Football 101: Defensive Line

Discussion in 'Locker Room' started by OrangeElvis151, Jun 26, 2002.

  1. OrangeElvis151

    OrangeElvis151 < 25 Posts

    I thought here in the wastland of time between spring training and fall practices, we might coax some of our more knowlegeble posters to give all of us a little UT Football 101.

    This is the third installment of fundamental position roles and responsibilities. The topic assumes a 4-3 defense, but lets also look at some of the different formations we sometimes use, i.e. vs spread offenses.

    Today's topic is Defensive Line. Most of us know what they are, but do we truly know what they do? What are their respective responsibilities? What advantages does a 4-3 have vs. a 3-4? What are the disadvantages? What are the differences between the rush end and the other side? What is meant when someone is called a "true rush end?" How are responsibilities changed when we go into zone coverage? what are the different "looks" given vs a spread offense vs a running team? What (realistic) physical attributes are ideal for each position? Is there a difference between right and left end or tackle? Do our linemen switch sides, if so, why? what is the most important quality of a defensive tackle? is it quickness off the ball, strength, size, height or something else?

    There are many of us who know the answers to some of these questions. Speak up.

    If you have a question that isn't listed - or you know something about the positions that hasn't been addressed - add it. The more interaction, the better.

    p.s. the previouse "Football 101" threads are archived in the "Locker Room" forum...
  2. Texasfootball

    Texasfootball < 25 Posts

    I promised I would OE so I will start this discussion.

    A true 4-3 will have two tackles lined head up on the offensive guards. They will be responsible for the outside gap (B) on flow toward and the inside gap (A) on flow away. They are therefore called two gap players. Stunts (like our mug scheme) will make them one gap players as they will stunt through one shoulder of the guard and react to the football.

    Defensive tackles must have the size and strength to control the LOS even against double teams. If they are driven off the LOS, they will cut off the pursuit of the LB's. This is a cardinal sin. They must have explosion and quickness to defeat and come off blocks and they must be fast enough to maintain pursuit angles on the ball. The biggest attribute for pass rushing would be collapsing the pocket and forcing the QB to move.

    A true 4-3 will have two ends that will line up on either a tight end (head up or inside eye) or an offensive tackle (outside shoulder). They can have force or contain responsibilities on flow toward, depending on scheme call, but will almost always have closing down inside on flow away. After closing on flow away, they will usually trail half as deep as the ball for reverses and cutbacks. DE's must have size, quickness, and strength to maintain the LOS or must be lightening fast enough to defeat the block and disrupt the play timing. Both techniques are good and it depends on the personnel in the game.

    DE's must be relentless pass rushers and according to scheme (mug) must be able to drop into pass coverage on occassion. They will be much more effective when the DT's collapse the pocket and they are able to pursue a moving QB.

    There are coaches all over the state that will argue the merits of a 4-3 and just as many in favor of a 3-4. Both are good force units, they are seven man fronts and you can adjust to spreads out of both fronts. The 4-3 people feel they have a better foundation with four down linemen, especially off tackle. The 3-4 people feel they have more athletes with four LB's and they will be more effective stunting. I think you would get all coaches to agree that it is the personnel, if you have great people you can run anything you want.
  3. coachkiss

    coachkiss 250+ Posts

    What TexasFootball said is true. However, I would disagree with the part about 4-3 tackles playing head-up on the guards. While it was en vogue to do so 10 years ago, most of the DTs have become slimmed down, quicker versions of the past DTs. Miami revolutionized DT play, by utilizing smaller, quicker, more explosive DTs. Since you had a smaller guy playing the position, there is no way that they could match up with a 300lb+ guard these days. In fact, I will venture a guess that Maurice Gordon hardly ever played head up last year, and he was responsible for one gap.

    This gets back to the LB discussion in a way, because DTs play in one gap so much today. Therefore, a LB will have 2-gap responsibility, but he has one main gap that he must shut down.

    As TexasFootball said, many people prefer the 3-4 because you get more athletes (read: speed) on the field. Think back to the olden days when you heard about "Okie" or "50" fronts. Remember the noseguard, two tackles, and two DE's. Now, take out one of the defensive ends and one of the DTs. The remaining DT will play on the TE side 99% of the time on the outside shade of the tackle. The DE that was taken out will be replaced by a LB type that will play on the side opposite the TE. The DE that remains could also be replaced by a bigger LB on the TE side.
  4. coachkiss

    coachkiss 250+ Posts

    Remember, in football, nothing is new under the sun. There are no new inventions. Everyone tinkers with the old stuff.

    A rush end can play in the backfield a lot more than a strong side (TE side) defensive end. Many times, the DE on the TE side will have some responisibility to "jam" the TE at the LOS. Because of this, he may not get the "rush" the other DE will get. However, in passing downs, both DEs in this day and time rush the passer. The strong DE will read the block of the TE most of the time. The rush end can read anything from the near back to the tackle's hip to the QB.

    Also, in the 3-4, the rush end or OLB, will have some coverage responsibility in zone pass defenses. Usually they have the flats on the weakside.

    You also got a chance to see Cory Redding drop in a zone blitz scheme vs. Carolina last year. This is another wrinkle that a defense can throw at an offense using athletic DEs.
  5. coachkiss

    coachkiss 250+ Posts

    For the reasons I stated above, you will see defenses "flip-flop" sometimes. You may have one DE that plays the TE every play. If you have two great athletes at the end position who are very similar, then you don't have to worry about "flip-flopping" the defense. We are really blessed at UT to have great athletes at the end position. I might be wrong, but I think when Kalen when down last year, we played Cory Redding a lot more on the strong side. (Note: I could be WAY off here.)

