Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Defending Uptempo: Circle The Wagons

>>this is another collaborative post with hemlock<<


Nick's unnerved at the thought of losing control of the game, despite the fact that his system provides as sound of an approach for preparing players for dealing with the realities of spread football as any.  He's still saying that the NCAA should do something to slow offenses down because it takes all of the adjustments and special schemes that coaches create out of the game. 

Coaches, not just fans are having a hard time dealing with this.  Moreover, unlike the wishbone and what not, this is probably not going anywhere.  For a number of reasons the uptempo attack s probably here to stay.  

Case in point, using this year's Texas A&M and Alabama game, with the assumption that A&M came out with guns firing, giving it their best shot in the first half and the second half pretty much was determined and the game took an entirely different direction.  Taking a look at the 36-something offensive snaps (19 1st & 10s) A&M had between the 10s (wiping the goal line scenarios), just to see how Bama was going to play them and what A&M was after.....

3x1 and 3x2 83% of the snaps
Inline image 1
pressuring 3x2 45% of the time and 3x1 31%

A great example of this chess match was evidenced in the first series of A&M.  A&M starts in 3x2 then motions into the formation, for which a rote response from a Saban defense (automatic against 3x2 motion) would be "Razor - Check 1 Funnel", where the weak safety rolls back to deep hole player and move the backside linebacker inside as the rat.  Coach Sumlin used this to setup the counter with Manziel for an explosive gain. 

The next week versus Ole Miss, Bama was sitting in Cover 6 to the field (a standard approach a vertical threat).  Ole Miss did a good job with tempo, and while we could go deep into the minutiae of these matchups, there were many occasions where it all boiled down to man to man coverage ("play ball") so all the scheming that Bama intended, wasn't going to help.  Even though the results were less than expected, it becomes apparent how out of their element the Bama defense can be when forced to into a situation as fast as Ole Miss was presenting.  Of course, this speaks to the tactical advantage of uptempo but should support the investment needed in your defensive players to handle formations with cookie-cutter answers.  This has to be clear through the depth chart (everyone on the roster), so there's where coaching / teaching comes into play.    

By in large, the answer to "how to handle the spread?" would be "don't change anything". The fact that Saban really did not try to conjure up something "special" seems to suggest that they've reached the limit, at least for now, of their defensive thinking. And this has been par for the course not just for Alabama, but also many of today's defenses.....stick to what you are already doing from within the system you've installed.

Addressing this new challenge really becomes a discussion on "what is coaching"? Is it getting 11 guys to follow orders or is it something more? By more, I mean teaching the game of football individually and within their player groups so that each can function autonomously, yet in unison. 

It is easy to lose focus and concentrate on how well we can rep "34 Lead, damnit!" in practice, ensuring all the kids are following orders, and call that coaching. When we settle for just that, are we really teaching the game and the intent of what we're after?  I would think we need to press further so that the players can move beyond just doing what they're told and are able to process the field to defend the ball?  When we can get there, when we can distill it down to some adaptable concepts for the players the units should be able to function on their own, and consequently, at a faster pace (both offensively and defensively).  

And so we can go back to the "Saban Method"TM and how there is no benefit to re-scheme an opponent when you already have a framework to handle the expanse of the field you're operating in (formation vs field position).  You develop athletes to be football players and not just skilled positions.

Another limitations defenses face today (in addition to the reduction in time between snaps) is the ever evolving rule changes to ensure safety (targeting, DPI, personal fouls, etc).  Whereas, a viable solution could be to handle vertically-centered offenses with 2 Buc coverage approach, more and more it is near impossible to play with any sense of effectiveness because any hit from a defender that would be set up from playing soft zone would likely result in a first down for the offense.  What worked 10 years ago on defense, would have many of these shots being flagged today or are simply not effective because the DB is now pulling up rather than laying the guy out.  


Waldo Carden said...

Great stuff. Speaking on the first statement, we almost came to blows in a staff meeting earlier this year because that's how some on defense felt our practices were going. I think if you are going to run the tempo game, then you have to have two things 1) coaches with time that they can use film to coach 2) you have to have a system in place for the kids to watch the film

We have a problem with both because our coaches coach during their prep period and only about half our players either have wifi or a computer.

Kevin Matthews said...

In regards to the Texas A&M example, whatever adjustment they
were told to run when the offense reloaded from empty, not everyone was
on the same page. The SS, FS, Strong Corner, Weak Corner, and Star are
playing Flex 1 Invert. The Money and Mac appear to be playing Flex 1

Maybe this goes to your point about the speed
and complexity of Saban's system causing the players to think too much
(and make mental mistakes), but I feel the defensive playcall itself, if executed properly, should have handled the offensive play just fine.

Ryan said...

Great article, I’m impressed. Maybe that's somewhat due to the fact that I'm an A&M fan and have become a fan of that spread offense. Will definitely add to my recommended reads.

Would be ecstatic if you checked out my blog (http://www.ferventfandom.com/) and gave feedback.

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