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Why Chinander prefers the 3-4 Defense

MadRat

Recruit
2 Year Member
Speaking or reading back through. I went back to MABC's original and there is one team during my years in Nebraska that really turned this on its head.

Elkhorn, before they divided it into two Elkhorns, was ruling Class B football. Sure they had monster class sizes compared to the other teams, but they also had a unique defensive scheme. They used both DT's in 3 techniques and both ILBs inside. I didn't ever get game film to decypher their scheme, but whatever they were doing it worked. The only real threats were sweeps against them, which they dominated teams with their own speed. And throwbacks away from action to the backside flat. But that is more difficult to do play after play than people probably would guess. Kind of reminded me how we broke the 5-4 run by Elkhorn Mount Michael once upon a time. But MM didn't have the speed edge and we dominated them pretty bad. Elhorn's 6-2 look with tackles in the 3's was a scheme I simply never had the pleasure to compete against. However, I did see it a couple of times and they didn't seem to use many stunts as much as they stayed in the base. Anyone familiar with their scheme?
 

Always go for 2

837th Most Interesting Man on HuskerMax
2 Year Member
Thanks @Middle-aged_Ball_Coach!

My question: You've shown us why a 3-4 is good against a Chip Kelly / Scott Frost "race-car" offense. What happens when Wisconsin or Iowa bring their old-fashioned "three yards and a cloud of dust" steamroller offense to town? Is it just a matter of bringing more beef to the defensive front?
 

AzHusker

All Big 10
10 Year Member
Thanks @Middle-aged_Ball_Coach!

My question: You've shown us why a 3-4 is good against a Chip Kelly / Scott Frost "race-car" offense. What happens when Wisconsin or Iowa bring their old-fashioned "three yards and a cloud of dust" steamroller offense to town? Is it just a matter of bringing more beef to the defensive front?
I’m not coach and don’t claim to have his knowledge/experience but Wiscy runs a 3-4 also - they’ve had to adjust to Meyers power spread attack at Ohio State and to others. The 3-4 is known as the “Swiss Army Knife” of defensive schemes. Their defense obviously has to play against their so-called “steamroller” offense every day in practice so they find the personnel and adjustments to deal with them. They’ve been very stout for years too, obviously. Their culture is known for physical line play, and they get it.

Frost has said “culture eats scheme for breakfast” and I agree. Pellini ran a 4-3 system- take a look at some film of Nebraska v Wisconsin during his tenure. It’s not just scheme.
 

Huskerthom

All Legend
5 Year Member
Thanks @Middle-aged_Ball_Coach!

My question: You've shown us why a 3-4 is good against a Chip Kelly / Scott Frost "race-car" offense. What happens when Wisconsin or Iowa bring their old-fashioned "three yards and a cloud of dust" steamroller offense to town? Is it just a matter of bringing more beef to the defensive front?
Not MABC but one thing you could do is morph it into the old school 5-2 by moving the OLB up to play DE.
 

MadRat

Recruit
2 Year Member
If anything, penetration. The three yards and a cloud of dust is my favorite theme. (Because it consistently works!) I really don't like to see the defenders successfully hold C-gap, especially if he can maintain inside shoulder on the tightend rather than outside shoulder of my OT. It makes it more complicated to sustain a drive. If the TE+OT combo* of the DE then the DT has outside leverage into the path of the play. If the OG+OT combo* on the DT then the DT has inside leverage into the path of the play. If we use big on big and use TE to get to the LB we leave the LB in good position to flow into the path. So we have to use scissors, loops, and a lead blocker to try to create matchups. The problem with even better tactics is that you cannot do it consistently, because the defensive guy will naturally adjust technique. I can run all day against a DE that allows the OT to get good position to handle him one on one, but when they play inside the tight end AND beat our blocks it ultimately leads to penetration.

* assumes the combo doesn't knock the defender into the face/lane of the LBs in which case its usually a big offensive play.
 
