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It looks to me like we're moving to a traditional 3-4 base defense (long)

Discussion in 'Colorado Football Message Board' started by Buffnik, Feb 10, 2011.

  1. Buffnik

    Buffnik Real name isn't Nik Club Member Junta Member

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    At first, it sounded from media comments that Embree was favoring a 4-3 defense. But he never committed to that and there are a few reasons I think the 3-4 is in play.

    1- The hiring of Kanavis McGhee

    On the surface, that doesn't make a lot of sense. We got a great defensive line coach when we landed Tuiasosopo. There's no reason to believe he needs help with the defensive ends. For a linebacker coach, we've got another elite position coach in Cabral. There's no reason to believe he needs help with the outside linebackers. But we hired Greg Brown as our Defensive Coordinator. While he's an elite position coach for the secondary, this is also his first rodeo as a DC which will limit his position time/focus some and he is also a mediocre recruiter. Logically, it made sense to retain Ashley Ambrose (or hire someone like Al Simmons from Cal or Duane Akina from Texas). The only way this move makes total sense is if we're going to a traditional 3-4 base. McGhee is an expert at playing that hybrid DE/OLB role that the 3-4 demands. For that defense, we needed someone who could teach both pass rush moves and coverage skills to a group of guys.

    2 - The 2011 recruiting class

    We took so many hybrid or tweener type players. Or at least it seemed that we did. But that's only if you look at it from a 4-3 defense perspective. From a 3-4 perspective, we took guys who are prototypical for their position. Stephan Nembot was born to play 3-4 DE. Then, we loaded up on linebackers. Some of them were supposed to be too short to play DE... they're OLBs in a 3-4. Some of them were supposed to be big safeties that will likely convert to linebackers... they're ILBs in a 3-4. Plus, we signed an ILB who is a big run stuffer in Brady Daigh... that's the ILB that goes to the strong side of the formation in a 3-4. At corner, we focused on big guys who can press cover and come up in run support. Typical 3-4, again. We also took Greg Henderson, a small corner who is a speed demon that played a bunch of safety in high school so he could make more plays. He's a natural fit as either the nickel corner that defense utilizes against spread formations or even as the freelance safety.

    3 - Roster moves we have already seen

    Eric Richter to defensive line doesn't make a lot of sense if we're playing a 4-3. The area where he was struggling as an OG was with his foot speed to pull or get to the second level. But where he absolutely excels is as a bull in a short area. If you're not quick enough for guard, you're not quick enough to play a 4-3 DT. But you are definitely quick enough to play NT in a 3-4. The primary responsibility there is to hold the point of attack against a double team or blow it up if they try to single block with the center.

    Likewise, Ahles and Harrington were moved out of the linebacker spots and are converting to fullback. Ahles didn't have great pass rush skills to be able to play the 3-4 OLB spot and he had already moved out of the inside. He probably would have been ok, but really was a better FB out of high school and our new offense requires a FB. That's probably more a move of need than him being ill-suited to the 3-4. More of a best use of team assets thing in his case. But with Harrington, it's a matter of not being able to use small linebackers in a 3-4. He's under 6 feet tall. When you're only playing with 3 DLs, you need big dudes at your LB spots. As an aside, it wouldn't surprise me if Harrington ended up redshirting as he learned the fullback position this year and then replaced Ahles at FB as a 5th year senior in 2012.

    So, what might this mean for our defense and who shuffles where?

    I'm going to base this off the Pittsburgh Steeler defense since that's pretty much the gold standard for the 3-4 and they've been on tv so much that everyone should be fairly familiar with their roster.

    At NT, you need a massive dude who is extremely powerful. An elite player at the position will be nimble, too, and able to flow from sideline to sideline. At one time Casey Hampton was elite for the Steelers, but now he's more of a space eater as he's gotten older. Casey is 6'1" and 325 lbs. On our roster, we have 4 guys who fit that position with Eugene Goree (6'1" 310 lb senior), Eric Richter (6'3" 310 lb junior), Nate Bonsu (6'1" 290 lb sophomore) and Kirk Poston (6'1" 260 lb rs-freshman who is reportedly up to 290 now).

