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Occam's Muschamp

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Taylor Bible was expected to be a dynamite 3-tech for Texas when he signed as a part of the 2010 freshman class. He very well may still be a dynamite 3-tech prospect, provided his conditioning picks up, but it's more likely he produces value at nosetackle. All the same I wonder if Muschamp made up his mind to upgrade Plan B into the new modus operandi when this new development unfolded.

Bill Parcells popularized the "planet theory" in regards to drafting defensive tackles. The theory lines up very closely with the "limited supply of tall people" that leads to decisions like Bowie over Jordan and Oden over Durant (just a note, those are examples of that theory backfiring terribly, in general I think it's a good starting point for draft reasoning) and goes like this:

1. 300 pound humans who are legitimitately athletic (not just for their size) and have stamina are an invaluable resource on the football field as defensive tackles.
2. There is a very limited number of humans who possess those attributes.
3. Teams should always draft such people ahead of other positions as they are truly rare commodities.

Finding good defensive tackles at either position is fairly difficult, but what exactly is a 3-tech defensive tackle? Surely some of you are asking that and here at barking carnival we don't always carve out time to explain such details to the common reader. Allow me to attempt to make amends.

Lamarr Houston is a 3-tech tackle, Kheeston Randall isn't. Warren Sapp was a 3-tech, Terrance Cody is not.
The word technique is very misleading as it has nothing to do with the moves employed by the player in question. It's simply a matter of alignment. In a typical 1-gap defense, where each defender is assigned to defend one gap (every empty space between offensive players through which a runner could potential convey the football) the 3-tech is lined up between the offensive guard and tackle.

CB Buck 3-tech Nose End CB

That is a particular alignment/front Texas used frequently last season and will likely use heavily in 2010 known as the 4-3 Over. The Buck in Muschamp's version of the front usually stands up outside the tight end and flies up field to bedevil the Right Tackle.

Muschamp uses 1-gap principles, so each of these defenders is protecting the gap he's lined up in and is in position to shoot that gap if the offensive lineman inside him isn't fast enough.

The Nosetackle is going to have traditional tackle duties, namely to engage the line and keep the center and guard on the playside from getting past him and blocking a linebacker, but the 3-tech has a much more glorious role. While the nosetackle is encouraged to take on double teams and positioned in such a way that he will inevitably have to do so the 3-tech is lined up to avoid the double team. If you double team him with the guard and tackle you are asking the tight end to take on the Buck alone. If that's Sergio Kindle there is no way that will be resulting in offensive success.

Our favorite Falconry expert prefers to occupy as many offensive linemen as possible with just the DL, thereby freeing up linebackers and consequently defensive backs, but while doing this he also sets up his own linemen for success. If you line up Lamarr Houston next to Sergio Kindle and eliminate the possibility of safely double teaming either things like this happen:

Houston: 68 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, 28 QBH
Kindle: 70 tackles, 22 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 36 QBH

That's how you lead the country in rush defense playing 2-deep with nickel personnel.

From that side Kindle wasn't able to finish plays with sacks but putting pressure on the quarterback 2 1/2 times a game is worth a lot, 8 sacks for a tackle though is tremendous. When a tackle gets into the backfield on either a pass or a play he will almost always ruin the intended procedure and if he doesn't bring down the ballcarrier he will push him outside where the Buck can bear down him. OU used this same trick to abuse David Snow and Kyle Hix last year, it's brutal. It's more difficult for the tackle, who's prey can go right or left, to make a kill but the overall impact is greater.

For defenses in 2009, the only safe way to handle that pairing in pass protection is to chip Kindle with a tight end and give the Right Tackle time to get upfield and engage him and then leave your tailback in to harass Houston if he beats the guard. Or have awesome OL, which brings us back to the trouble in finding athletic 300 pounders.

Texas has recruited the following defensive tackles in the last few years:

2010: Taylor Bible (projected 3-tech, now 345 pounds and unconditioned) Ashton Dorsey (nosetackle) and DeAires Cotton (nosetackle).
2009: Calvin Howell (concussed) Derek Johnson (unmotivated nosetackle)
2008: Jarvis Humphrey (sick) Kheeston Randall (nosetackle)
2007: Tyrell Higgins (not very good) Andre Jones (incarcerated) Wilcoxon (transfer)

Just as an aside, take a look at the 2006 class. Possibly the worst class Mack has ever signed simply because nearly every guy on it turned out to be a lousy character. Pretty decent hit rate at tackle though (Alexander and Houston).

Four years of recruiting has yielded for the 2010 season exactly one tackle who is ready to play at a high level, and he's a nosetackle. What's more, most of the guys likely to make an impact in the future play that position as well. Now take a look at the defensive tackle rotation for the last few seasons:

2007: Derek Lokey and Frank Okam. We basically had two noseguards since Okam lacked the health and conditioning to actually pressure the passer with any consistency. They tied up OL real well though. Miller was the 3rd guy in the rotation.

2008: Roy Miller and Aaron Lewis/Lamarr Houston: Miller was always a guy who handled double teams like the no. 2 at whataburger, quickly passing them and cleaning up the mess. Lewis and Houston were converted defensive ends.

2009: Randall/Alexander and Houston: Randall was expected to probably play 3-tech when he came here as a 267 pound athlete. Instead his growth made him more suited to standing up double teams, Houston had completed his transformation from a 265 pound star sophomore end to a 300 pound star tackle by this point.

2010: Randall and Higgins/Okafor: Higgins is here because he can tie up linemen with Randall should the need arise against a running team and because Howell isn't physically ready. Okafor is simply making the jump a year before Houston did.

Of the younger players on the roster I think the guy most likely to find himself in the 3-tech rotation in the future is...Greg Daniels.

Young tackles come in here with speed, like Bible, but once they begin taking part in college strength and conditioning they inevitably grow into nosetackles, unusable masses, or felons. Orakpo came here at 210 pounds and left as a 258 pound beacon of doom.

TCU anticipates this with their players, they take 200 pound running backs and quarterbacks, strengthen and condition their bodies, and convert that athleticism into first round defensive end talent.

You can expect the following procedure in the future:
1). Recruit scores of pass-rushers, grow many into tackles.
2). Recruit quick-stepped defensive tackles and allow them to become nosetackles.If some are still suited for 280-300 pound 3-tech guys after time in the weight room that's fine but probably shouldn't be your expectation.

Tolleson and Giles can teach these guys pass-rush and rush-defense technique, they just can't teach a quick first step. If you live gives you lemons, stick them in the weight room and feed them meats until they can play inside.