How do you stop a QB like Denard/Pat White?

Submitted by CipASonic on September 10th, 2010 at 10:00 AM

During halftime at the UConn game, my friend had an interesting question, and I am not sure how to answer it.  He asked how you stop a really athletic QB who runs a lot, like Denard. 

Schematically, I feel like the best way would be to have someone spy the QB.  You might be best off with a nickel package, with the extra DB spying the QB.  But then you kinda expose yourself to the run, but without the nickelback you expose yourself to the QB run. 

Anyone have any better ideas?



September 10th, 2010 at 10:27 AM ^

like cornering a rabbit, it's going to take two people (or one that not only can keep up, but out-step & out-smart the rabbit). He's fast enough to make a one-on-one situation look bad for most defenders, so he simply (extreme emphasis on the difficulty of "simplicity" goes here) needs to be outnumbered.

Edit: this is under the assumption that the entire offense is doing their proper jobs of blocking. You can hope someone comes off their block well, but you pretty much need two unblocked guys to keep contain on a dual-threat qb.


September 10th, 2010 at 10:03 AM ^

against V. Young in the Rose Bowl, that turned out well. Only thing I would say is just try to guess when it's a run and blitz an LB and hope he gets through to break up the play. Otherwise the RB is yet another blocker and 4 yards is the minimum on any given play.

Clarence Beeks

September 10th, 2010 at 10:04 AM ^

They covered this in an extensive segment on ESPN (can't remember which show) this week and the almost unanimous opinion of the "experts" who were discussing it (it actually might have been "The Experts") was that "spying" was the worst thing that you could do.

Captain Scumbag

September 10th, 2010 at 10:15 AM ^

But it's not that different from an option attack. If the offense wins the battles up front, Denard will look like a rock star. If the offense loses the battles up front, he'll be bottled up. Sure, Denard has the talent to make some gains on bad and broken plays, but he's not going to put up UCONN numbers if the line is getting crushed.

Clarence Beeks

September 10th, 2010 at 10:27 AM ^

Two reasons: (1) it takes your defense out of what it is comfortable with and puts players in positions that are unnatural and uncomfortable with the rest of your defensive scheme and (2) it opens up other options.

Follow-up, did they have a suggestion as to how to best stop a running QB?

Fundamentals and playing assignment football.  If you happened to watch the Auburn v. Mississippi State game last night, there was a quite a bit of discussion about this w/r/t defending Cameron Newton.


September 10th, 2010 at 1:04 PM ^

As a safety who used to get used a spy, this is what I found.  Basically you have to use a safety since most LBs aren't going to have the speed to corner someone like Denard.

So then you have two options.  First one the safety comes forward and isn't replaced.  Then you spend the entire game basically playing with a one safety while not blitzing (since the spy normally hangs out as opposed to coming off a corner style blitz or the like).  So weaker coverage without the benefit of an added pass rusher to offset the weaker secondary.  In this situation, the QB just shreds the secondary since they're basically playing a man down.

Second option is to drop a LB to cover (or replace a LB with another DB, so then you're playing a 4-2-5 type of deal, often with a DE standing up so it looks like a 3-3-5).  I hated this style since one less LB meant my scrawny little safety sized ass was getting slammed into by a pulling guard, a FB, a big old TE, etc.  So here the team loads up with a pair of RBs and starts to do a lot of power work, attacking the LB slot that now holds the DB spy.  

Spying is really only effective when the QB can't throw or has poor WRs to throw at.  Then you just load 8 in the box (first option) and trust your corners to function on their islands.  Denard's has shown he can target open WRs and that our WRs have the speed to get clear of signle corners, so spying is basically saying "Yes, please shred our secondary."  

With a guy like Denard it's all about keeping him moving from side to side until you use a sideline to pin him.  So you have to win in the trenches and have LBs and DEs keeping him moving to the side.  The minute a guard seals a corner or the line opens up a gap down the center of the field, you're in trouble.