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Modern offensive football rarely allows for either and that's hard for me to get used to.
Did you watch the Super Bowl? Belichick was running a 6-man front whenever the Rams used their tight-bunch formation, which is pretty much their base formation. I'm a Rams fan, but I've still watched that game multiple times because it's as close as football defense can get to being physical poetry. The irony, though, is that Wade Phillips' Rams defense would have been the talk of the league if they'd won. I honestly didn't think that it was possible to ever again have a high-profile game like that where 2 defenses were able to smother 2 highly potent offenses. I mostly approach things from an offensive perspective, but I admire excellence too much to not recognize that what we saw was something close to defensive perfection. Of course, the average fan hated it. Everybody loved the Rams-Chiefs game where the points went up like a pinball machine, but that Super Bowl will be discussed decades from now because it's still too soon for people to appreciate it for what it was.

I love all of it, love learning about these concepts and I enjoy the discussions that evolve from these topics. Keep up the good work. Love learning from you guys.
If you have specific questions, or if there are specific plays, schemes, concepts, whatever, that you'd like to know more about, let me know. I enjoy writing, and I love football, and if you ask something that I don't know, I love asking other coaches about it to learn something new for myself.

The thing is, it really couldn't be explained in such simplified & understandable detail in a shorter post.
I genuinely appreciate this observation. It takes me very little time to write a very long post, but it often takes 3-5x longer to go back and strip away the fluff, expand the things that are heavy in terminology, and clean up the language. If I ever start a new thread with a long post like that, you can be assured that I've probably proof-read it and rewrote close to 5-6 times before I posted it, and then I re-read it again and still find errors.

My question: You've shown us why a 3-4 is good against a Chip Kelly / Scott Frost "race-car" offense. What happens when Wisconsin or Iowa bring their old-fashioned "three yards and a cloud of dust" steamroller offense to town? Is it just a matter of bringing more beef to the defensive front?
You can't think of it in terms of a wholesale change in the defense or defensive philosophy so much as marginal changes at the edges. Wisconsin and Iowa pose similar problems, but they actually have slightly different offensive philosophies, so defenses going against them have to focus on slightly different things. As others already said in response, the simplest thing is to move more people into the line, but you can't just throw more D-linemen on the field and still cover the same bases. Let's look at what we could do against Wisconsin when they run their heavy set, which they use a lot in short yardage situations.

This video should start right at the 0:45 mark, but make sure that you slow it down to the slowest possible speed on YouTube (.25) and then freeze it as soon as they cut away from interviewing Taylor after the game. Immediately when the play starts, notice how there are already three Wisconsin O-linemen who have fired out across the Line of Scrimmage and have their shoulders turned perpendicular to the LoS. The play is a power-lead (or iso) type play out of a zone blocking scheme, and it could have come directly out of Osborne's 1995 offensive playbook. Before we can talk about what Nebraska should do to stop this play, which is their bread & butter, we need to understand what Wisconsin is trying to do. Watch the play in slow-motion a few teams before reading anything more because you'll find that you probably already notice a lot of stuff that you didn't see at the time or even on replay in normal speed.


What is Wisconsin's goal on this play besides the obvious of gaining yards? They want to seal anybody at the Line of Scrimmage who is capable of getting penetration, and they want to get bodies out onto the Inside LBs as quickly as possible. The WRs, TEs, and the H-back/FB all have responsibilities to handle the peripheral players in the secondary, but the bedrock for that play to work is that the O-line needs to seal off the D-line and get hands on the ILBs as quickly as possible. Their linemen know that, and they're discussing that even as they come up to the line, and they're probably debating who has the best angle to seal that D-lineman versus going and getting an ILB. Here's what's crazy/annoying about that play: It worked, even though they blew their assignment. The Left OT blocked Nebraska's OLB who was rolled up tight on the Line, probably because the OT thought that the OLB could blitz and get into the backfield and disrupt the play before Taylor got back to the LoS. Look at the Center, though. He's blocking the Nebraska defensive end on his left side (Nebraska's right side), and he's NOT blocking Carlos Davis, #96. who was playing NG. Wisconsin's Right OT is blocking Nebraska's Left DE. The two Wisconsin Guards are already 3 yards upfield, hunting ILBs. Based on what I just wrote, this play should NOT have worked. The NG gets in the backfield and either stuffs the run or else forces him to bounce it outside, but that didn't happen. Davis was going right, so I don't know if that was a line stunt or if he was reading the first step of the Center, or what, but he took himself out of the play. Even worse, the two Guards end up both blocking Diedrich, which left Mo Barry free to make the play, but he couldn't see the ball because of all of the traffic, and by the time he does, one of the Guards comes back to block him and de-cleats him. All of the peripheral Wisconsin players do a great job of getting downfield in position to cut off the secondary and outside players from making a tackle. So what could Nebraska do differently?

