Indiana – The Lockdown U Show

333 total yards, 2.9 yards per carry, two interceptions, including one pick 6, and 3 sacks.  The Hoosiers offense in 2016 may not be what it was in 2013, when it finished inside the top 10 in total yards and generally ran and threw it over and around everyone.  But it isn’t nearly as bad as the Blackshirts made it on Saturday either, holding the Indiana squad to its second lowest total yardage and yards per play this year.  We haven’t talked a whole lot this year about defensive coordinator Mark Banker’s defense for reasons discussed here, but halfway through the season and coming off a game where they bailed out an injured, stagnant offense, it’s time to change that.

Banker’s modus operandi this year focuses on two core principles.  One, stop the run by freeing up the Blackshirts linebackers to attack the line of scrimmage.  They do have coverage responsibilities, but by frequently playing his base Quarters for much of the year, Banker has permitted his linebackers to play run first while knowing they’ve got safety help behind them on play action.  Two, keep everything structurally sound in the secondary to prevent the long pass play.  This was Nebraska’s Achilles’ heel in 2015, but they’ve cleaned it up a bunch in 2016.  Sometimes that means the Huskers defense gives up yards between the 20 while allowing throws in front of DBs, but it’s the cost of doing business when you want to make an offense earn it down the entire field.  It’s also a pretty solid strategy when you’ve got an emerging secondary filled to the brim with above average defenders.  Lockdown U.  It’s bold, but so far they’ve lived up to it.

Against Indiana, Banker used the Lockdown U road show to dial up both zone and man blitzes agains well traveled QB Richard Lagow.   Before we get there, though, let’s take a look at Nebraska’s base coverage in the Nickel and then we’ll turn to how Banker’s pressure packages added up to 3 big sacks for 24 yards.

Continue reading “Indiana – The Lockdown U Show”

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”