Attacking Narduzzi type D.....

HBK4life

Nebraska Football Hall of Fame
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Pernell: Mark Banker plans to attack on defense

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N2FL

Published on 07-20-2015 02:44 AM
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The most frequent complaint about Bo Pelini's defensive scheme - other than its tendency the last few years of getting bulldozed by a strong running game - was its complexity. It was difficult to learn, thus it kept young, talented players on the sideline. Its complexity led to players thinking too much on the field instead of playing football, which led to players making mistakes, which led to players fearing making mistakes, which led to a lack of confidence from players. Pelini's defenders seemed to play slow a lot of times, or hesitant, because they were unsure or were thinking too much. Conversely, Mark Banker's system will be far more player-friendly and simplistic in design. Banker doesn’t want to react to the offense. He wants the blackshirts to set the tone. He wants his defense's aggressiveness to permeate through the psyche of the opposing offense. Banker wants wide receivers to have their heads on a swivel while running their routes and for the quarterback to be preoccupied by the pass rush while going through his reads. Last Monday, I took a look at what the new offense might look like. Today, I switch my focus to the defense.

Mark Banker's cover 4 system is likely to mirror much of what Pat Narduzzi's defense looked like while he was the coordinator at Michigan State - which has had three top 10 scoring defenses since 2010. It's a defensive scheme that is a close descendant of what Jimmy Johnson and Dave Wannstedt developed in the late 1980s with the Miami Hurricanes. It's a defense built specifically for college offenses. Because of the tremendous success enjoyed by the Spartans, I am assuming Banker will try and emulate a lot of what the Spartans did with their version of the cover 4. And it makes sense. Defensively, the Spartans have played the role of bully to the rest of the Big Ten conference for the past five years. Their system is a proven commodity against the teams inside the conference. Couple that with the Spartans' current four-game bowl winning streak, featuring wins against the Pac-12 (Stanford), SEC (Georgia) and Big 12 (Baylor, TCU), and you can see the benefits of dissecting what the Spartans have done.
The new system will be predicated on attacking and not analyzing. During spring, Michael Rose described the transition to the new system and touched a bit on the change of mentality it requires, "We were just too hesitant to hit our gaps and too hesitant to get out on our pass routes. It's a react, it's not (thinking) 'I need to do this or that.' It's just see your assignment, get to your assignment. We love it. It helps us utilize our speed, especially with our big guys up front. They're going to be able to be a little bit more free in the trenches. They're not going to have to do so much as far as reading 2-gap or whatnot."
Rose is right, and the defensive line is excited about the switch in defenses - and they should be. The previous defense, under Bo Pelini, was difficult for defensive linemen who had to use a "heavy" technique. That called for them to keep the offensive linemen engaged and off of the linebackers. The scheme, at times, ran counter to the skillset of the guys in the system. Notably, current and former interior linemen such as Kevin Williams, Kevin Maurice, Aaron Curry, Thad Randle, Chase Rome and Terrence Moore were not great physical fits for a "heavy" technique. Mark Banker's defense will have the defensive linemen doing the opposite. In his "gap cancellation" scheme, he wants the defensive linemen firing upfield, collapsing gaps and making plays. Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine mentioned numerous times throughout spring how excited they were to be able to attack, rather than engage and occupy.