First, we start with our D-line. If opposing offensive lines can block our 3 down linemen, one-on-one, consistently in the running game, we're probably screwed already. The best way to stop that play is to keep our LBs clean and untouched for as long as possible, and the best way to do that is to at the very least force two O-linemen to at least temporarily have hands on our NG and the DE at the point of the attack. Our NG and/or DE does not have to penetrate the backfield and make a great play on his own, but if there isn't at least the threat of that happening, they're going to have one O-lineman take each one out, and the others are racing to our ILBs. If we did nothing else except for them to have to double-team 2 of our D-linemen, we'd stop that play for minimal gain. If Wisconsin's center can't block the Daniels brothers or Green, one-on-one, we're already halfway there. If our DEs can be disruptive, they'll also draw a double-team. I think that we'll have that this year.

If you want to amp up our D-line a little more, play Ben Stille on the boundary side of the field as a hybrid DE/OLB. He played OLB before, so it's not a foreign concept for him, but if we can line him up on the outside shoulder of whoever is lined up at the end of their line, they are NOT going to move him out of the way easily with a single block from an H-back or FB. He just needs to keep his outside arm free and contain anything coming his way, and--if it's a TE on his side--give the TE a good solid hand-check to his outside shoulder when he fires off so that he's slowed up to go block someone or go out for a pass. If they have 2 or more TEs on the field, put Stille at the OLB to the short side of the field. You want him to be on the TE side so that the CB on his side can roll up a little tighter and help cover some of the deeper flats stuff that an OLB would cover, and you'll still have the ILBs over the middle-shallow and the Safeties for the middle-deep stuff, in case it's a play-action pass. Stille would be automatically designated as a pass rusher, and he'd have outside containment on any running plays coming his way. We generally had Luke Gifford doing this last year, and as much as I loved Luke Gifford, I don't think that blocking him ever struck terror in the heart of a TE or H-back or FB the way that they would if they were having to block Stille coming off the edge with a full head of steam and evil intentions.

All that remains is run fits and doing your job. Ideally, we want our ILBs to be immediately moving towards the line when they read that it's a running play, so even if a Guard is coming out to get them, we want our ILB to meet them in the hole and as close to the Line of Scrimmage as possible so that the ILB can stay square to the ball carrier while pinching off as much of the hole as possible. No matter how you draw up a play, offensively or defensively, it still comes down to execution. If their O-linemen can block our D-linemen and ILBs, their plays will probably work. If they're able to do that while engaging our ILBs 3-4 yards downfield, we're probably toast. Somebody needs to beat their blocker and make a play, and we need penetration in the line wherever possible, but under control. We need ILBs moving fast to fill the holes, and if they get blocked, it needs to be in such a way that the person blocking him is now partially plugging up the hole that the RB is supposed to be running through.

Here's a very simple diagram with very simple red lines showing a common play call for where they attack, and that also represents the gaps that they have to cover for their run-fits. A good D-lineman doesn't have to make the tackle because it's very possible to stuff the play just by being where you're supposed to be and occupying 2 or more blockers.
upload_2019-4-21_22-12-13.png

The yellow hexagon represents where I would put Stille, and the yellow triangle would be the CB who I'd roll up tighter to help cover the normal responsibilities of the OLB in pass coverage. If they motion another receiver over to that side, the CB would cover him, the Safeties would slide to their left, and the CB on the backside would drop back a little while sliding inside more. If that happened, you could tell the OLB on the Nebraska right side (Wisconsin's left) to blitz as the CB could cover the outside containment. Regardless, at the end of the day, someone needs to beat their blocker and make the play, preferably as far upfield as possible. Here's what that would look like with the shifts:

upload_2019-4-21_23-11-59.png
 
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Frostfan

Red Shirt
5 Year Member
He likes the 3-4 because Mr. Frost likes the 3-4. Frost believes the best way to cover the spread style offense is with the cover 2, but predicated on getting to the quarterback...duh, I know. Seems different blitz packages work well with the 3-4. With the improved secondary, watching the defense will be fun again. GBR
 

MadRat

Recruit
2 Year Member
So what defensive coverage is not possible going from 3-4 to 4-3, and vice versa? Tomàto, tomáto.
 
