Illinois – Tricking the Beast With Four Heads

That Illinois defensive line.  Whoa.  When you see future All Big 10 offensive tackle Nick Gates hook a guy on the first play and hope he doesn’t get called for a hold, you know it’s going to be a long day.  Gates has been an absolute animal this year, but he had his hands full all day with Illini end Carroll Phillips.  And as Husker fans witnessed all too frequently, the other side fared even worse, with Dawuane Smoot living in the Nebraska backfield for a large portion of the game.

Nevertheless, offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf and his patchwork offensive line found just enough cards in the deck to play a few tricks on that impressive Illini line.  In this write up, we’ll take a look at a new play designed to put Gates in motion, and we’ll touch base with another concept that the Huskers have cleaned up and modified substantially since the beginning of last year.  Without these types of plays, Nebraska probably doesn’t beat the Illini by more than a handful of points.  With them, they pour on 21 points in the 4th quarter to win going away.  

We’ll also get some bonus footage on the defensive side of the ball, taking a look at one of the Blackshirts’ man coverage blitzes as well as the progression of Chris Jones, whose rapidly rising coverage skills makes blitzes like that one work.

Continue reading “Illinois – Tricking the Beast With Four Heads”

Cover 4 Bankerball – Nebraska’s Base Defense

With Bo Pelini out and Mark Banker in, the Blackshirts were faced with a sizable conceptual shift.  Pelini liked to play a lot of bracket coverages, with his safeties 2 High and primarily as pass defenders with limited run support responsibility; he tried to overcome this by mostly two-gapping his defensive line (though he unsuccessfully attempted to move away from this late).  This scheme worked great in the Big 12, with offenses using 11 and 10 personnel packages, rarely committing to consistently running the ball and instead throwing it down the field into that bracket coverage.  In the Big 10, Pelini’s defense had substantially less success, as teams would often formation Nebraska into a light box and force Nebraska’s OLBs into playing the run from a man disadvantage (6 blockers versus 5 defenders, etc.) while also having to play RPOs like the bubble, Y stick, pop pass, etc.  That’s an unwinnable battle, and we saw the Blackshirts get drilled a number of times because of it.  Think 63-38 in 2012 and Ohio State running wild on the Blackshirts.

Enter Mark Banker and his Cover 4 (or “Quarters”) base defense.  There are a lot of things I like about this defense and how it fits the Big 10.  Let’s take a peek at its basic principles. Continue reading “Cover 4 Bankerball – Nebraska’s Base Defense”