September 10th, 2010 at 10:04 AM ^

They had to disable the other team's ringer.  The next time the ringer scored, they pilled on in the end zone, swabbed his arm and shot him full of drugs.

It may come to that.


September 10th, 2010 at 10:05 AM ^

Had Brian Urlacher spy Mike Vick on a regular basis. If you have a freak MLB (6'4'', 260, 4.4 speed) then he can do it.

Most MLBs can probably get a hand on Denard when spying, but I dunno if that would be enough, and if you know who's spying, the offense could probably block him. 

The hardest play to defend will be the QB Power (Straight run for Denard with a RB Lead Block... ask Uconn, it was hard to defend). We won't run it much so he doesn't take hits, but it becomes a blocking numbers game. We have 10 guys to block their 11, and if everyone blocks well, their 11th guy will never catch Denard. This "extra blocker" (usually the QB doesn't block on running plays) is why the wildcat worked so well in the NFL for a little bit


September 10th, 2010 at 10:06 AM ^

I think you have to find a way to put pressure on the QB.  It's a high risk/high reward action, but if you don't bring extra guys(or can't get pressure with 4) then you expose yourself to a slow death of 6-8 yard runs down the field.


September 10th, 2010 at 10:09 AM ^

Usually you don't stop them - that's why WVU with Pat White tended to win a lot.  DR will be the same.  These guys are very rare talents.

In the NFL it would be a different story but in college players like this are lethal.

Captain Scumbag

September 10th, 2010 at 10:12 AM ^

It's the same as any other offense: you win the battle in the trenches. Games where the defensive front seven beat up the WVU line were games in which White struggled (see Pitt 2007).

The offensive systems may change, but football never does. Veer, Spread, West Coast, Pro Style, Run 'n Shoot. It doesn't matter. Win the battle up front soundly and you can stop any offensive system.

If Denard or White are running at your second level consistently, you're in trouble, but that's true if any running back consistently gets to the second level.


September 10th, 2010 at 10:22 AM ^

While I was typing too slowly to post basically the same message below, Capt Scumbag here said the same thing.  D just has to win at LOS and play disciplined.  A good dual threat like White or Vick merely exposes the flaws of the D in more ways; that's the "pressure" a dual threat provides.  But beating that QB doesn't require a new scheme, just requires a better D.

E.g., the wildcat in the NFL for a year or two ran doors off of some D's, but the Ravens never gave up more than like 5 yrs per GAME (not per play) to the wildcat.  Just too good on D for a trick offense by a bad O.


September 10th, 2010 at 12:28 PM ^

Since Supes is in focus, it is presumed that the camera is moving (or at least the focus is0 relative to him. If, in fact, then he is moving faster than those bullets, then they should actually have their blurr trails coming off the FRONT, not the back, and essentially appear to be moving  backwards relative to Supes.

Relativity, Bitches!


September 10th, 2010 at 10:13 AM ^

Using a spy isn't always the best solution.  If the play is a pass you have removed one of your defenders from the play entirely.  Not to mention that if the QB does decide to run, you better hope that your spy is on the right side of the play because if they're caught out of position, nobody else is keeping an eye on the QB and they'll break free.

IMO, the best way to defend a mobile QB is to run zone schemes with the linebackers.  Disciplined football will keep the containment.  If you simplify the responsibilities of the linebackers to just covering an area then they can react to the multiple possibilities that a mobile QB brings much easier. 


September 10th, 2010 at 10:16 AM ^

Well, usually you would stack the line with 9-10 within 5-7 yards of the line of scrimmage. The defense would then be instructed to stay in their lanes and to take good angles. This can be effective if your running QB can't throw. Since we haven't seen Shoe Lace's touch on the long ball, I suspect that ND will use this tactic. You will also see a lot of movement on the D before the snap of the ball so that the young QB can't read the D as easily. However, a bomb or two that hit their targets will render this tactic useless. That is why I honestly do not think that ND has a chance in this one. Shoe Lace is just too damn good!!


