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Why Chinander prefers the 3-4 Defense

AzHusker

All Big 10
10 Year Member
The "it's all about the jimmy's and joe's" argument really bothers me from Nebraska people who routinely see us get beat by people with lesser talent. Ranks up there with Nebraskans that wanted to get rid of the electoral college after 2016.
Yep, two instances of Nebraskans mid-identifying the root cause of adverse events.
 
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Husker Country Doc

All American
15 Year Member
Great read and thanks...... I submit the proof of Chin's defensive scheme will be in results this season. I realize he needs the right players but lets remember the BIG is a very run heavy conference as opposed to PAC 12. I don't have any preference except use a scheme that doesn't produce one of the worst run stoppers in the conference.
But Wisky runs 3-4, and they have had great defense the last 5-6 yrs, despite changing DC's like underwear.
 

AzHusker

All Big 10
10 Year Member
But Wisky runs 3-4, and they have had great defense the last 5-6 yrs, despite changing DC's like underwear.
Yup. Players and coaches come and go, yet they remain consistent. Somehow they maintain their culture and identity for recruiting, and just keep doing what they do. That O-line of theirs sharpens the d-line and lb’s
 
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ShortSideOption

All Big 10
10 Year Member
But Wisky runs 3-4, and they have had great defense the last 5-6 yrs, despite changing DC's like underwear.
Well, this brings up a good point and one of the reasons I’m ok with the 3-4. If we run a 4-3 we are fighting with a ton more teams to get some players. We are currently fighting with Wisky for Hutmacher since he’s a prototypical nose.
 
The "it's all about the jimmy's and joe's" argument really bothers me from Nebraska people who routinely see us get beat by people with lesser talent. Ranks up there with Nebraskans that wanted to get rid of the electoral college after 2016.
People love to say that, and I think it comes from Switzer saying it. But IMO he was an underrated coach in a lot of ways (maybe Nebraska bias because we all wanted to believe that Osborne was the smart one and that used car salesman Switzer only beat us due to recruiting!). Yes, he could recruit, but he also got a ton out of his talent.. and that wasn't by accident.

That said, you have a lot of flexibility in scheme if you have a guy like Suh or another monster DT who can create havoc. But you're absolutely correct, given the talent we've brought in the past decade, we've done a super lousy job of developing it in many cases.
 
Thanks for the great responses. I'm going to pick out several comments and address them here....

I realize he needs the right players but lets remember the BIG is a very run heavy conference as opposed to PAC 12. I don't have any preference except use a scheme that doesn't produce one of the worst run stoppers in the conference.
I agree, and I think that we all will be able to see the improvement this year due both to greater familiarity with the scheme (which is actually a lot simpler to learn than many others for most positions) and a lot more depth and size in the D-line. We have the personnel to line up in completely different packages against Iowa or Wisconsin when they run 22 Personnel (2 RBs, 2 TEs). I think that we'll see some true 4-man fronts against those teams with an extra DT thrown in when they go heavy.

I'm going to match up your single back set with a five man front with six in coverage.
That is the defensive front that I showed in the 3-4 sketches above. When the OLBs are rolled up to the line, you have a 5-man front. Some coaches call that a 3-4 Up front, but that's mostly what all 3-4 coaches run now as you rarely see 4 LBs lined up 4-5 yards off the Line of Scrimmage.

One last thing, with as many offensive skill players as we need, a 3-4 allows us to have more players recruited for special teams being in a 4 LB set.
Excellent point. The Upper Great Plains produces a lot of athletes in that size range, too. Whether or not they have the quickness/speed is usually the issue, but we have a lot of big, strong kids who love to play football coming out of high school who weigh 200 to 225 pounds, and it's nice to be able to effectively use as many of them as possible.

I think I miss the 4-3 when I watch our 90's D-line being able to zone blitz with those fast OLB's.
Fwiw, Chinander runs a mix of man and zone coverages, but he has every zone blitz package that is plausibly imaginable. I wrote about this already in another post, but if you didn't see it, you'll love to know this.... Do you remember the Jojo Domann strip-sack against Ohio State? That was a beautifully designed and perfectly executed Fire Zone Blitz. One of the problems with the older zone blitzes of the Steelers in the 70s or McBride's Nebraska defense in the mid-90s is that the combinations of formations and motions can make it backfire badly if you make a blitz call, and the offense lines up in a way that attacks it. A Fire Zone Blitz call is one of several general calls that is sent in from the sideline, but it's the players' responsibility to identify the formation in order to make the call for who will actually be blitzing. On that play against Ohio State, Nebraska was lined up in zone coverage with a blitz call to come from the wide side of the field. When OSU lined up, the LBs and Safeties identified who was in coverage, etc., and picked who was free to go. Just before the snap, OSU motioned a TE/H-back over from the left side of the formation to the right side of their formation, and Nebraska had an ILB move with him (so it looked like man coverage to Haskins). What Haskins didn't know is that that LB moved over to cover the shallow center of the zone coverage so that the other ILB and Safety could pick up Domann's WR in coverage, and Domann was automatically unleashed and sent hunting. The beautiful thing about it is that if you watch the replay, you can see the Nebraska defenders communicating with one another, and you can see Domann look over at the LBs, but he never moved his feet, and he never changed his stance or where his eyes were focused (on the inside WR's numbers). At the snap of the ball Haskins looked left because he expected a WR to come open against man coverage on the outside, but it was zone, and he couldn't tell until it was too late. Meanwhile, Domann got a straight shot at him, and he put the hammer down. It doesn't get any more beautiful than that, and the fact that all of the adjustments were made on the field, in real time shows how well Chinander's defense can adapt in real time.

