Michigan Wolverines: The 4-3 Defenses — Part I
The base 4-3 defense that has been for decades a staple of, first, professional, then college and high school teams remains in use, although threatened out of existence by the new spread schemes. The 4-3 defense first became problematical against great offenses that could run the edge and pass. As usual the professional ranks adjusted well and many teams started using the 3-4-alignment package. The 4-3 was rescued by changes to the 4-3 Over, that honor the strong side, and the 4-3 Under, that honor the weakside.The primary purpose of the 4-3 Over defense is to honor the strong side (tight end) and match up the defensive linemen in a manner that helps against the most likely destination of a power running game, the tight end side. It was invented as an antidote against the proficient option or today’s spread offenses. The two tackles line up against the center and the strongside guard.
The strongside tight end has a defensive end on his outside (or straight up) in the nine-technique alignment, unlike the 4-3 Under alignment where both defensive ends play a 5 technique, and the Sam linebacker walks up toward the line of scrimmage playing a 9 technique on the tight end. This makes the 4-3 Under very similar to the traditional Oklahoma 5-2 defense that once ruled the college landscape. The job of the linemen in the 4-3 Over is to get upfield and be more than just protective screens for the linebackers; instead they need to make plays and cause running backs to ride outside the hole or cutback. This allows good Sam and Will linebackers to make plays.It is easy to turn an under into an over alignment with a technique called a slide. In the over version the Sam drops off the line (versus playing up on the line outside the tight end), the two tackles slide to the strong side, and are up against the center and strong side guard, and the defensive end shades outside the tight end in the 9 technique, sliding from a 5 technique to playing either on the tight end or outside the tight end.
And remember, in this day and age everyone plays multiple fronts regardless of the base alignment. Besides shifting to or away from the tight end (over to under), tackles can line up head on with the guards or shade the tackles. Different threats call for different assignments. Linemen are taught to not only get upfield but sometimes to read linemen blocking down and react accordingly. Most 4-3 Over defenses have specific rules if the offensive blocker steps down to the inside.
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Written by GBMWolverine Staff — Doc4Blu
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