He likes the 3-4 because Mr. Frost likes the 3-4.
This implies that he likes whatever Frost likes, and he isn't thinking for himself. Frost picked Chinander to be his DC--and Chinander wants to be Frost's DC--because both have been shaped by many of the same influences from Northern Iowa through Oregon, and both have arrived at the same perspectives on both offense and defense. How they got there is interesting, but you sell Chinander short when you phrase things the way that you did. He will be sought after as a head coach soon, and/or he will have NFL teams who want him as a DC. We won't properly value him until he's gone.
 

gardenjam

Red Shirt
2 Year Member
Did you watch the Super Bowl? Belichick was running a 6-man front whenever the Rams used their tight-bunch formation, which is pretty much their base formation. I'm a Rams fan, but I've still watched that game multiple times because it's as close as football defense can get to being physical poetry. The irony, though, is that Wade Phillips' Rams defense would have been the talk of the league if they'd won. I honestly didn't think that it was possible to ever again have a high-profile game like that where 2 defenses were able to smother 2 highly potent offenses. I mostly approach things from an offensive perspective, but I admire excellence too much to not recognize that what we saw was something close to defensive perfection. Of course, the average fan hated it. Everybody loved the Rams-Chiefs game where the points went up like a pinball machine, but that Super Bowl will be discussed decades from now because it's still too soon for people to appreciate it for what it was.



If you have specific questions, or if there are specific plays, schemes, concepts, whatever, that you'd like to know more about, let me know. I enjoy writing, and I love football, and if you ask something that I don't know, I love asking other coaches about it to learn something new for myself.



I genuinely appreciate this observation. It takes me very little time to write a very long post, but it often takes 3-5x longer to go back and strip away the fluff, expand the things that are heavy in terminology, and clean up the language. If I ever start a new thread with a long post like that, you can be assured that I've probably proof-read it and rewrote close to 5-6 times before I posted it, and then I re-read it again and still find errors.



You can't think of it in terms of a wholesale change in the defense or defensive philosophy so much as marginal changes at the edges. Wisconsin and Iowa pose similar problems, but they actually have slightly different offensive philosophies, so defenses going against them have to focus on slightly different things. As others already said in response, the simplest thing is to move more people into the line, but you can't just throw more D-linemen on the field and still cover the same bases. Let's look at what we could do against Wisconsin when they run their heavy set, which they use a lot in short yardage situations.

This video should start right at the 0:45 mark, but make sure that you slow it down to the slowest possible speed on YouTube (.25) and then freeze it as soon as they cut away from interviewing Taylor after the game. Immediately when the play starts, notice how there are already three Wisconsin O-linemen who have fired out across the Line of Scrimmage and have their shoulders turned perpendicular to the LoS. The play is a power-lead (or iso) type play out of a zone blocking scheme, and it could have come directly out of Osborne's 1995 offensive playbook. Before we can talk about what Nebraska should do to stop this play, which is their bread & butter, we need to understand what Wisconsin is trying to do. Watch the play in slow-motion a few teams before reading anything more because you'll find that you probably already notice a lot of stuff that you didn't see at the time or even on replay in normal speed.