I've been burned on the 3-4 since it hasn't really worked well for us, IMO.
Give it a chance. You haven't really seen the 3-4 yet. You've seen Diaco's version of the permanent prevent defense, and you saw Chinander trying to get through a season without key guys in positions that are crucial.

I see two interior O-lineman take on our LB's and it just doesn't look that good to me.
I'm not sure which games you were talking about, but we looked our worst on defense against Michigan against the run, followed by Wisconsin, so I assume that you mean one or both of those games. I don't think that we'll line up the same way against either this year, but even if we do, those Guards were getting to our ILBs so quickly because the Center and OTs were all able to handle our 3 down linemen one-on-one. That won't happen this year. Pick a game that made you cringe, go back and watch the other team's highlights of the game, and you'll consistently see our D-line getting shoved back 3-5 yards on every key play. That can't happen, but we didn't have the bodies to stop it. To put names to the positions, last year you would have seen Carlos Davis at NG, Freedom Akinmoladun at one DE, and either Kahlil Davis or Ben Stille at the other DE. This year we'll have a bigger, stronger Carlos Davis slid out to DE, and when we know they're going heavy, we can have Damion Daniels at NG and Darrion Daniels at the other DE. If the other team's O-linemen can block those guys one-on-one, let alone shove them backwards into the LBs, we have no hope. Add in Green, who can play either NG or DE, and a bigger, stronger Stille, who I think will play a sort of hybrid DE/OLB position at times to the short side of the field against heavy offensive units, and our biggest, strongest guys last year would now be smaller and not as strong as our smallest D-linemen this year. If our D-linemen hold their ground, our LBs will make plays that weren't even possible a year ago because they were having to jump over the bodies of their own teammates before being blocked by another O-lineman who got to the hole first. Those days are over.

Also those short passing games that killed us in the recent past were embarrassing to watch at times.
Are you referring to 2017 and the defense under He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named? We don't run anything like that defense anymore.

Wisconsin and Iowa and Northwestern are not out-recruiting Nebraska. They are out developing us; and have consistent schemes over time. This is the secret sauce. Not A gaps and 3 techniques or all of that other stuff. It's picking something and perfecting it.
Mostly agree, but some clarification. Yes, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Northwestern have clearly been beating us by out-developing our players and running consistent schemes, but it's worth pointing out that their schemes have ceilings when they run into teams with properly developed personnel who are slightly quicker and run schemes to take away their strengths. Wisconsin may never have a better combination of offensive linemen and RB than what they had last year, yet defenses consistently stopped them when they had decent D-lines. Ferentz has some sort of magical potion for when the big guns come to play in Iowa City, so I don't know what to make of that, but they're not going on the road and shoving the ball down the throats of teams with good D-linemen. When Nebraska is able to stop both teams' power running games without cutting corners somewhere else, those offenses are in a lot of trouble.

I've always felt that the zone read is the spiritual successor to the old option schemes that Osborne used to run.
I agree, and Osborne has said as much when talking about how he thought his offense would have evolved had he stayed coaching much longer. Nebraska fans forget how often we were already running 1-back sets in the mid-90s, and it was almost all zone blocking up front. If Frazier and Frost had been in shotgun more often, it would have taken Osborne a matter of a handful of games to figure out how to run his own version of the Zone Read and the Power Read (which is pretty much what Frost was running from under center in '97) and the Shotgun Veer.
 
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DuckTownHusker

Blackshirt Sith Lord
5 Year Member
I agree, and Osborne has said as much when talking about how he thought his offense would have evolved had he stayed coaching much longer. Nebraska fans forget how often we were already running 1-back sets in the mid-90s, and it was almost all zone blocking up front. If Frazier and Frost had been in shotgun more often, it would have taken Osborne a matter of a handful of games to figure out how to run his own version of the Zone Read and the Power Read (which is pretty much what Frost was running from under center in '97) and the Shotgun Veer.
Exactly, and you even saw some of this evolution under Frank Solich with Crouch and Jammal Lord. I think most Husker fans would agree that Solich wasn't the offensive genius that Osborne was, but you can start to see the beginnings of a zone read style option in those years. Crouch was a better passer (and runner!) than Lord, but especially during Lord's tenure you saw a lot of "creative" option style plays.



