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Film Study: How OSU’s Defensive Line Is so Disruptive



Let’s look at that wild Miketavius Jones sack of Jerrod Heard in the third quarter on Saturday.

What Texas Was Doing

Texas is in a shotgun formation with 4 WRs split out wide (three to the left of the frame, one to the right) and the RB to the left of Heard. It’s a third and long situation, and everyone in the stadium knew a pass (or scramble) was coming.

Once the ball is snapped, all 4 WRs and the RB are running a route. This leaves just the offensive line to block for Heard.

What OSU Was Doing

Last week, we saw a play from OSU’s defense in its 3-3-5 nickel package. We got to see it again this week, but with a fun twist.

OSU is in a 3-3-5 again, but, if you notice, all three defensive linemen are standing straight up. For the sake of this post, we’ll just call this package the 3-3-5 Stand Up. A variation of the Psycho package OSU sometimes uses. (You may have noticed OSU start running this particular package in 2013 when Spencer took over as defensive coordinator.)

Three defensive linemen: Emmanuel Ogbah, Vincent Taylor and Jimmy Bean

Three LBs: Ryan Simmons, Seth Jacobs and Jordan Burton

And five DBs, usually three of which are CBs

Although it’s hard to see in the GIF, there are seven OSU players crowding the line of scrimmage—the three linemen, three LBs and Miketavius Jones.

Already you can see how this formation might cause problems for Texas. The offensive line sees seven people are threatening to rush. Of course, players disguising blitzes before dropping into coverage is a big part of football so we would assume not all seven defenders are rushing, but the offensive line doesn’t know who is rushing and who is going to be dropping back into coverage.

Before the ball is snapped, the line may already be confused trying to figure out what their blocking assignments would be and that confusion could carry over into how they block for Heard. This leads to missed assignments, which, in turn, leads to hurried throws or sacks.

Once the ball is snapped, every defender rushes except for Burton and Jacobs, who drops back to cover the man left free when Jones blitzes.

Here’s where the play gets really fun.

Looking at the GIF, you can see there’s a lot of lateral movement going on amongst the players rushing. These are called stunts. A stunt is basically just a pre-planned maneuver used by defensive linemen or LBs to fool the offensive linemen. A stunt can allow the person performing the stunt to slip past a block, or it could be designed so that the person performing the stunt is freeing up another defender to get free.

If you remember the defensive film breakdown from the Central Arkansas game a couple weeks ago, I wrote a little bit about gap assignments and how important they are. Gap assignments become even more important when a stunt is involved because a player could line up on one offensive lineman or gap prior to the snap and be in a completely different spot when the ball is snapped. Again, this all is done with the intent of confusing the offensive line and QB.

So, let’s look at the gap assignments/stunts on this play.

Starting with three defensive linemen, we see that Taylor is in a 0-technique because he’s lined up directly on top of the center. Ogbah and Bean are both in 5-techniques because they’re lined up on the outside shoulders of the tackles.

Why this worked for OSU

When the ball is snapped, Taylor leaves his position at the 0-technique and goes across the face of the left guard before taking the left tackle head on.

Bean allows Taylor to cross in front of him and moves to fill the spot left by Taylor. When two linemen crisscross in this way it’s usually just referred to as a twist. This is the most common stunt you’ll see and it’s used at the high school, collegiate and pro levels.

Bean briefly engages with the LG before pushing off and heading to the middle of the field, presumably to play contain on Heard should he escape the pressure. Ogbah explodes off the ball and immediately heads toward the A-gap (the gap between the center and guard). Because he’s Ogbah, he rightfully draws a double team from the center and right guard.

Now, if you were to pause the play right when Simmons crosses the line of scrimmage, you would notice that the LT, LG, C and RG are all engaged in blocking Taylor, Bean and Ogbah, or at least trying to.

Screen Shot 2015-10-01 at 11.11.57 AM

That leaves one linemen, the right tackle, to block two players, Simmons and Jones. Well, just like all RTs, Texas’ RT is slow. And Simmons is fast. And Jones is really fast. The RT had no chance at being able to block either of these guys, and you can see him completely whiff on Jones.

It did look like Heard had every intention of passing on this play, but Simmons and Jones got to him so quick that Heard had no choice but to take off. That’s when both Simmons and Jones chase Heard backward before Jones brings him down for a monster 22-yard loss.

There’s no doubt this play was one of the defining plays of the game. This sack causes Texas a chance at an easy three points, and with the way this game was going, that could have aided Texas in getting the victory later on.

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