Neck Sharpies: The Don Brown Defensive Glossary: 3-4 Edition

Neck Sharpies: The Don Brown Defensive Glossary: 3-4 Edition Comment Count

Seth March 29th, 2016 at 12:00 PM


[Photo: Upchurch]

Last week we introduced the defensive terminology for Don Brown's base defense and his 4-lineman sub packages. Quick clicky-popup diagrams of the 4-3 and 4-2-5 forms we covered:


This week I'd like to get into the 3-4 and 3-3-5 and 3-2-6 looks, or in Brown's terminology, the "50" formations.



The BC defense Brown brought over is a base 4-3 and 4-2-5 nickel, and they'll run a relatively small suite of plays from that base on most downs. But a lot of the fancy stuff—truly, most of the playbook—are out of what are usually called "30" and Brown refers to as the "50" fronts*, i.e. formations with three defensive linemen.

Here's the basic version, as taken directly from the 2013 Boston College playbook that James Light posted.


Technically, the "Tackle" (Hurst's position) has been replaced with a "Backer" (B). When you hear about a guy you thought was playing defensive end being called a "linebacker" (e.g. Kemp) it's possible he's playing the Backer position. If a dude's getting mentions as an "OLB" that's also a sign they're using him in that Backer/Sam role, where "Sam" means "Jake Ryan-esque."

That isn't anybody yet—I've been using Winovich as a placeholder—but the ideal here is clearly LaMarr Woodley: a 6'2/260-ish, athletic, stand-up, high-burst, space-tackling, strong-enough-to-stand-up-to-blocks attacker who can play rush end or cover some. That last is notable because it gives the 50 formations a suite of tactics that are generally absent from Brown's 70 formations: zone blitzes.

* [It's 50 and not 30 because look at the pic above and count the guys on the line. Now think back to that ol' Schembechler 5-2 "angle" defense. The more things change…


[After THE JUMP: bandits, canidae, diagrams that look like they're saying "Mike Gedeon" and "Will McCray", and blitzes. Oh lawdy do we got blitzes.]


Neck Sharpies: The Don Brown Defensive Glossary: 4-3 Edition

Neck Sharpies: The Don Brown Defensive Glossary: 4-3 Edition Comment Count

Seth March 23rd, 2016 at 11:00 AM

[Huge thanks to Steve Sharik for getting a lot of this for me]


He's got nickel down. Also Sam, Rover, Money, Jaguar, Tractor, Dog, Pup, Cat, Bandit, Greyhound, and Aardvark. Read on to find out which two of those are not actually Don Brown positions that Peppers will play. [Bryan Fuller]

We had some bona fide MGoDudes attend the coaching clinic and the open practice in Florida, and they've reported back with a wealth of information about the new Michigan defense.

Coach Steve Sharik is writing up a full feature on it for HTTV, and in the course of editing that we went through all of the standard (and some of the non-standard) positions and terminology. I thought that would be extremely valuable to those of us trying to parse the coachspeak all spring, and figure out exactly what position various Guys and Dudes and whatnot are playing.

This week I thought I'd tackle the 4-man fronts that Michigan will run as their base defense. Brown also has myriad 3-man fronts (whence Winovich) that I'll get into next week.

Here are the two basic 4-man, or as Brown calls 'em, "70" fronts: 71 and 72.


These two alignments we'll see most of the time on standard downs, with personnel changing based on what the offense has in there. If you didn't spot the difference between 71 and 72, it's how the nose and end are aligned. In the first the nose is over the center (a 1-technique) and the end is in a 5-technique off the weakside OT. In 72 those guys have shifted over some, putting the nose over the guard (2-technique) so the end can split out wider. The first is stronger against inside runs, the second gives the end an easier path to pass rush or play a zone read.

And here are the base positions:


Let's meet them.

[After the jump: What's an "A", what's the difference between a Sam, a Jaguar, and a Money, and what the hell is Peppers?]


Neck Sharpies: Not Getting Even

Neck Sharpies: Not Getting Even Comment Count

Seth December 2nd, 2015 at 10:11 AM


This would not go over well.

After the injury to Ryan Glasgow Michigan has struggled to stop zone running. Indiana and Penn State tore the defense to shreds on stretch or outside zone, until Penn State decided the thing that got them two huge gains in three attempts wasn't worth using again (please keep James Franklin forever kthx). I drew that up last week and found Michigan was still trying to defend runs by shooting the DL upfield and dominating one-on-one matchups up front, as opposed to soundly preventing guards from releasing onto the linebackers.

With Urban Meyer, one of a few true masters of modern running attacks, doing the planning for the Game, we knew Michigan's defensive coaches would have to pull something out of our butts to stop it. Here's what we found in our butts:

Michigan broke out a 3-3-5 defense with an "even" front. Offensive coaches have different names for fronts but the basics are:

  • Under: NT on the center, shaded to strong. DT on a guard. (aka Weak, 50)
  • Over: NT on the center, shaded to weak. DT on a guard. (aka Strong)
  • Even: DL are lined up over guards, none over the center. (aka Split)
  • Okie: Center is covered, guards are not. (aka 30)
  • Bear: Center and guards all covered. (aka 46, Eagle, Double Eagle)

These can be split into "Odd" (under/over) and "Even" (Even, Okie, Bear). It is usual for just about any defense to come out in multiple fronts over the course of a game, though Bear and Okie are more rare than the other three.


Anyway that's what that means. By putting guys over the guards it makes it tougher for them to release to the next level. Michigan State used to love their even fronts back when Bullough was their best run defender, and that tells you something about the design of this defense. Tweaking your defense is about making life hard on your better players so things are easier for the rest of your players. "Even" makes life hard on the MLB, since that center is getting a free release unto him.

There's nothing 100% unsound about this defense. Depending on the offense's play, one LB is likely to get a center on him but the other is often a free hitter. If your LB eating the block is good at beating those consistently, or your free hitter is a ninja who sniffs out the play and attacks ferociously, or your unblocked guy is coached to play aggressively against an option you can defeat a basic run play regularly.

[After the JUMP, we totally can't]