A more aggressive style along the defensive line isn't the only major shift in philosophy you can expect to see between Pelini and Banker's schemes. One of the biggest changes will be in the systems run-stopping strategy. Pelini preferred to route running plays inside, where as Banker will deploy a "spill" technique. In Pelini's system, the goal for defensive linemen (especially tackles) was to plug up the offensive line and turn the line of scrimmage into a muck that a running back would ideally struggle to navigate through. With Banker, the defense will aim to spill things to the outside and leverage it with the secondary. He will coach the linebackers to scrape in the alley between the inside contain and the outside contain to get the running back exposed. Holes will be filled as they develop, rather than “boxed” by two players that can avoid or shed blocks (Pelini's philosophy). If gaps are actively attacked rather than covered, it forces the running back to move east-west toward the sideline. Thus, he’s getting "spilled" to the outside rather than running north-south as running backs are taught - and prefer - to do. In Banker's scheme, the defensive linemen will be getting upfield and the linebackers have simpler, faster assignments. During spring practice, the way the linebackers are now being asked to shoot gaps and try to direct the ball towards the outside help has been the biggest adjustment for the guys on defense. Linebackers coach Trent Bray will have his work cut out for him when fall camp opens on August 6th, he will be coaching the least experienced position group on the team. One way to look at the glass being half full is Bray won't have to break any bad habits or retrain players muscle memory. The linebacker room will have eight scholarship players in it, but only Josh Banderas and Michael Rose have taken significant snaps in a game for Nebraska. Bray has a lot of pups to groom into attack dogs.
Mark Banker likes a three-linebacker base against more formations than Pelini did. He wants athletic outside linebackers in order to stay in his preferred 4-3 base against three-wide formations, where as Pelini more often would have implemented his 'Peso' personnel group. Part of the plan by Banker to get faster and more versatile on defense is to "recruit from outside-in." Banker described what that meant, "We’re going to recruit corners to safeties, safeties to outside linebackers, outside linebackers to middle linebackers, middle linebackers to ends, ends to tackles. So, that way there, you’re upgrading your athleticism and speed at every position." Most Husker fans will recall former defensive coordinator Charlie McBride implementing a similar philosophy in the early 1990's in order to upgrade the speed of the blackshirts. It's also a strategy that was employed by Jimmy Johnson with the Hurricanes, when this scheme was revolutionizing college football.
The secondary will also undergo its fair share of philosophical changes. Nebraska will play with a more single-high safety look under Banker, which will be a change from the Tampa-2 principles the safeties played under Pelini. Banker will employ a 'quarters coverage' pass defense. The system helps the defense stop the run because the safeties creep close enough to the line of scrimmage to be in the box, which makes power running plays much tougher to execute. There are a lot of benefits that come from playing with shallow safeties. You get the linebackers packed closer to the box to stop the run, and you can also shoot them into the backfield more aggressively. Unless you can find a crease or gap in the defense, the blackshirts can be expected to fly to the ball and smother most runs before the runner can build any momentum or accumulate much yardage. You also don't need to be overly concerned with play-action sucking in the linebackers because the third level of the defense is already in close enough proximity to pick up receivers that might otherwise find a crease between the middle linebacker and the safety. Another benefit is the arsenal of blitzes you can come up with. Along with a variety of zone blitzes are overwhelming cover-0 man blitzes. Since the safeties are fairly shallow and tend to pick up inside receivers in man coverage quickly, it's a natural transition to do so without underneath help from the blitzing linebackers.
The safeties often have the responsibility of taking deep routes run by slot receivers or tight ends, while the corners will tend to play tight press coverage against outside receivers. Linebackers cover tight ends and slot receivers up to a point, then they settle into a zone. In principle, short passes over the middle are more dangerous and harder to complete in this defensive scheme. The nature of this approach to pass coverage invites three particular throws from the offense: the quick out to take advantage of the linebackers' inside leverage, a go route up the seam matching a slot receiver with a safety, and the deep fade down the sideline against the press corner. The latter play is one the defensive coaches will take all day. While the threat is always there, it is an extremely low percentage play that the majority of college quarterbacks just can't consistently make. The quick out to an inside receiver is perhaps the "easiest" yardage to come by against this coverage, however, it requires an accurate throw and offers little in terms of yards after the catch since the safety is in position to make a tackle after a minimal gain. The most enticing play is downfield on vertical routes against the safeties, however, most teams in college football are not particularly adept at hitting a high and outside go route deep up the seam.
In Banker's 'quarters coverage' scheme, cornerbacks will occasionally be left on an island to cover outside wide receivers one-on-one down the field. Michigan State has benefited from strong play out of their cornerbacks the last few years, which is vital for this defense as a whole to be successful. Guys like Darqueze Dennard and Trae Waynes have been the most important cogs in the Spartans defensive machine the last few years. Luckily, cornerback is arguably the deepest and most talented position group on the team for Nebraska. With Daniel Davie, Jonathan Rose, Charles Jackson, Trai Mosley, Josh Kalu, Chris Jones, Eric Lee, Avery Anderson and Boaz Joseph, the Huskers possess several players who could start for a lot of teams around the country. As a whole, the group is long, rangy and athletic. The competition during fall camp and throughout the year will bring out the best in them as the cream rises to the top.
All in all, it's obvious why teams like Ohio State have switched to this scheme in recent years. Michigan State has shown that when the cover 4 is played to its potential, it is generally strong against everything college offenses are good at and vulnerable only to plays which college offenses rarely execute with consistency. They invite deep sideline fade routes into minuscule windows. They encourage drives based on hitting short out routes or back shoulder hitches with limited 'YAC' opportunities, or deep throws against well leveraged safeties. They clamp down on the run game and swallow up the quick hitting inside routes that all college quarterbacks can throw.
Time will tell how long it takes for current Husker players to learn the new system and more importantly, trust the new system. Mark Banker and his vastly qualified and experienced assistants should have the blackshirts humming soon enough. Banker has run this system for several years now, except he was settling for used parts to put the engine together. With the caliber of athlete that he will now be able to recruit to fit his system, the future appears bright for the blackshirts.Prior to contributing to HuskerMax, Jeremy Pernell co-founded the all football website N2FL.com. He served as the editor in chief of the college football portion of the website which focused heavily on recruitment and talent analysis, including the NFL Draft. You can email him at N2FL@hotmail.com.
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NikkiSixx

Graduate Assistant
Sep 14, 2013
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I especially liked this part
Part of the plan by Banker to get faster and more versatile on defense is to "recruit from outside-in." Banker described what that meant, "We’re going to recruit corners to safeties, safeties to outside linebackers, outside linebackers to middle linebackers, middle linebackers to ends, ends to tackles. So, that way there, you’re upgrading your athleticism and speed at every position." Most Husker fans will recall former defensive coordinator Charlie McBride implementing a similar philosophy in the early 1990's in order to upgrade the speed of the blackshirts. It's also a strategy that was employed by Jimmy Johnson with the Hurricanes, when this scheme was revolutionizing college football.