    The most important qualities for a DT are quickness, explosion, and to a certain extent, upper body strength. Sometimes, height can be a disadvantage when playing the leverage game. Something that you don't here much about is how a DT plays with their hands. In reality, the DT, because of his limited vision of the play, has to be able to feel pressure from blocks and react accordingly. Using their hands for leverage becomes an important part of getting off blocks.

    Something I would like to mention is that we can get by against most defenses by playing one bigger DT (Marcus Tubbs) on the outside shade of the guard on the strong side, and another DT (Maurice Gordon) on the inside shade of the guard on the weakside. Maurice Gordon wouldn't face double teams very often, and he could use his quickness to penetrate the gap by the center. Since Tubbs was bigger, he would be double-teamed by the tackle and guard more, and would worry less about penetration. He would also be the key in defending against trap plays. It is an absolute must that if you play the 4-3 the way Miami does, that the DT on the strong side draw a double team. If he can be single blocked by the guard, then the tackle is free to reach the MLB and shut down pursuit. I can't stress it enough.
  6. coachkiss

    coachkiss 250+ Posts

    Sorry, I had to post so many in a row. I had to break up my answers because I kept getting timed out.
  7. LonghornScott

    LonghornScott 25+ Posts

    Texasfootball and coachkiss have given this thread an outstanding start, so I'll just state some preferences.

    As both of you have pointed out, there are many different ways to play the 4-3, and the differences start with the defensive line. I personally prefer the traditional 4-3 with big DTs, quick rush ends, and of course an instinctual MLB tackling machine. Smaller, explosive DTs have become popular and part of that is because it is tough to find the true rush ends and large, athletic takcles that the 4-3 demands. This is another common reason people prefer the 3-4. However, with the proper personnel, I don't think there is a better defense than the 4-3.

    Anyhow, I as I stated, I prefer the traditional 4-3, where the DTs try to occupy the blockers and the linebackers are left to pickup behind them. If you have two DTs who are both strong enough to occupy a double team, and athletic enough to shade quick linemen and keep their MLB protected... it can really make the 4-3 hum. That being said, if you don't have at least one explosive rush end to go with the large tackles, it will cause problems against the pass. This is where most teams struggle, because true rush ends may be the hardest position to fill.

    Gotta get ready for class. I'll try to get to more later... desireable physical traits, and post-snap action.
  8. jimmyjazz

    jimmyjazz 2,500+ Posts

    Good stuff, guys. Can one of you discuss what's legal and what isn't on the defensive line with regards to hands and blocking schemes? I know the rules are different than they are on the offensive line.
  9. coachkiss

    coachkiss 250+ Posts

    You can do pretty much anything...EXCEPT...Pull someone by their facemask and/or headslap (a move that was popularized by Deacon Jones I think).

    The best DTs will inevitably grab jersey. Here's why...the push/pull technique is still one of the fundamental lessons a DT can learn when playing against a single block. Let's say I am lined up on the OG. At the snap, he takes a hard step with his outside foot in an effort to reach block me. The thing I really want to do is to make his shoulders turn perpindicular to the LOS, not parallel. Then, after I have made contact and have jersey, I push with my outside hand and pull with my inside hand. Effectively, this turns him perpindicular to the line and eliminates his blocking power.

    This is a pretty advanced technique, but I have seen some average DTs in HS become very good using push/pull. The problem is that the great DTs have so much ability that they don't learn it until later in life, if at all.
  10. reddog01

    reddog01 < 25 Posts

    In reply to the "Tackles play head up top the Offensive Guard"

    Texas DT's play what is called "shade techniques" each gap for offense, (i.e. A gap, B, C, D and so on) the flip side of the is that the defense has a number system consisting of 2 to 3 numbers for each gap.

    Texas DT's primary plays 1 and 3 techniques. The 1 tech is your Nose Guard and the 3 tech is your "standard outside of the guard" defensive tackle.
  11. coachkiss

    coachkiss 250+ Posts

    To bring up another point, one of the most important thing that any DL will have to learn is how to play the double-team. Each coach has a different idea of how to play the double team. Methods are:

    1. Grab grass. Essentially you make a pile on the field and keep the outside blocker from going to the next level (LB).

    2. Get skinny (small) and try to split the DT. I don't like this for two reasons. One, the chances are that the DT stays too upright during the process (which is the cardinal sin) and gets driven back into the LBs. Even if he succeeds and splits the double team, what has he accomplished? Now, you have 2 OL going out to block the LB.

    3. (my favorite)...Seat roll out of the double team. If you don't know what a seat roll is, it is when you go from a standing position to on your butt facing the place to where your back was, followed by standing up facing forward. You've probably all had to do them in football or PE drills. This works for two reasons. If you seat roll towards the outside blocker, you are much closer to where the play is going than just splitting it. You end up outside the outside blocker on the double team. You may not think it can happen, but any good HS player can be coached to feel the double team and react. Secondly, what's the worst that can happen? The seat roll is unsuccessful, and you end up folded up like an accordion facing backwards. It will be almost impossible to move you. Therefore, the seat roll technique is better than splitting and grabbing grass.
  12. OrangeElvis151

    OrangeElvis151 < 25 Posts

    man, good stuff. ttt for the weekenders...
  13. HuJoUT

    HuJoUT < 25 Posts

    My senior year of High School(Fall 2001) I was moved to the defensive side of the ball to played Free Safety or more precisely Dime Back. I knew all the coverages but didn't know too much else about Defense and the calls and stuff. I do remember the lineman always talking about lining up in techniques. Like a DT would ask "Am I supposed to be in a 1 or a 3?". I am pretty sure it has something to do with allignment. If you have any knowledge of this please let me know it's something I was always kind of curious about.

Share This Page