    Next, at DE, you need guys who can play a 2-gap technique. Instead of being a 1-gap pass rusher like you see in 4-3 DEs, these are bigger guys (usually tall) who can control an OT to avoid getting moved on running plays while also keeping him off the OLB if the blitz comes from that side. On the Steelers, you have 3 top guys at this position with Aaron Smith (6'5" 298 lbs), Bret Keisel (6'5" 285 lbs) and Ziggy Hood (6'3" 300 lbs). On our roster, we have 4 guys who fit the position with Conrad Obi (6'3" 295 lb senior), Will Pericak (6'4" 280 lb junior), Nick Kasa (6'6" 275 lb junior), and Stephan Nembot (6'7" 270 lb freshman).

    Odd man out: Curtis Cunningham doesn't have the bulk to play NT in a 3-4 and doesn't have the height and arm length to be an ideal DE in a 3-4. It's going to be interesting to see how they integrate him. He's too productive not to be in the rotation.

    At OLB, you need guys that can get to the quarterback but who are also athletic enough to drop into coverage. These are the primary playmakers on the defense in the 3-4. On the Steelers, the starters are both elite with LaMarr Woodley (6'2" 265 lbs) and James Harrison (6'0" 242). Prototypically, you want guys who are over 6 feet tall and weighing in between 240 and 260 lbs. On our roster, we are in good position here with a lot of DEs who were never suited to a 4-3 system. The 5 guys to look at are Josh Hartigan (6'1" 225 lb senior), Forrest West (6'1" 260 lb junior), Chidera Uzo-Diribe (6'3" 230 lb sophomore), Juda Parker (6'2" 230 lb freshman) and Woodson Greer (6'2" 225lb freshman).

    That leaves ILB for last. On the Steelers, they have historically paired a bigger run stuffer for the strong side of the formation along with a really fast freelancer who can cover deep middle, flow sideline to sideline and also shoot the gap on blitzes. But they've used a lot of combinations over the years and they all work. The key is that they LB has to be stout enough to take on an OG but quick enough to cover a tight end. Currently, the Steelers start James Farrior (6'2" 243 lbs) and Lawrence Timmons (6'1" 234 lbs). Looking at the Buffs, we've got guys that fit the mold with Jon Major (6'1" 225 lb junior), Douglas Rippy (6'1" 235 lb junior), Derrick Webb (6'0" 220 lb sophomore), Liloa Nobriga (6'2" 215 lb sophomore), Lowell Williams (6'1" 210 lb rs-freshman), and Brady Daigh (6'2" 230 lb freshman).

    Odd man out: Patrick Mahnke doesn't have the bulk to hold up on the inside of a 3-4. His best bet for seeing the field in this system will be as a specialist working as a nickel linebacker on passing downs.

    Players to watch to see where they ultimately fit: Jermaine Clark (6'2" 200 lb freshman), K.T. Tu'umalo (6'3" 210 lb freshman) and Will Harlos (6'4" 200 lb freshman) were all recruited as athletes. They could end all end up at safety or either one of the linebacker positions in a 3-4, depending on how they develop.

    Since the front 7 is what's different between a 3-4 and a 4-3, I'm not going to spend much time on the secondary. Generally, you're going to see an aggressive zone behind the 3-4 and that may be a bit different from what we're used to seeing. In general, the Steelers have preferred big cornerbacks (6'0" or taller) who can help in run support and physically knock WRs off their routes. Very similar to the types of CBs that Greg Brown has generally focused on in his recruiting. Pretty much everyone on the roster fits this description. At safety, the Steelers have usually paired a steady guy with a playmaker who gets to freelance and come on blitzes (Troy Polamalu). Interestingly, the Steelers safeties are both under 6 feet tall, but that's not exactly a requirement. Important thing is that they roam the field and tackle. That also seems to fit our roster.

    In conclusion, I look at what he have and the moves Embree has made and the 3-4 just looks like the right fit to me. In fact, as I went through our roster in this way one of the things that kept popping into my head is that we should be able to vastly improve our defense simply by not having guys play out of position any more. Last year, guys were a bad fit for our 4-2-5 defense that Collins/Hawkins tried to claim was a 3-4.

    The other thing that I was thinking about is that a 3-4 can cover up some deficiencies at the CB position, which could be key to the 2011 success of the Buffs. And, of course, if you ever have a shutdown guy like Rod Woodson in that defense then the pass rush gets truly scary for opposing teams. Finally, the big thing the 3-4 does is shut down the other team's running game to make them 1 dimensional. Then, it tries to generate big plays by confusing the quarterback with its rush packages. Not necessarily blitzes, because you usually bring only 4 rushers. It's just that the offensive line and QB has a near-impossible time of figuring out who the 4th pass rusher is going to be and where he's coming from.

