Friday, September 17, 2010

Watch the guards

Following up on my game preview below, one additional key to defending Nevada's run game that I noticed when watching their old games is that when guards (and sometimes TEs and FBs/H-backs) pull, they very often take you to where the ball is going. This defensive key is nothing new, to be sure. But remarkably, you still see college defenses, particularly LBs, not using it as a key, and consequently being befuddled by all the deceptive ball faking used in these option, misdirection offenses.

It's like the magician at the party who goes around taking people's watches off their wrists while he talks to them, even though they know he's going to try it. He distracts their eyes and their senses away from what they should be watching, and pulls it right out from under their nose.

If you watch the QB and the backfield on these triple option plays, you're going to be a step slow and get faked out of your shoes. Heck, how many times have we seen the TV cameramen jerk the camera back when they realize they bit on a playfake? On the other hand, if the defenders follow their keys, which include pulling guards (and other things that you can see on film), it does two things. First, it gets them moving immediately at the snap. That not only creates disruption and moving targets for the blockers, but if the key is correct, it floods the intended hole and reroutes the ball carrier or screws up the QB's read.

Second, even if they can't see the ball, and even if they're occasionally wrong, it gets the defense moving at the speed of the offense. Against any offense, but particularly this kind, you can't be waiting until the snap, freezing, and then trying to react. If your head and eyes are moving on defense, then your feet are already a step behind.

There are two caveats to this defensive key (which is why you always have more than 1 key going into a game if the coaches are doing their jobs). First, some teams do use a misdirection element in pulling guards and TEs. You don't see it as much in the college game, but it's out there. I doubt we'll see much of this from Nevada, but if they do it, it could really test the defense.

The other caveat is that pulling doesn't tell you as much if the play includes the option for the QB to go backside. It is a more useful key where the play side, the holes, and even the ball carrier, are pre-determined. If it's a true option, and the play can go to either side, the pulling players may actually draw defenders away if the QB keeps and goes backside. That said, I didn't see a lot of this from Nevada either. But it's also something to watch for.


dangn56 said...

Your comment:
Recruits don't care that you didn't play anyone, as long as you win.

Right on the money...good opinion from 20,000ft.

It's hard as hell to get over the recruiting hump. When Cal is trying to get some SoCal kid to choose them Vs. UCLA or to sway a Mid-West kid choosing between Nebraska and Cal, then they lay an egg like the Reno lose...very bad. Much better to beat a 1AA directional school (choose one, any one) in non-conference play.

Recruiting is the only way Cal will ever get to the next level. If everyone is happy with 8–4 and a 5th place tie, now and forever, Cal should just keep scheduling road games against teams like Reno.

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