Welcome to the
Jungle past. This is our youthful blog's first flashback, because we want you all to talk about Mark Snyder and the incredible job he's doing in the comments section below. Alabama was just another feather in his cap for his style of winning huge games by forcing key turnovers.
Everyone’s buzzing over Kliff Kingsbury as our new offensive coordinator, and rightly so. He’s an outstanding young coach who has studied under a tremendous mentor in Kevin Sumlin. Their numbers at Houston were ridiculous, and we’re all curious how that will stack up against some of the best defenses in college football. But here’s something else: Mark Snyder is our new DC. He’s been a head coach at Marshall and most recently was the defensive coordinator at South Florida. His coaching roots go back to Youngstown State and he eventually followed Jim Tressel to Ohio State and served as their DC, but of course we knew all of this last April. He also enjoys Heath Bar Blizzards from Dairy Queen and his favorite Led Zeppelin album is Physical Graffiti*. In other words, he’s really cool.
*These are both guesses. Please don’t sue us, Mark Snyder.
Going by his official bio , we can gather that Mark Snyder is a capable, experienced, and determined defensive coach. To illustrate, we will look at South Florida’s 2010 win at Miami and their 2011 win at Notre Dame. We lost our last game in each venue: to a Bob Davie-coached team in South Bend in 2000 and to a Randy Shannon-coached team in Miami in 2007. Both coaches have since been fired and are no more than painful afterthoughts. But this is about Mark Snyder, and taken alone, these two games are an impressive body of work.
There is more than one way for a defense to take control of a game. It can take the traditional strangulation route: an Alabama or LSU of late; a Virginia Tech in the early 2000s; a ‘90s Nebraska. It will smother any attempt at gaining yards until the opposing offense is just too demoralized to even try anymore. This requires athletes with tremendous talent and an established, rigorous defensive system that turns 18 year-old kids into NFL prospects in 36 to 48 months. Then there is the opportunistic defense: something like last year’s NC State and Oklahoma State teams that forced an obscene amount of turnovers. You may get your yards against them, but at some key moment, a player will make some sort of exceptional effort that will ultimately change the complexion of the game. This is not luck or happenstance. This is coaching: strip the ball, or turn your head around a little bit sooner. We’ve seen some of the latter from Mark Snyder over the past two seasons:
2011 USF-NOTRE DAME:
USF Webster 96yd Fumble Return vs. Notre Dame (via TheBrianWalrath)
This was probably one of the ten most memorable plays of the 2011 college football season. South Florida did not shut down Notre Dame’s offense in this game. They gave up nearly 500 yards to the Irish (almost 400 passing). But they forced five turnovers and scored this impressive defensive touchdown. It was dramatic: the son of a legendary coach making something of a homecoming. He was supposed to lose gracefully for the royalty of college football. Then there was that one single play where it all turned around, and Notre Dame could not recover. There were countless factors in play here: the timing of the strip combined with the bounce of the ball and the position of the defender. But it worked. Guys were in the right spot when the rare thing you coach just in case happened. It was fun to watch. Unless you're a ND fan (sorry, ColoradoAg).
USF vs. Miami Football Highlights 2010 (via nebolskeetskeet)
Snyder does some things in this game that might carry over to our defense. He’ll occasionally bring a linebacker up to the line of scrimmage as a rusher, and at other times he’ll drop a defensive end into coverage. This is obviously pretty standard in a 4-3. But with Sean Porter and Damontra Moore having essentially an interchangeable skill set with slightly different frames (both great pass rushers and capable pass defenders in the flats, and with Moore now at rush end), this could be our defensive bread and butter this year. USF managed fewer than 300 yards of offense in this game and still won. They forced three turnovers while allowing around 350 yards to Miami. Pedestrian numbers, but once again they got the job done when it mattered. They went on the road against Miami and won with less talent thanks to their defense.
The wins at Notre Dame and at Miami are impressive. And if they were not upsets, they were at the very least the embodiment of living up to expectations, which is something we have rarely seen lately on defense. Coach Sumlin knew that we would not immediately have a top-flight SEC defense. That’s why he went out and found the next best thing: a guy who can create havoc and give the team a serious chance by changing the momentum of the game.
Crazy miscellaneous stats bonus:
In 2010, the most points allowed by Snyder’s USF defense were 38 to #6 Florida at The Swamp, the only game that season that they gave up over 30 points. There were only five games where they allowed over 20 points. This has not happened at A&M since the year 2000.