Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mailbag question: Big Ten defenses and the 4-3

Posted at 8:00am -- 1/30/2010

Mailbag question: Big Ten defenses and the 4-3

I enjoy reading your blog.

After watching the bowl games that I can fairly say surprised most, the B10 defenses effectively controlled "explosive" offenses of Oregon, GT and LSU. I know players make plays and schemes don't win or lose games, but what is the advantage of Iowa, PSU and OSU's defensive schemes? Does a 4-3 allow more "team" oriented performance and avoid more 1-1 match ups on defense, which we seem to be stuck in? Also, it seems that UM employed mostly 3-4 and added to a lesser degree 4-3 defenses. Is this a problem? Does it confuse our players too much? Should our defense be "simple" like Iowa's and just be tough and disciplined? Can we emulate Iowa's defense or has that ship sailed. Finally, whom would you like to see on the defense line and at LB? I would like to see Big Will next to Mike Martin, put two of our best guys out there side by side, instead of alternating them.

Lastly, to those readers that want more "positive" commentary, we need to see positive things on the field first.

-T B


Thanks for the question.

The thing that the 4-3 defense does is provides four linemen to stop the run and pressure the quarterback. It is also a very flexible defense that can easily be adjusted to 4-2 for nickel, or 4-1 for a dime package.

The 3-4 defense can also be a very effective front. The Steelers and Patriots play the 3-4 as their base.

Most teams that play one front have the capability of playing the other.

USC for instance plays a base 4-3, but also has what is called the Elephant Package, that is a 3-4 scheme.

The Patriots for years would take linebacker Vrabel and have him put his hand on the ground to make the defense a four-man front.

The difference is Michigan used basically a nickel package as the base. This causes a huge mismatch against bigger stronger offensive lines, especially teams that featured a tight end or halfback.

Molecki from Iowa, Kendricks and Graham from Wisconsin, Notre Dame's Kyle Rudolph and Penn State's Quarless all had success against Michigan.

The thing we want to see is a more consistent defense. That means what we see on the field along with schemes. The defenses that you have mentioned such as Penn State, Ohio State, and Iowa have had the same type of scheme no matter if coaches move on or not. They have used the same scheme, so when they recruit they go after the same type of player every year.

What Michigan has done over the last few years is have several different defensive coordinators and also have several different base defenses. That creates a problem of what type of kid to recruit and also the recruits themselves wonder if they will fit into the Michigan defensive scheme for the entire time they are at Michigan.

That is why a place like Iowa can recruit players to fit their scheme and usually have decent to very good defenses.

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