    I so hope I'm right about this. I love this defense and the Buffs are in pretty good shape to play it well in a hurry.
     
    rodrigo, mdelpizzo_1, aik and 7 others like this.
  2. Gramburglar

    Gramburglar Literally has hundreds of dollars Club Member

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    I am perfectly fine with Mahnke being the odd man out. He is slow on the ball, and gets burned a lot (or he jumps too many routes and is too slow to recover). I never saw what the old coaching staff saw in him.
     
  3. tante

    tante Club Member Club Member

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    I hope it turns out better than the broncos 3-4 experiment. How many division 1 teams run a 3-4? I can only think of bama and cal
     
  4. TDbuff

    TDbuff Club Member Club Member

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    Thanks Buffnik, I've had similar thoughts on what the D's gonna look like, and thanks for the breakdown. Some more evidence that we're going to a 3-4 is on Buff Chips Radio Woodson Greer and Juda Parker said they were being recruiting to play in a 3-4.

    As long as it's more of a traditional 3-4 and not the hodgepodge front 7's they've been throwing out there there the last few years, I'll be happy. I am worried because Brown was here when they started the muddled 4-2-5, and I just wonder how much of it was his idea.

    I have noticed that a lot of NFL teams have been employing more of a confusing looking front 7. I heard one of the Packers players mention the other day on the radio that the Steeler's are a team that tries to stay in base D as much as possible, like that was unique, whereas another 3-4 defense, the Packers, switch things around quite a bit--I saw them line up with 2 DL flanked by 2 LB's standing up a few times for example. And the Broncos, another supposed 3-4 team, would do similar fronts, and seemed to rarely look like they were in a traditional 3-4.

    Anyways, I'm just wondering if the traditional 3-4 is kind of going away in the NFL, and I wonder if Brown is going to do something similar where the front 7's alignment is extremely flexible and will depend on the offense's personnel. I hope it's more of a traditional 3-4 because it gives them a system to recruit to, and I am so tired of endless personnel groupings, god forbid they start doing it on defense.
     
  5. BehindEnemyLines

    BehindEnemyLines beware the habu Club Member

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    Mahnke is a hitter, but his lack of speed didn't translate well to DB. He may still be in the mix as an OLB.
     
  6. MtnBuff

    MtnBuff Not allowed in Barzil 2 Club Member

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    Nice evaluation of the situation, makes a lot of sense.

    I am not really a huge fan of the 3-4 and now that is seems like the world is going to it finding guys with the skills to fit it is harder but if that is the direction the Buffs want to go I am willing to give it a look. It will be nice just to have a cohesive strategy in Boulder no matter what it is.
     
  7. BuffNut99

    BuffNut99 Club Member Club Member

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    I like your evaluation Nik. When the Buffs were great, they ran the 3-4, and had the perfect personnel to do it. There would definitely be some odd men out in that hypothetical (Cunningham jumps to mind first), and to me the key is having the NT to take up two guys in the middle. Bonsu is the only guy we have right now that I see as being skilled enough to pull it off (sorry Goree and Richter), and he would need to add some weight. BUT a 3-4 would really open it up for guys like Kasa and Uzo-Diribe to pass rush. And of course our LB corps would have to step it up big time from what we've been seeing lately, but I can see Hartigan doing well as an OLB. Interesting stuff.
     
  8. sliderNcider

    sliderNcider MacLovin Club Member

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    I think it looks that way too. But it is much harder to recruit to a 3-4 in college than a 4-3. DT's are already hard enough to find... especially a solid 3-4 DT
     
  9. Darian3Hagan

    Darian3Hagan '89 Player of the Year Club Member

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    It's too bad we are going to waste a talent like Kasa by playing him as a 3-4 de.
     
  10. Buffnik

    Buffnik Real name isn't Nik Club Member Junta Member

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    Wow. I don't see it that way at all. If Kasa has a chance to play in the NFL, that would be his position. This would be a huge opportunity for him. The waste was what Bandison and Hawkins did to him the last two years (blowing his freshman season and then trying to play him at DT half the time last year).
     
  11. Darth Snow

    Darth Snow Hawaiian Buffalo Club Member Junta Member

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    or help him find his niche. He wasn't doing great as a 4/3 DE or DT....

