Earlier this week I broke down the first three plays of the drive against Stanford that led to a certain 60-yard TD run by Bishop Sankey. When I wrote it, it dawned on me that some of the readers would not understand the technical terms and jargon used when talking about the defensive and offensive fronts. A certain old-timer going by the moniker husky57 confirmed my suspicion.
So, before I went on to breaking down Part II of the drive, I wanted to give you guys a little bit of a background on the 3-4 defense (which Stanford runs) and some of the terminology I will use, have used, throughout this article. I will be getting into more details of both the 3-4 and 4-3 defenses throughout the summer, but for now, here is a crash course on the 34.
The 34 is called such because it has three linemen with their hand in the dirt to go along with four linebackers. Wow! You knew that already? Maybe you can skip the course! (JK y'all, read my stuff and comment and rec and tell me it is amazing
and that you will love me forever because I am an insecure 14-year old girl who needs compliments from complete strangers.)
Kirk, among others, has talked about how the Huskies have seemed to make a shift towards speed in order to stop spread offenses. The 3-4 has gained popularity in college football as four linebackers are quicker than four linemen, thus it is better at defending offenses that spread the defense sideline to sideline.
Since the primary question among Dawg fans is "Where's the beef?" We will start with who is oftentimes the biggest player on the football field. It is possibly because he eats the most beef, and you know what they say, "You are what you eat." The Nose Tackle (NT) or Nose Guard (NG) is the anchor of the defense. He has to command double teams and control both of the A-Gaps.
What are the A-Gaps you ask? Well, I have the answer for you! The A-Gap is the gap between the center and the guard on offense. There is a guard on each side of the center, thus there are two A-Gaps. (Diagram of Gaps)
The NG plays a 0-tech, which means he plays head-on with the center (remember this diagram). He has to "2-gap" which means he controls 2 gaps, all linemen in the standard 3-4 have to 2-gap. Study that sheet or have it open in another window, it is very helpful in understanding who is who.
The DEs have more flexibility as to where they line up - their specific responsibilities can differ play-to-play - but their aim is typically similar to the NG, take up two gaps to let the LBs do their work while providing a tiny amount of pass rush. They can line up anywhere from a 4-tech (directly over the OT) to a 7-tech (on the outside shoulder of the TE).
They try to clog up the gaps to either side of them, regardless of whether they are at 4-tech or 7-tech. Typically they will be at an even-numbered technique which makes it easier to control two gaps.
The DEs will be referenced also as SDE and WDE at times, depending where they line up. If they line up on the offense's strong side, they will be the SDE, and if they line up on the offense's weak side, they will be the WDE.
Gap control in 34 defense:
There are two inside linebackers, oftentimes called the Mike and MAC LBs. Their play depends on the DL, much more than in a 4-3. If the DL doesn't control their gaps, the LBs tend to get beat by the guards attacking the second level.
Some tend to categorize the LBs differently, keeping them as Will, Mike and SAM, with the Jack or Rush LB taking on a different term. For now, there will be the Mike, Will, SAM, and the Jack
The Will lines up on the offense's weak side, Will, weak, alliteration, winners. He typically has backside pursuit in the case of a cutback. If a defense plugs every hole and the RB is fishing for a place to go, the Will will end up with the tackle.
If the LB is being used as the SAM, it just means he is lining up on the offense's strong side. It is really that simple. His job is to funnel the runner back into the middle of the field, into the mass of bodies that is the trenches.
Typically the Will/SAM will either run with the TE in pass coverage or have an underneath zone.
The Jack LB (also known as the Rush LB) rushes the QB. This is Clay Matthews of the Green Bay Packers, Terrell Suggs of the Baltimore Ravens, Josh Shirley of the Washington Huskies. These guys try to win off the edge and get to the QB and also have the ability to drop back in coverage. Their role against the run changes depending on where they line up, strong side or weak side.
Any questions, Google has some answers, and of course hit me up on Twitter or in the comments. I am on vacation this weekend and will probably respond quickly.
So, to the drive: Bishop Sankey has just gained a first down via a run through the strong-side B-Gap (between guard and tackle) and Washington has a new set of downs to work with.
UW lines up in '22' formation (two running backs, two tight ends) with the TEs overloading the right side. Austin Seferian-Jenkins lines up a yard out and several feet back of the other TE. A receiver is lined up tight to the formation on the bottom of the screen, and Amosa and Sankey are in the I.
Stanford responds with their base 3-4 look. Chase Thomas is the Jack not shown in the upcoming screenshot He is aligned at a 7 technique.
Stanford shows pressure, yet again. This time, the Mike, (James Vaughters) Jack and SAM all threaten to blitz. The SAM and Mike blitz the strong-side. The Jack and Will drop back into underneath zones.
As Price fakes the handoff, Jonathan Amosa picks up the blitzing Mike and both TEs release into routes immediately. They are not called to chip the blitzing LBs. Price doesn't even finish his drop before he is pressured by the SAM, whom Bishop Sankey got in the way of.
By the time Price hits his back foot on the drop, Ben Riva has already lost to the 4-Tech SDE. Hatchie is about to lose to the 4-Tech WDE. The three interior linemen take care of the NG. The offensive line didn't slide, as there was no way to tell which way the pressure was going to come from.
Price steps up quickly to avoid the sack for a moment, but is brought down immediately after. Loss of seven.
2nd and 17 at WASH 23 Keith Price pass complete to Kasen Williams for 6 yards to the Wash 29.
Sark can't let Price get sacked again, so he dials up a quick pass play to make third down more manageable.
20 personnel (2 running backs, no tight ends). Jonathan Amosa starts lined up as a TE but motions to Price's right side. Sankey is to Price's left. Two receivers to the bottom of the screen. Stanford responds with a 3-3-5 Nickel.
What Washington runs is a play similar to what thecassino broke down a little while back. This is instead a screen/hitch option instead of a run and hitch option.
Sankey and Amosa both go to Price's right, and Sankey turns around looking for a pass. The O-line plays like turnstiles and lets the free rushers come on in. Meanwhile, Kasen Williams runs a hitch at the bottom of the screen, as he is split out wide and the corner is backing way off of him. The corner was probably responsible for the deep third of the field in a soft coverage intended to not give up a big play - that succeeded.
After five yards Williams turns around and the ball is already in the air. He makes a leaping catch and is hit before his feet touch the ground. Six yard gain.
3rd and 11 at WASH 29 Keith Price pass complete to Kasen Williams for 10 yards to the Wash 39.
Third and long. UW's backs are to the wall at this point. They need a first down badly, and can't run it with their most consistent force.
Trotting out is 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end). ASJ is several yards wide of the RT Riva, standing up like a WR. Kasen Williams is in the slot at the bottom of the screen. Two more WRs up top.
Stanford responds again with a 3-3-5 nickel.
Chase Thomas is lined up as the Jack on the weak side. The Nickel creeps in to indicate a blitz off the edge. The remainder of the back 8 are all way off the line of scrimmage.
Hatchie gets help from Sankey to take care of Chase Thomas. Riva handles the blitzing Nickel corner. The rest of the line keeps a clean pocket for Price to throw. Dexter Charles at one point has his man on his knees.
Price has time to set his feet and make an accurate throw to Williams, who has broken towards the sideline after ten yards of running upfield.
4th-and-1. What comes next? Stay tuned...
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