Also, man I forgot how strong Lord could throw. His ability to just flick off passes while scrambling (and on the wrong foot) is like a more accurate version of Taylor Martinez.
 

AzHusker

All Big 10
10 Year Member
Well, this brings up a good point and one of the reasons I’m ok with the 3-4. If we run a 4-3 we are fighting with a ton more teams to get some players. We are currently fighting with Wisky for Hutmacher since he’s a prototypical nose.
True. With all of the other interchangeable parts and almost “position-less” ability to move athletes around in this defense, the one position it takes very specific (and rare) attributes is the NT. Those guys are the core.
 
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DuckTownHusker

Blackshirt Sith Lord
5 Year Member
It may have been Shatel, but one of the OWH writers at the time referred to Lord as having a gladiator's body, and I always thought that that was an apt description. He was under-appreciated.
Here's a quick snapshot of heights and weights for NU quarterbacks. Obviously, this isn't ALL of them, but it's interesting to look at. Frost and Berringer have been our biggest QBs and that's pretty easily observed given how they trucked over LBs and safeties in their careers.

Also, players are getting bigger and more muscular as time goes on, thanks to evolution in strength training and nutrition. Makes you realize that Jerry Tagge was a big ol' MF to be playing in the era that he did.

In a game of inches, this chart is LITERALLY a game of inches, but I find it interesting that Adrian Martinez is in a similar HT/WT class as Lord, Frost and Berringer. Adrian seems to be a bit more lanky than especially either Lord or Frost, but he's definitely a big kid out there.

6'0 / 190 / Gill
6'0 / 205 / S. Taylor
6'0 / 210 / Crouch
6'1 / 185 / Gdowski
6'1 / 210 / T. Martinez
6'1 / 220 / Armstrong
6'2 / 190 / Humm
6'2 / 205 / Frazier
6'2 / 210 / Z. Taylor
6'2 / 215 / Tagge
6'2 / 215 / Lord
6'2 / 220 / A. Martinez
6'3 / 190 / Ganz
6'3 / 215 / Ferragamo
6'3 / 220 / Frost
6'4 / 220 / Berringer
 
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Huskerthom

All Legend
5 Year Member
Here's a quick snapshot of heights and weights for NU quarterbacks. Obviously, this isn't ALL of them, but it's interesting to look at. Frost and Berringer have been our biggest QBs and that's pretty easily observed given how they trucked over LBs and safeties in their careers.

Also, players are getting bigger and more muscular as time goes on, thanks to evolution in strength training and nutrition. Makes you realize that Jerry Tagge was a big ol' MF to be playing in the era that he did.

In a game of inches, this chart is LITERALLY a game of inches, but I find it interesting that Adrian Martinez is in a similar HT/WT class as Lord, Frost and Berringer. Adrian seems to be a bit more lanky than especially either Lord or Frost, but he's definitely a big kid out there.

6'0 / 190 / Gill
6'0 / 205 / S. Taylor
6'0 / 210 / Crouch
6'1 / 185 / Gdowski
6'1 / 210 / T. Martinez
6'1 / 220 / Armstrong
6'2 / 190 / Humm
6'2 / 205 / Frazier
6'2 / 210 / Z. Taylor
6'2 / 215 / Tagge
6'2 / 215 / Lord
6'2 / 220 / A. Martinez
6'3 / 190 / Ganz
6'3 / 215 / Ferragamo
6'3 / 220 / Frost
6'4 / 220 / Berringer
I think that 2AM carries a lot of weight in his legs. His upper body is not huge but he has large thighs.
 

cthusker

You talken to me?
5 Year Member
Here's a quick snapshot of heights and weights for NU quarterbacks. Obviously, this isn't ALL of them, but it's interesting to look at. Frost and Berringer have been our biggest QBs and that's pretty easily observed given how they trucked over LBs and safeties in their careers.

Also, players are getting bigger and more muscular as time goes on, thanks to evolution in strength training and nutrition. Makes you realize that Jerry Tagge was a big ol' MF to be playing in the era that he did.

In a game of inches, this chart is LITERALLY a game of inches, but I find it interesting that Adrian Martinez is in a similar HT/WT class as Lord, Frost and Berringer. Adrian seems to be a bit more lanky than especially either Lord or Frost, but he's definitely a big kid out there.