    Btw, people, I hope you are all repping the **** out of nik for this. This is the kind of analysis and commentary we need more of. Really takes a lot of thought and time. The MSM will NEVER do something like this for the Buffs unless we are a national title contender. He really should have blogged this. Articles like this are what make a site great. So props to nik. And I buy what he is thinking, although he overexaggerated or reached on a few of the personnel. But thats what Buffs do. :lol:

    Edit:
    See!!? What I said :smile2:
     
  12. Bill Cody

    Bill Cody Well-Known Member

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    Nik, although you could very well end up being right, I have to disagree with you here. Here’s why:

    1. Brown is coming from UA where they ran a 4-3 last year
    2. Embree, while not committing to a defensive formation, did say that he wanted a defense that attacked the line of scrimmage. You get this more from the 4-3 than the 3-4
    3. Don’t look too much into McGhee coaching the DE’s and Tui coaching the DT’s as a tip-off to what we will run. When Embree coached on the defensive side of the ball at CU, the coaching staff looked as follows: DC/Secondary – Christoff, LB’s – Cabral, DE’s – Embree, DT’s – Hundley….look familiar? CU was running the 4-3 at that time.
    4. The idea of having 2 D Line coaches might simply be because that is the area that you would like to rotate the most players in and out if they are REALLY getting after it on the field. Thus, you devote more coaching “attention” to that area to make sure that you have as many guys ready to go as you can.
    Here is what I think you are going to see as soon as they can get the right personnel on the field. DT’s that will maul you and move the line of scrimmage back. DE’s that are athletic and can RUN, get up field and turn the corner, but also cover a back out of the back field when necessary (when we are in man). Middle LB that will knock your head off and is sturdy enough to take on centers and guards on running plays. WLB that looks like a big safety, can run, play physical and run plays down from the back side. SLB that is sturdy in run defense, is a good blitzer/pass rusher, but is also athletic enough to cover a TE man to man. A big SS that can come down as a blitzer, will absolutely HIT you, and can easily be the 8th man in run support. Regardless of their size, the CB’s will need to be VERY athletic and able to cover in man to man a LOT. A FS that is a center fielder and has great ball skills, can roam to make plays in the secondary.

    The model that I think they are striving for is the FSU defense from the Mid 90’s when they were killing everyone.
     
  13. BuffNut99

    BuffNut99 Club Member Club Member

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    Unless Knavis turns him into the monster he should be this Spring/Fall, I wouldn't be opposed to redshirting him this year while Hartigan is a SR.
     
  14. Darian3Hagan

    Darian3Hagan '89 Player of the Year Club Member

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    Well if he sucked as a 1 gap DT or DE hes really going to suck as a 3-4 DE. You guys know more than me but wasnt he supposed to be a athletic DE with a monster wing span? I was hoping he could be a poor mans Julius Peppers for us.
     
  15. Buffnik

    Buffnik Real name isn't Nik Club Member Junta Member

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    That was they hype. But Florida wanted him to become an OL.

    And I wouldn't say that he sucked. He played pretty well. I think he may be suffering in fan perception because of they hype.
     
  16. Darian3Hagan

    Darian3Hagan '89 Player of the Year Club Member

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    Well looks like they are taking steps to eventually move to a 1-5-5 as I predicted.:lol:
     
  17. Duff Man

    Duff Man Moderator Club Member Junta Member

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    One major question I have: how much experience does Greg Brown have with the 3-4? It seems to me, that is what needs to answered moreso than the hiring of McGhee. If you are going to hire a guy with little experience as coordinator, would you want to compound that by giving a defense he has little experience running?

    I really do not care either way, just pick something. The muddled front seven situation mentioned above is exactly right. I thought the "hybrid" defense under Hawkins was a disaster at times.
     
  18. BuffNut99

    BuffNut99 Club Member Club Member

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    Double-eagle-bear was a disaster

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Buffnik

    Buffnik Real name isn't Nik Club Member Junta Member

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    One would hope that Brown is spending some time with his and the other staff members' contacts in the NFL.
     
  20. cnbuff410

    cnbuff410 Club Member Club Member

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    Umich tried it without any luck. Hopefully we will be much better, otherwise it would be a nightmare
     
  21. Burrito Palazzo

    Burrito Palazzo huff my smug Club Member

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    Nik, great eval! Rep.
     
  22. bigbang

    bigbang Member

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    I highly doubt that we will go to a 34 base defense.

    Curtis Cunningham 280 pounds
    Will Pericak 280 pounds
    Obi 290 pounds
    Richter- converted Guard


    Don't have the personell to play 34 defense. Embree even said it in his recruiting class presser that we will do alot of cover 2. 43 defense cover 2.
     