What is Wisconsin's goal on this play besides the obvious of gaining yards? They want to seal anybody at the Line of Scrimmage who is capable of getting penetration, and they want to get bodies out onto the Inside LBs as quickly as possible. The WRs, TEs, and the H-back/FB all have responsibilities to handle the peripheral players in the secondary, but the bedrock for that play to work is that the O-line needs to seal off the D-line and get hands on the ILBs as quickly as possible. Their linemen know that, and they're discussing that even as they come up to the line, and they're probably debating who has the best angle to seal that D-lineman versus going and getting an ILB. Here's what's crazy/annoying about that play: It worked, even though they blew their assignment. The Left OT blocked Nebraska's OLB who was rolled up tight on the Line, probably because the OT thought that the OLB could blitz and get into the backfield and disrupt the play before Taylor got back to the LoS. Look at the Center, though. He's blocking the Nebraska defensive end on his left side (Nebraska's right side), and he's NOT blocking Carlos Davis, #96. who was playing NG. Wisconsin's Right OT is blocking Nebraska's Left DE. The two Wisconsin Guards are already 3 yards upfield, hunting ILBs. Based on what I just wrote, this play should NOT have worked. The NG gets in the backfield and either stuffs the run or else forces him to bounce it outside, but that didn't happen. Davis was going right, so I don't know if that was a line stunt or if he was reading the first step of the Center, or what, but he took himself out of the play. Even worse, the two Guards end up both blocking Diedrich, which left Mo Barry free to make the play, but he couldn't see the ball because of all of the traffic, and by the time he does, one of the Guards comes back to block him and de-cleats him. All of the peripheral Wisconsin players do a great job of getting downfield in position to cut off the secondary and outside players from making a tackle. So what could Nebraska do differently?

First, we start with our D-line. If opposing offensive lines can block our 3 down linemen, one-on-one, consistently in the running game, we're probably screwed already. The best way to stop that play is to keep our LBs clean and untouched for as long as possible, and the best way to do that is to at the very least force two O-linemen to at least temporarily have hands on our NG and the DE at the point of the attack. Our NG and/or DE does not have to penetrate the backfield and make a great play on his own, but if there isn't at least the threat of that happening, they're going to have one O-lineman take each one out, and the others are racing to our ILBs. If we did nothing else except for them to have to double-team 2 of our D-linemen, we'd stop that play for minimal gain. If Wisconsin's center can't block the Daniels brothers or Green, one-on-one, we're already halfway there. If our DEs can be disruptive, they'll also draw a double-team. I think that we'll have that this year.

If you want to amp up our D-line a little more, play Ben Stille on the boundary side of the field as a hybrid DE/OLB. He played OLB before, so it's not a foreign concept for him, but if we can line him up on the outside shoulder of whoever is lined up at the end of their line, they are NOT going to move him out of the way easily with a single block from an H-back or FB. He just needs to keep his outside arm free and contain anything coming his way, and--if it's a TE on his side--give the TE a good solid hand-check to his outside shoulder when he fires off so that he's slowed up to go block someone or go out for a pass. If they have 2 or more TEs on the field, put Stille at the OLB to the short side of the field. You want him to be on the TE side so that the CB on his side can roll up a little tighter and help cover some of the deeper flats stuff that an OLB would cover, and you'll still have the ILBs over the middle-shallow and the Safeties for the middle-deep stuff, in case it's a play-action pass. Stille would be automatically designated as a pass rusher, and he'd have outside containment on any running plays coming his way. We generally had Luke Gifford doing this last year, and as much as I loved Luke Gifford, I don't think that blocking him ever struck terror in the heart of a TE or H-back or FB the way that they would if they were having to block Stille coming off the edge with a full head of steam and evil intentions.

All that remains is run fits and doing your job. Ideally, we want our ILBs to be immediately moving towards the line when they read that it's a running play, so even if a Guard is coming out to get them, we want our ILB to meet them in the hole and as close to the Line of Scrimmage as possible so that the ILB can stay square to the ball carrier while pinching off as much of the hole as possible. No matter how you draw up a play, offensively or defensively, it still comes down to execution. If their O-linemen can block our D-linemen and ILBs, their plays will probably work. If they're able to do that while engaging our ILBs 3-4 yards downfield, we're probably toast. Somebody needs to beat their blocker and make a play, and we need penetration in the line wherever possible, but under control. We need ILBs moving fast to fill the holes, and if they get blocked, it needs to be in such a way that the person blocking him is now partially plugging up the hole that the RB is supposed to be running through.