September 10th, 2010 at 10:18 AM ^

Listen to what the ND players are saying this week.  The way to stop a Pat White is really no different from an Adrian (sp?) Peterson, etc.  You have to win the one-on-one matchups all over the field.  Get off the blocks.  Hold your position.  Don't allow horizontal gaps.  Keep your eyes open.  If the D line wins at the LOS, there won't be any room to run.

I mean, saying it sounds simple and, obviously, it isn't.  A dual threat merely provides more ways to expose the areas where the O is beating the D.  If the D is getting off the blocks and waiting all over the field to make the tackle, then the QB is really no different from just another fast back looking to avoid the tackles.

I think that's why spying does NOT work.  You end up removing one of your players from active participating in beating the O and plugging holes; the O will figure out who the spy is, find ways to run away from him or wall him off, etc.  Also the spy is one less guy for coverage on passes.  I suspect a D employs a spy when you know the O is going to out-man you  and you, frankly, are a little despirate.

Clarence Beeks

September 10th, 2010 at 12:59 PM ^

Yes.  Pitt beat WVU in that game.  The only problem with your statement is that Wannstadt didn't beat WVU by stopping Pat White.  Pat White still ran for his 5th highest rushing total and passed for his 4th highest passing total of the season in that game.  He also got injured in the game.  WVU lost that game because no one else on their offense did anything in that game and LeSean McCoy ran wild (183 yards on 33 carries, 2TD).  So, really, Pitt didn't stop Pat White, they stopped everyone else on WVU's offense and had an outstanding game by Pitt's running back.


September 10th, 2010 at 10:43 PM ^

Yes. Pitt beat WVU in that game. The only problem with your statement is that Wannstadt didn't beat WVU by stopping Pat White. Pat White still ran for his 5th highest rushing total and passed for his 4th highest passing total of the season in that game. He also got injured in the game. WVU lost that game because no one else on their offense did anything in that game and LeSean McCoy ran wild (183 yards on 33 carries, 2TD). So, really, Pitt didn't stop Pat White, they stopped everyone else on WVU's offense and had an outstanding game by Pitt's running back.



September 10th, 2010 at 10:33 AM ^

I'm not a schematic dude but from what I have seen the answer is to have a good and disciplined front seven. If you can consistently beat multiple offensive linemen you will disrupt the running lanes and force the qb to bounce around, which gives you time to close in. The difference with a scrambler from a pocket type is which part of the line is more important. Beating the tackles will kill a standing soldier (see Tom Brady's career) while a mean middle will take away a scrambler's lanes (also: this is how you beat good RBs). Against denard, I would keep the LBs in zone and gap defenses, and play contain in the outsides, so that the QB is forced to play in the pocket. For a short guy like Robinson or Forcier this means he has to beat you by passing over a mass of 6'7 people. Keep the free safety as a rover to fill any holes and keep scrambles to minimal yardage. Against UConn this strategy gave Michigan a few 3rd and longs. Denard had to make a lot of hard plays to convert these. When a guy can convert 3rd and 15 on a QB draw OR by zinging a D.O. into a small window, you just have to tip your hat. So summary: win in the trenches, play disciplined, make your tackles, and let him make bad decisions out of small windows (as opposed to blitz and pressure which I would use against Emus)


September 10th, 2010 at 10:55 AM ^

right up the middle. You have to make the them make the decision on which way to go and then pray to all that is holy that someone is there to stop them. I think it has everything to do with execution. I don't know that there is a scheme that will consistently stop these guys. If you spy, that's great, but you drastically cut down your pass coverage. You also run the risk of the spy becoming Oline fodder and once that happens you are down a many at the second or third level. Instead of spying I think you are better of bringing the heat right away. The more you let a guy with this type of explosiveness watch the defense develop, the easier it will be for him to pick it apart with legs or arm.