6'0 / 190 / Gill
6'0 / 205 / S. Taylor
6'0 / 210 / Crouch
6'1 / 185 / Gdowski
6'1 / 210 / T. Martinez
6'1 / 220 / Armstrong
6'2 / 190 / Humm
6'2 / 205 / Frazier
6'2 / 210 / Z. Taylor
6'2 / 215 / Tagge
6'2 / 215 / Lord
6'2 / 220 / A. Martinez
6'3 / 190 / Ganz
6'3 / 215 / Ferragamo
6'3 / 220 / Frost
6'4 / 220 / Berringer
I would lost that bet on TF...... thought for sure he was heavier then 205! He ran like he was 220+ especially when someone tried to arm tackle him.. I might have him confused with TF of today versus TF of yesteryear... :Lol:
 
- Most of Chip Kelly's big L's came from a 4 down front (see Stanford). But I have heard that he loves finding the 3 tech and thinks he can score. I would love to get to 12-1 and only lose a game a year like Chip so we can cross that bridge when we get there.
Those Stanford teams were NFL solid on both sides of the ball, which is the equivalent of putting a thumb on the scale. I want to go back and watch some of those games when I have time this summer. Did Stanford run a 4-2?

- Chinanders main point to run this is to package blitzes easier (I think you went into this after coaches clinic?). Week to week, he was able to do mostly the same things without having to have DEs in coverage. As great of an athlete as Randy Gregory or Greg McMullen was, they aren't covering anyone.
Yes, that is what he said, and I did write about that somewhere. It's basically a Swiss Army knife type of defense where you can just move things around to get the tool you want for the job. Watching Stille in the Red-White game playing out of a 2-point stance slightly out in space, I couldn't help but think that we're likely to see him doing something similar against Wisconsin and/or Iowa, except that there will still be a NG and 2 DTs on the field with him to make the equivalent of a 4-man front with Stille as an edge rusher outside of a TE. If we were ever to play someone like UCF, we could go light and fast across the board with Domann and Dixon at OLB, Taylor at Nickle, and just one true ILB. Even though they still aren't close to having the personnel that they want, it's mind-boggling to think of all of the combinations that they can already use now.

- However, teams like Alabama have now shifted to a 4 man front, so it makes you wonder if Chip thinks he would have success against them? Talent gap would be biggest factor.
Alabama has that Harbaugh-era Stanford advantage of NFL caliber linemen, except even more of them. I have no idea what he would say now, but I know that the 2011 Chip Kelly watched the BCS NC game between LSU and Alabama and desperately wished that he could have got his offense on the field with either team's defense. Saban also has the luxury of having NFL caliber everything, so he has LBs behind the D-line who can both run and shed blocks to get to a hole, Safeties who can tackle and run, and even CBs who are expected to tackle. But which teams have given him the most trouble? Manziel's A&M spread look gave them fits, as did Ole Miss's spread, as has Gus Malzahn's Auburn spread. Who's the last non-spread team to beat Saban besides Clemson? Whatever defensive front Saban runs, he's going to have the personnel and the schemes to give multiple looks to match up with any offense. It will be a good problem for Nebraska when/if we have to start figuring out how to attack Saban's defense because it's hard to imagine that matchup taking place in the Foster Farms Little Caesar's Belk GoDaddy Bowl.

- The overhangs with the OLB create some line call issues, because if they are on the line they will make a call to go full zone and block them regardless of where the ball is going. Tulsa vs UCF took 2 60+ yard runs back to back out of trips because they just washed down de and cutback cuz overhang had to cover #3 to the field.
I agree that the unbalanced formations create matchup problems. If you shift DBs over, you have matchup problems on the backside, but if you don't, you have matchup problems on the front side.
 
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MadRat

Recruit
2 Year Member
Both 3-4 and 4-3 fronts require great DT's. The 3-4 requires great OLB's. The 4-3 requires great DE's. And 3-4's create a 4-3 look using several alignments. My personal favorite (and hardest to execute well) uses a dominant DE in the seven technique. Nothing prevents a 4-3 from creating 3-4 looks. I really don't believe it is difficult to teach either. It just requires a couple years in either system to form winning habits. There is a learning curve to them and don't ever let anyone say there is not.

Against one-back sets the reason you play a five man front is not to look like a 5-2, 3-4, or anything else. It's done solely to contain the QB. Passing downs from a one-back set require the DL to fight to bar positions. And you can add pressure with any of the six DBs. I personally like spying DE's to set up zone blitzes. But I can also use delayed coverages and rotations to create flooded coverages around their main passing targets. It's not beyond me to throw a DE out to the flat and swing in two DBs from the opposite side as everyone basically shift responsibility over one man or zone depending on the call. And OL's that lack good vision get pulverized by delayed blitzes and stunts like looping linemen.
 
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