Here's a very simple diagram with very simple red lines showing a common play call for where they attack, and that also represents the gaps that they have to cover for their run-fits. A good D-lineman doesn't have to make the tackle because it's very possible to stuff the play just by being where you're supposed to be and occupying 2 or more blockers.
View attachment 23250

The yellow hexagon represents where I would put Stille, and the yellow triangle would be the CB who I'd roll up tighter to help cover the normal responsibilities of the OLB in pass coverage. If they motion another receiver over to that side, the CB would cover him, the Safeties would slide to their left, and the CB on the backside would drop back a little while sliding inside more. If that happened, you could tell the OLB on the Nebraska right side (Wisconsin's left) to blitz as the CB could cover the outside containment. Regardless, at the end of the day, someone needs to beat their blocker and make the play, preferably as far upfield as possible. Here's what that would look like with the shifts:

View attachment 23251



Did you hear the interesting discussion about points per drive being what we all need to look at with Chin's D on Unsportsmanlike Conduct last week? I'm too lazy to get into it much here on my phone but it sounds more common sensical to focus on that vs. total yards allowed, etc.
 

CrabHusker

Unredacted
5 Year Member
Did you hear the interesting discussion about points per drive being what we all need to look at with Chin's D on Unsportsmanlike Conduct last week? I'm too lazy to get into it much here on my phone but it sounds more common sensical to focus on that vs. total yards allowed, etc.
Read about that right after the staff was hired. I thought of it more as a prep for a defense that gets blown up on a weekly basis, but the more I read about it, the more it made sense. The offense creates more opportunities for the other team by it's very nature, so it makes sense that traditional total yards as a measuring stick isn't going to cut it.
 

HuskerJ

Recruit
5 Year Member
MABC,

Thanks for all the great insight from your long-time acquired knowledge and perspective!

I'm having a hard time formulating a question, but the point I have is to shed some light on more of a Nebraska/Blackshirt identity surrounding the X's and O's. Who or What do we want to be based on our schemes, formations etc.

In the 80's we were 'strong'. Playing in cold weather in the Big 8. Tough lines. run the ball, stop the run.

In the 90's, we were 'fast'. Athletic D lineman dropping in zone to cover the presumed space left by lightening fast blitzing linebackers. 7 guys around the line. Anyone could be blitzing. Run blitz. Pass blitz. Zone. Man.

Not sure we were out-recruiting for these athletes, but certainly had an idea of who and what we wanted. I don't think we are hanging our hats on simply instilling a 3-4 and intend to simply out-recruit. So what makes us special in our 3-4.

Is it a dominant NG? Is it speed? Strength? I total get your breakdowns. But isn't every play designed to be productive? It's easy to look back and see what we did or didn't do on any given play. But if every team simply had to just execute to be successful, aren't we leaving out every other tangible/intangible component of the 'culture'. What is that culture? Staying on blocks. Getting off blocks. Being faster/stronger. Just want to continue the conversations on your great insights. Thanks.

What exactly gives us an edge in the 3-4 versus the 4-3 or other formations that is going to be specific to Nebraska we are trying to develop?
 

AzHusker

All Big 10
10 Year Member
This implies that he likes whatever Frost likes, and he isn't thinking for himself. Frost picked Chinander to be his DC--and Chinander wants to be Frost's DC--because both have been shaped by many of the same influences from Northern Iowa through Oregon, and both have arrived at the same perspectives on both offense and defense. How they got there is interesting, but you sell Chinander short when you phrase things the way that you did. He will be sought after as a head coach soon, and/or he will have NFL teams who want him as a DC. We won't properly value him until he's gone.
Coach, I think you read wayyy more into that sentence than he intended. His final sentence gives his intent - the defense is going to be fun to watch again. My :Sign2cents:
 
Did you hear the interesting discussion about points per drive being what we all need to look at with Chin's D on Unsportsmanlike Conduct last week? I'm too lazy to get into it much here on my phone but it sounds more common sensical to focus on that vs. total yards allowed, etc.
No, do you have a link? I've heard the explanation elsewhere, including by someone (possibly Chinander) on the Nebraska staff at the coaches' clinic a year ago, but I didn't pay a lot of attention to it at the time because there was so much else to take in.

Read about that right after the staff was hired. I thought of it more as a prep for a defense that gets blown up on a weekly basis, but the more I read about it, the more it made sense. The offense creates more opportunities for the other team by it's very nature, so it makes sense that traditional total yards as a measuring stick isn't going to cut it.
You just summarized about all that I remembered.
 
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