  23. Bill Cody

    Bill Cody Well-Known Member

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    Agreed. I should also clarify something from my earlier post regarding personnel. You will likely see the D Line flip based upon the the offesive formation. A NT, 3t DT, Strong DE and a Weak DE. SDE likely will be Kasa, and maybe Nembot in the future if I had to guess...playing the gap between the tackle and TE. WDE will be the smaller more athletic player (Hartigan, Parker, etc..).
     
  24. Shldr2Shldr

    Shldr2Shldr Club Member Club Member

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    the 3-4 would make sense in the aspect that embree is trying to run a pro style team. Lots of teams in the NFL run the 3-4 or some variation of it. A pro style defense to go with a pro style offense taught by a pro style staff. Sounds good to me
     
  25. Jackal

    Jackal Member

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    Very interesting write up nik! Props! :nod:

    Just a quick question. We have a big backup offensive guard in David Clark. He's a 5th year senior this year. I think he's 6'4 and 320 pounds or so. He's played a couple of years as a OG on the special teams. I have watched him specifically when he's been in and he seems immovable, several double teams against him haven't budged him at all. I don't know about his speed as a pulling guard. Seems like he's been second or third on the depth chart at guard for the last 3 years or so. Could he be a candidate for a spot at NT?
     
  26. Buffnik

    Buffnik Real name isn't Nik Club Member Junta Member

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    It's definitely going to be interesting how this plays out in the spring.

    One point, though. A cover 2 does not mean a 4-3 front. The standard 3-4 is paired with a zone blitz package and that zone is usually going to be called as a cover 2 (though you'll see some cover 1 and cover 3). I'd be convinced if I heard "Tampa 2" from Embree, but I haven't. And we certainly don't have the personnel to run that and I doubt that we could ever have the overwhelming speed necessary to make that defense work in Colorado.

    Jackal - Clark could be an interesting guy. As a general rule of thumb, DLs convert to OLs but you rarely do it the other way. The reason being that DLs need to be more athletic/nimble/fast than OLs. Like I said when discussing the Richter move and the prototype for a 3-4 NT, you ideally want a bull who can also flow sideline to sideline. If your NT in that defense can do that, it removes cutback lanes and the ILBs can really be aggressive shooting gaps. Bonsu is the only guy we have who might be able to take the position to that next level, but having depth behind him that can at least anchor against a double team is very valuable. And it could be very nice to have a couple of those big hosses in there together for goal line situations.
     
  27. Darian3Hagan

    Darian3Hagan '89 Player of the Year Club Member

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    The key to the Tampa 2 is the Derrick Brooks type MLB. Maybe not after the knee injury but I think Major fits the mold.
     
  28. ScottyBuff

    ScottyBuff Well-Known Member

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    There are certainly many things that line up for us to run a 3-4, or at least a true "hybrid" (think Baltimore Ravens). The whole thing could depend upon Nate Bonsu's knee and/or a VERY surprising off-season from Eugene Goree and/or Eric Richter at NT. Richter has the strength but lacks the experience, while Goree has underperformed his whole CU career. As mentioned Bonsu is a true "havoc-wreaker" that you need at NT. It isn't always about size. Strength, durability, and the ability to absolutely destroy an opposing center means that the offense is FORCED to put a double-team on you. Bonsu has all that. He could hold up to the double team rather well, IMO and that allows all the rest of the defense to operate.

    If that NT can't successfully ATTRACT and then WITHSTAND a double-team then the LB's will get washed out in the run game and the whole house of cards comes tumbling down. This is exactly why Curtis Cunningham does not make a good NT, as Hawk and Collins tried to make him.

    Pericak would make a great 3-technique DE and could find himself a future there possibly. Kasa, I think is better suited there as well.

    If a trio of Bonsu-Richter-Goree can give us the NT we need then this could work out very well. If not, then it could be really bad. Not Hawk-type bad, but bad anyway.
     
  29. bigbang

    bigbang Member

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    Nik you are right you can play Cover 2 in a 34 defense. But if we had to play 34, i would rather play a mixture of Cover 3 and do alot of Zone Blitzing and run blitzing, what the RAvens do. I am strong amdirer of the 34 defense but i do not believe the Buffs have the personell to play 34. 43 base and then maybe nickel and dime packages is the best fit for the Buffs.
     
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2011
  30. Follow-Rado

    Follow-Rado Member

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    Doesn't Dallas play a 3-4 with a fairly pedestrian-sized nose tackle? Can't remember his name.

    Of course, they have DeMarcus Ware. That makes any Defense better.
     

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