Blue-White: Super Different New Defense

Safety Malcolm Willis (10) and Glenn Carson (40) gang tackle Justin Brown (19) during Penn State's annual Blue-White Game. (BSD/Mike Pettigano)

We already took a look at Bill O'Brien's Super Cool New Offense. How about the defense?

Well, Defensive Coordinator Ted Roof warned us. Coach Roof ran multiple fronts, multiple coverages, and preferred aggressive defenses. And all of those things directly contrast with what PSU fans witnessed for most of the last decade.

What's the verdict? The Blue-White scrimmage gave us 'different'. Here are a couple of plays that stood out to me.

1) Don't be alarmed if you see D-Line stunts on first down.

In the shot below, we have "T-E" stunt - the defensive tackle will drive hard to the OG-OT gap. He'll be trying to take the guard with him, while the defensive end loops inside. If the OG and OT 'switch', they can get it blocked. If they don't, they won't.

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Let's go to the video tape to see what happened.

2) Get used to 10 men within 4 yards of the line of scrimmage.

Eight in the box? Check. Man-to-man coverage across the board, with a single high free safety 15 yards deep? Yup. This is not your father's 3-deep zone.

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That's super soph Adrian Amos basically on the line of scrimmage in the receiver's face. Let's let the video roll on this one.

3) And expect to watch a play and wonder, 'what coverage was that?'

This shot is for those of you who were frustrated watching USC abuse our 3-deep zone with dig routes in the first half of the 2009 Rose Bowl. How do you feel about a hybrid scheme?

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The DB at the top of the screen - the weakside of the formation - is playing press man. But look at the two DB's (orange dots) at the bottom of the shot. They're looking through their 'man' and watching the QB - that's a zone tipoff.

After searching the interwebs for defensive playbooks that would tell me what we're looking at, the best I could come up with is to borrow a phrase from former Temple basketball Coach John Cheney - matchup zone. The two orange-dotted DB's are working in tandem. If the 'Y' tight-end's route carries deep, then the safety has deep outside third, while matching up to Y's route. If 'Z' flanker's route carries deep, then the corner has deep outside third, and the safety is shallow.

We're cheating on this play, because I drew the receivers' routes on the shot above. But that gambling #4, Amos, reads the QB's short drop, comes off his 'man', and jumps the flat route to 'F' Zordich - just missing the pick.

All of these shots were taken from the very first series of the Blue-White game. But after that....we didn't get to see much. Coach Roof played it very close to the vest. He didn't send a single blitz. And we didn't see a single odd-man front - that must be in the other 92% of Coach Roof's defensive playbook. (I'd personally love to see Sean Stanley and/or Deion Barnes in a standup rush LB spot. Talk about made to order).

But we did catch at least a glimpse of 'different'. And that's not a value judgment of better or worse. The spring game is a little too early for that. However, if you were among the crowd that grew frustrated with same-old, same-old...well, your wish comes true. Let's hope it's a good one.


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