Over at Football Study Hall I broke down the 2015 Katy Tigers defense that tore through Texas HS football this last season like a tornado.
In this space I want to add just a few extra notes on that defense for the particularly curious minds that are eager to learn more about this legendary unit.
First off, I casually mentioned that they base around a "3-4 weak eagle" defense but then spend most of the time talking about how they play their cover 4 to keep everyone in key positions.
The "weak eagle" front means that they will slant or align the weakside defensive end into a 3-tech position and the strongside end into a 5-tech position. The outside linebackers basically become either the weakside 5-tech or the strongside 9-tech.
They also had a fairly diverse collection of blitzes that they'd fire at teams and they'd break their rules against empty formations and finally move Jovanni Stewart out wide to nickel while relying on their inside backers to blitz. Lake Travis tried to attack that look and found little to no success.
Here's a look at the defensive starting line-up:
All of these guys were good in their niche, but only five of the seniors received D1 offers and only one of those came from the Big 12 to Stewart, who I think was clearly the best player on the unit. There wasn't more D1 talent on this team than most any other big time, 6A Texas HS power.
Wisconsin offered both safeties and Paddy Fisher but they elected to go to Northwestern (Fisher and Whillock) or Houston (Wilder). The current Cougar D under Orlando Brown is very similar to the Katy defense and is also a 3-4 based unit backed by cover 4.
I think a lot of the safeties but there's no doubt that this defensive scheme set them up well for success and I wouldn't have bet on either of them showing similar dominance in the Big 12 though they may prove to have been B12-caliber in the right context.
Bethley was very good and has already received offers from West Virginia, Texas A&M, Baylor, Houston and Nebraska. He may prove to be the best player to have come from this defense but my money is still on Stewart.
In 2016 they'll have to adjust, of course, because the 2015 unit was led by eight seniors. Replicating 2015's tactics and success will require finding new cogs at those positions but in particular they need pass-rushing to replace what Stewart brought with his 10 sacks.
I don't know if the new safeties will be as reliable as Wilder and Whillock, you'd have to bet against it, but they sure won't look as good if they aren't protected by a pass rush. It wouldn't seem like a bet that they'd find another nose-tackle who could command a double team like Woodring but Katy seems to have an unlimited supply of sturdy DL so there I would stay away from that gamble.
Their DE pairing of Matus and Bethley will probably be dominant and perhaps even afford them the opportunity to bring only three pass-rushers regularly, we'll see.
As I alluded in the column, the big challenge for 2016 Katy will probably come in their season opener in Austin against the Westlake Chaparrals, who are led by QB and Texas-commit Sam Ehlinger.
Westlake is replacing almost all of their receivers from a year ago, but you still figure they'll have to deal with the fact that Ehlinger is nails in the pocket and capable of throwing strikes down the middle of the field with a pass-rush in his face.
Thanks to Ehlinger's running ability, the Chaps run some "ultimate spread formation" stuff and can put maximal stress on a defense. I doubt any other Texas team has a better chance at breaking the containment strategies of the Tiger defense.
I might be more intrigued by that game on August 26th than any of the Big 12 slate of games in 2016 and it's not just because Westlake has much better prospects in 2016 than do my Longhorns. If you don't love Texas HS football you're missing out.