Defense, it's become somewhat of a foreign concept to us compared to the end of last season. The defense has surely been struggling this year and it's the discussion of many Aggie fateful. I can't help but notice when people around me talk about these problems though. With their own theories and fixes that will put us in the category of best team since the '95 Cornhuskers, who coincidentally also had 8 home games and scored 50+ points per game. As I was saying though, many people have questioned the defensive scheme we have been using. What is the 4-2-5 defense and why are we using it more often? It's a fair question since Snyder is a 4-3 guy and always will be, but we should think of him using the 4-2-5 the same way other teams using nickle packages. The following is why I believe in Snyder and why our defense should improve as the season goes on.
The 4-2-5 defense... What exactly is it? Well, it's origins date back quite a way actually. Way before Gary Patterson and TCU with Dick Bumpas. In fact teams such as Oregon, Baylor, Villanova, Willamette, and Boise to just name a few have used the system. Truth is that the defense is just tangent of the 4-3 defense we run today. It allows more speed on the field by replacing a linebacker, usually weak-side, with another safety. However, the similarities end there. Which brings us to some must know terminology. (If you are interested in learning some more about the 4-2-5 defense, or defense in general, continue to read. If not skip the next few paragraphs.)
The difference between the 4-2-5 and 4-3 defenses are numerous. With only minimal changes in personnel most people would assume it changes are well, minimal. Not the case though and you can even tell with personnel changes. You still have two defensive ends along with one more traditional defensive tackle. However, you also have a nose guard now instead of another tackle. (Kirby Ennis we will miss you dearly.) You no longer have the weak-side backer because you now have a weak-side safety to go along with the strong-side safety. You still have the middle linebacker and strong-side linebacker, mike and sam respectively. The free safety is still present and accounted for as are the two corners are still on the field, but with very different tasks in most cases. Now that you have a crash course on personnel changes let us talk about scheming.
Interesting thing here about scheming. The defensive alignment in the 4-2-5 never changes. As in the offense can only line up so many people to one side of the field. Which brings us to the basic numbering system. Starting from the outside in, each player on one side of the field will number their assignment. For example, imagine the play side of a field. The corner will label his wide receiver #1. Followed by the strong-side or weak-side safety labeling their wide receiver, tight end, or half back #2. Then free safety labeling their wide receiver, tight end, or halfback #3. Don't worry, if you don't understand right now my next paragraph includes a snippet from a playbook for the visual learners.
The middle slant, crossing patterns, and post routes have been particularly harsh on us. That can be narrowed down to blown coverage, and it's why I'm not freaking out about our defense. It's a very correctable problem, here comes some sports science fast and low to you. The most common zone coverage in the 4-2-5 is cover 2, which helps you defend the middle of the field with good safety play. As you can see by the picture below, the free safety represented by F is in charge of the tight end. He is playing a robber technique, which cuts off the inside vertical or post. Back to the numbering system in the post before, you can see the outside to inside system I am referring to. The tight end however could easily be another wide receiver in this situation. The free safety MUST KNOW whether or not the strong-side safety is covering the flat or deep out. So next time you see a 5 yard hitch-n-go or deep post go for a touchdown you know what to look at. (Hint: It isn't the defensive line.) Speaking of the defensive line. Let's go into that next.
For those of you that stopped reading earlier you can begin again here:
Poor gap control. Bad pursuit angles. Horrendous tackling. We have all seen it the past few weeks and it's part of the growing pains. In any defense all of these things are important, but when we trot the 4-2-5 personnel grouping on the field it becomes even more so. The key to the defenses success is pursuit angles and tackling above all else. The 4-2-5 is a pursuit based defense which require maximum hustle every play. Coaches teach playing from the inside out. You have to use the boundary as your friend rather than your enemy. The defensive line is doing a really bad job at times with this, and at other times a really good job. It's not the fact that guys are getting drove off the ball and we are getting beat physically. It's the mental aspect that is killing the A&M defense right now. This next game against Ole Miss, look for the constant gap pressure. Whether it's through the wrong or right gap on the other hand... I can't guarantee. The defensive line is trying to hard to apply pressure and forgetting their assignments.
So what does this all mean to us, the common folk? Well it means that even though we are suffering right now, it CAN get better. I think it will and hopefully those who read all the way through will see that too. I can't really write a dissertation here over the entire defense. So I decided to narrow down some plays and blown assignments in particular that have been killing the Aggie defense all year. As the defense gets more reps though the tackling will improve, pursuit of the play, coverage, gap control, and pretty much every other aspect. Do I think we can be the '95 Cornhusker team? Probably not this year. We have the talent however young they might be.
I hope I was able to educate the average fan or two today. Maybe some football connoisseurs learned some things as well. I look forward to contributing more as the season progresses. Feel free to leave comments, questions, concerns, and funny faces below. If you liked it and want more let me know.