Friday, October 23, 2015

Dime packages in the Big 12

Over at Football Study Hall I wrote a post on "dime packages and blueblood privilege" the gist of which is that major programs often have deep enough defensive rosters to field really good dime packages for combating spread teams as well as deep DL rotations that can keep pressure coming all day long.

There are many spread teams that get going when they wear out a DL and kill their legs so they can't withstand finesse zone runs or bring a pass-rush any longer. That doesn't work against the likes of Michigan or Alabama who can keep coming at you with waves of 270+ pound monsters and back them up with six versatile, 180+ pound DBs.

Within that post is a brief note on the 2015 TCU "quantitative easing" defense, which I've described as basically a 4-0-7 defense with no true linebackers unless they bring Ty Summers in off the bench. Granted, Travin Howard and Montrel Wilson will probably grow into linebackers over their time at TCU but currently they are still converted safeties who are built like safeties.

Dime packages that can choke out Big 12 spread offenses have often been the privilege of Oklahoma and Texas, the former of whom popularized nickel defense when they moved Roy Williams down into the "Roy-backer" position where he could be free to wreak havoc in the middle of the field which he ruled like a brutal lord of old.

The 2005 Texas team that took down the Trojans was similarly lethal for the fact that it could put five future NFL DBs on the field at one time.

Another Big 12 team that has had some good dime packages is the OSU Cowboys under Glenn Spencer, who are a very package-heavy defense. One of Mike Gundy's most brilliant moves as head coach at OSU was to start committing more numbers to defense than offenses to allow Spencer greater flexibility in building good defenses. That's the path to winning the Big 12, everyone can play great offense from time to time but not everyone can play D.

The confounding problem for dime packages in the Big 12 is the Baylor Bears, who necessitate that you flood the field with good coverage players but also can generally require that you have six really good players up front or else they'll just bury you with their veer-inspired run game.

I see two potential solutions to Baylor: One is a dime package like the Alabama unit that took down the Aggies. They played a box safety at a hybrid linebacker position, much like K-State's "coverage linebacker" spot and then played mostly cover 4 with a very rangy and safety-heavy defense squad that could make throws difficult, rally to the ball and tackle, and get pressure with four or five.

Hopefully we get to see Baylor play Michigan or Alabama in the post-season so we can see if a dime package that uses a box safety as the 6th DB offers enough of a solution to avoid getting gashed by the Bears' run game.

Another solution is the OU/Texas approach, which is probably what you can expect to see when the Sooners travel to Waco in a few weeks, a nickel package with at least four DBs on the field who can play man coverage.

For OU that'll be their corners Jordan Thomas and Zach Sanchez plus coverage safeties Will Johnson and Steven Parker. With four man-competent DBs on the field the Sooners can then leave six true front players in the box to handle Baylor's running game. If that isn't enough up front then OU will be in some serious trouble but having a strong enough secondary to leave the defensive front intact seems to be the re-occurring theme with teams that have slowed the Baylor attack.

I'm not sure there's another solution because no B12 team really has a dominant hybrid, box-safety right now that could be the guy who vacillates between being the 6th man in the box and being a space player save maybe for TCU who fields such players almost exclusively (and none of them other than Kindred could really be described as dominant). That probably ain't going to work either because you'd like to have at least one true ILB on the field to take on lead blocks and spill plays to all of your DBs.

I'm looking forward to seeing what different packages Big 12 teams have in store for Baylor this year and whether any dime packages see the light of day as a solution to their confounding attack. If not, let's hope for a compelling post-season contest between the Bears and either Michigan or Alabama.

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