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Line Segment: OSU’s Defensive Line Gets Help in Adding Pressure



This was by far the most interesting defensive scheme prepared by Glenn Spencer in possibly his entire tenure at Oklahoma State. I think a lot of that stems from the fact that Spencer knows he needs to get pressure on the QB in the Big 12 to have a chance, and that issue needs to get ironed out before they enter into the meat of the Big 12 schedule.

There was a lot of buzz coming out of the summer and fall camp that we would see multiple looks from the OSU defense up front, and we definitely saw that and more Saturday against Baylor. One of the biggest advantages of playing three-down is the flexibility it gives you with your back eight, in both coverage and rushing the passer.

A big part of what I wanted to see watching the tape would be what happened on the first drive. It seemed like Baylor just marched down the field and scored pretty easily, and the most surprising part was it was on the ground. Baylor had 10 rushes for 57 yards on their first and only TD drive of the game, this coming from one of the worst rushing teams in the country.

I think the answer is pretty simple, although I was pretty impressed with some of Baylor’s run blocking. Fact is, I think OSU wasn’t expecting Baylor to come out and try to establish the run game. The Bears have a fairly explosive vertical passing game, and OSU came in fully expecting to try and stop that aspect of their offense. OSU came out trying to take away the Bears’ vertical game and hit the edges for rushing the passer, and Baylor kept gashing OSU on inside zone plays.

OSU came out with a three-man front and actually slanted their defensive line several times. Anyone who stays up for #PAC12afterdark knows that Washington State has been having a lot of success slanting their undersized D-line. Generally, slanting is designed to punch the gaps for added pass rush, but consequently is counterproductive against the run — especially on zone run plays. It generally leaves one side over-exposed, where you rely on safeties or even sometimes corners to fill in gaps vacated by the slanting defensive lineman.

OSU slanted their lineman twice on the first drive, and I counted another two times throughout the game but they were more pass-oriented downs (which is where they’re best served). Not surprisingly, the run plays were a success. For the most part after the first drive, the defense settled down and defended the run admirably. It helped that the defense came back the second drive and was far more aggressive stopping the run.

OSU was credited with one sack and four QB hurries. However, there was a noticeable difference in pressure applied to the QB in this game. The rush defense wasn’t up to par overall giving up 219 yards and 4.8 yards per carry.

The biggest story here was the multiple looks OSU gave throughout the entire game. I think Spencer is finally comfortable with this linebacker corps. And he is taking full advantage. This was Calvin Bundage’s pass-rushing coming-out party, as he was sent on countless blitzes to apply additional pressure. I will try to provide a few examples below, but it was a lot of fun to check out all of the different looks that OSU gave the Baylor offensive line.

Observations from film review

Here are two examples of what I was referring to with slanting. As you can see below, each defensive lineman is trying to cross the face of the lineman in front of him and tries get to at least the outside hip of the next offensive lineman. That leaves a pretty big hole on the left side which leads to a 5-yard gain.

Same situation here but add on double-dog blitz. Perfect play call by Baylor with the counter away from the flow of the slants, and you get a nice gain.

This was a really nice push by the D-line as a whole here, but I wanted to highlight how much more aggressive the front seven was. This was the second drive after getting steamrolled on the TD drive. Eight guys in the box. Nice job blowing up the pulling guard.

This was a huge play for obvious reasons, but it’s really nice awareness by Phillips. He was sent on an outside blitz, able to recognize the pass attempt quickly and explode towards the QB for the sack.

This is nice work by the Baylor offensive line. The right guard does a nice job with Osborne, which is not easy. The center gets a good block on Bakari, then the left guard helps with Bakari and has the awareness to pull off and seal the linebacker. The running back picks the vacant hole left by the linebacket and he is off to the races for a nice gain. Bakari gets slid off his spot outside about two yards, which opens up the hole. He needs to have better gap integrity and needs to be strong enough to stay in his lane.

DQ stonewalling the running back. He’s good.

Jordan Brailford is not supposed to be able to run down a running back. He’s fast.

This is where it gets fun.  Here are some examples of what I was referring to with the different looks with a three-man front.

EXAMPLE 1 – Cross-dog blitz bringing all three backers. Check out Osborne. These guys are so worried about him he almost occupies three offensive lineman. This action creates a massive lane for both Phillips and Bundage looping around on the cross, both unblocked. This was actually a pretty good play call. If Phillips wasn’t athletic enough to tackle him behind the line, there was a gaping hole that probably would’ve led to a first down here.

EXAMPLE 2 – Double-dog blitz with slants. Same play call as the second video listed up above but inverted on the other side of the field. You can see how successful it is in a passing situation versus a running play going away from the action. With the D-line alignment it gives you the false perception that the left side of the offensive line will be in help mode given that the defensive line has shifted towards the weak side. But in reality there will be two rushers against the left tackle. Bundage rushes untouched and clobbers the quarterback to cause a quick throw.

EXAMPLE 3 – Zone blitz with three lineman dropping into coverage. Is this real life? This was mentioned in the Chalk Talk, but it’s simply too good not to mention again.

EXAMPLE 4 –  Three-man rush with Bundage showing blitz. He drops back into coverage. Really keeping Baylor guessing.

It was very apparent how the Oklahoma State defense was keeping Baylor on their heels with the different looks and blitz game from all sides of the field. The emergence of Justin Phillips and Calvin Bundage allows Glenn Spencer to dial up some really unique blitz packages. They have a different level of athleticism at linebacker that OSU hasn’t had before and it enables Spencer to open the playbook up. This will only help the defensive line form a more traditional rush with the opposing O-lines unsure where the pressure is coming from. Next week against Texas with All-American Connor Williams still sidelined, Texas is susceptible to giving up sacks and it’s crucial that OSU capitalize.

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