Mailbag question: What defense is best for Michigan


Hi guys,

What do you think about the defense we will run this coming year and what defense is best for this Michigan program? Can you tell me a little bit about the difference between some of them?




Thanks for the question.

This, of course, depends on the choice of defensive coordinator. Coach Hopson has used the 4-3 and the 4-2-5 defense. If he takes the job, will he try and put in the 3-4? We believe at this time Coach Hopson has passed on the defensive coordinator position from what we have heard. He seen what happened to Coach Shafer and wanted certain things done, but both sides did not agree. Could he still be in contention? Sure, but again we will know more after the coaches convention.

We are not a big fan of the 3-3-5 especially with the current personnel on the team. In a few years, when some of these incoming freshmen get older, then it might be possible. We believe linebacker play is our biggest weakness and in the 3-3-5 defense you need very good linebackers that can make the plays (tackle) and cover in the passing game (which we had a problem with last year).

Michigan could try a 4-2-5 as a base defense. This way they can get more athletic people on the field. Of course, it might depend on who we play, but a lot more of the Big Ten teams are using some type of spread offense.

Of course, depth issues might limit the use of the 4-3 defense, but also some of the new recruits / freshman could get playing time and add depth. A good defense needs depth. Starting does not mean much to us: what matters is how much you play and who is playing at that time when it’s crunch time.

We would like to see a lot of rotation and getting a lot of players snaps. The more playing time a player gets the more competition it will bring in practice to battle for the spot.

Again, in this defense we need many players to be ready, because our new offense which does not protect the defense (THIS IS NOT A SLAM AGAINST COACH ROD.): it is a fact that in a hurry-up spread offense your defense is usually on the field a lot more of the time, and if your offense is not “clicking” then your defense will be on the field a disproportiante amount of time.

We think that was the biggest problem in the defense lat year was that we did not have the depth, and did not have the right personnel to run an aggressive defense like the coach wanted to run.

All defenses are designed with a few basic concepts in mind. It does not matter what front you play, even or odd, they are all based on the same fundamentals. The difference is that they represent different defensive philosophies and techniques to accomplish these concepts.

For all fronts, the number one priority is gap control. The entire front six or seven each are assigned a specific gap or gaps they are responsible for. In base three, be it 3-4 or 3-3 all the defensive linemen play what is called a two-gap scheme: all three linemen are assigned two gaps to defend. The nose tackle is responsible for both A-gaps and the defensive tackles/defensive ends are responsible for both the B and C gaps. This takes a different type of defensive linemen than if you are playing an even front where linemen are responsible for a single gap.

In odd fronts, unless stunting or angling, you need bigger stronger defensive linemen to tie up offensive linemen and allow linebackers and nickels to make tackles. In many cases, all three defensive linemen will end being doubled and must either split the double or create a huge pile to secure their gaps.

This does change when you stunt, angle, or blitz out of an odd front. In even fronts, you can defend your gap by getting up field and penetrating instead of tying up offensive linemen because you are responsible for only one gap. This makes life not only easier on defensive linemen, but is more fun to play. That is why it has been our experience that recruiting defensive linemen, especially edge rusher, is easier in even front than odd.

Odd fronts are designed to funnel the offense back to center of the field. This is especially true in 3-3. You have two strong safeties rolled up and this makes it easier for the defense to maintain outside leverage and secure the flats. It does create possible mismatches at line of scrimmage against teams with an excellent blocking tight end and that use sprint-draw or other power running games.

The odd fronts will generally blitz and stunt the fronts to confuse offenses and overcome the mismatches. Even fronts are based on strength up the middle and controlling the inside gaps with up-field push. That push helps collapse the pocket and helps keep quarterbacks from finding seams in the rush. Odd fronts make staying in rush lanes a bit more difficult and tends to open up seams for quarterback to step up into and to escape the pocket when pressured.

Remember: you can be successful playing any of the fronts as long as the defense has the proper personnel and is fundamentally strong. All defenses must tackle crisply, keep the play in front of them, keep the offense between the hashes, and pursue — run like hell to the football. All defenses and fronts are trying to accomplish these things. There’s more than one way to skin a cat (or Buckeye, Spartan, Trojan, Sooner, Gator, Ute, etc.) The trick is finding the way that’s going to work for your team.

Written by CoachBt and ErocWolverine