dime quarters depending on the call.

Deep Safety (25 – Turner) – Same as our base/dime quarters depending on the call.

Wvu_-_dp_stack_medium

Here’s an alignment to bring pressure from the corner and get five guys after the QB. This blitz could come from either side with the assignments flip-flopping – ideally the blitz would come from the boundary side so the blitzer is closer to the backfield, the robbing linebacker is closer to the receivers and the receivers have less room to work with if there’s a quick throw.

NT (85 – Dorsey or [hopefully] 97 – Moore) – Same responsibility as our base look – protect the A gaps then push the pocket.

Buck DE (44 – Jeffcoat or 92 – Wilson) – Line up head up over the OT – make your first move aggressive and straight into the tackle, then hit the B gap if the slot blitz is coming from your side and the C gap if it isn’t. With this setup Jeffcoat takes the B gap.

Strong DE (80 – Okafor or 88 – Reed) – Line up head up over the OT – same first move note as the Buck, then hit the B gap if the slot blitz is coming from your side and the C gap if it isn’t. With this setup Okafor takes the C gap.

LB (33 – Edmond) – If the slot to the opposite side is blitzing, fill/blitz into the B gap. If the slot on your side is blitzing, get underneath the slot or in-breaking receiver’s route and hope the safety’s help over the top is good. Here Edmond is blitzing.

LB (7 – Cobbs or 35 – K. Thompson) – If the slot to the opposite side is blitzing, fill/blitz into the B gap. If the slot on your side is blitzing, get underneath the slot or in-breaking receiver’s route and hope the safety’s help over the top is good. Here, Cobbs is getting into that underneath coverage.

Slot (4 – Vaccaro) – Blitz/take C gap if you’re on the boundary side. On the field side, same responsibility as our base defense. Here, Vaccaro is in coverage.

Corner (23 – Byndom) – If the blitz is coming from your side, you’re in straight man with no safety help. Take the other receiver if there’s an immediate cross, but other than that the outside guy is all yours. If the blitz is opposite you, same rules as our base. Here, Byndom is playing same rules as our base coverage.

Slot (17 – Phillips) – Blitz/take C gap if you’re on the boundary side. On the field side, same responsibility as our base defense. Here, Phillips is blitzing .

Corner (6 – Diggs) – Same rules as the other corner. Here, Diggs is in straight man.

Deep Safety (2 – Thompson) – If the blitz is coming from your side, basically double-team the slot/inside breaking receiver – he’s yours on any vertical move that gets past the LB underneath. If the blitz is opposite you, same rules as our base. Here, Thompson is playing the base/deep half coverage.

Deep Safety (25 – Turner) – Same rules as the other deep safety. Here, Turner is picking up the vertical break from the slot/inside breaking receiver.

So that's what I've got - we may not see anything resembling any of this in the game tomorrow, but I'm hoping that Diaz takes the approach of leaning on our DL, flooding the field with DBs and keeping assignments as simple as possible. What do you guys n' gals think about some of these options, and what else would you do to thwart the Skulleted One?

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