A little 3-4 talk

Tom Dienhart has posted a good overview article on the rise of the 3-4 defense in the college ranks, with several quotes from Todd Grantham.  But there are a couple of quotes from other coaches that are interesting and worth sharing.

Here’s one reason Brian Kelly made the switch at both his old school and his new one:

… Kelly dumped the 4-3 for a 3-4 last season at Cincinnati, and he brought the scheme with him to South Bend. He appreciates all of the problems the 3-4 presents for offenses. But Kelly also had other motives for making the switch.

“The thing for me that forced the move was because we were changing personnel so much on second and third downs,” he says. “I wanted to be able to get into a defensive structure where we wouldn’t be changing personnel as much. And the 3-4, with the four linebackers on the field, gives you a lot more flexibility to match up and also allows you to keep that personnel on the field.”

Continually switching personnel meant more practice time for more players, and that wasn’t ideal. To Kelly, the more practice time a player gets in first-, second- and third-down scenarios, the better chance a team has at executing at a high level.

That actually makes some sense to me.  The more practice time Georgia’s starting linebackers can get working on their coverage skills, the better.

On the other hand, here’s a word of warning from Washington’s defensive coordinator (who deploys a 4-3 scheme):

“To be a good 3-4 team, your nose guard has to be a stud and so do your two inside ‘backers,” says Washington coordinator Nick Holt, whose base defense is a 4-3 but who occasionally uses a 3-4. “You want those inside ‘backers to be big enough to stuff guards who are coming at them because they aren’t covered up by the three down linemen.

I guess we’ll find out what Georgia’s got soon enough.


Filed under Strategery And Mechanics

11 responses to “A little 3-4 talk

  1. dean

    No scheme is perfect. However the way kids are developing these days the 3-4 looks to be the defense of the future. More and more we’re seeing kids 6 foot-something, 200+ lbs running 4.40-40’s. That’s tailor made for a 3-4.


  2. baltimore dawg

    the thing that puzzles me (or maybe my reading comprehension sucks) is that the rise of the 3-4 in the nfl doesn’t explain the rise of the 3-4 in college: it’s proliferating in college as a counter-measure to spread offenses, but you don’t have much of that in the nfl. what explains that difference?

    and the other thing is: how concerned do you have to be about the 3-4’s major schematic vulnerability–running between the tackles–if most of the offenses you face in college are designed to get the ball to the edges?

    (things i wonder about. . . .)


    • and the other thing is: how concerned do you have to be about the 3-4′s major schematic vulnerability–running between the tackles–if most of the offenses you face in college are designed to get the ball to the edges?

      Good question. In the land of the 3-4 defense, the power running offense would be king, you would think. Which would make an Alabama-Georgia match up (I know I’m getting waaaay ahead of things here, but humor me) interesting, no?


    • Hackerdog

      Most offenses in the NFL are pass-first offenses. The 3-4 is good against that since it allows you to disguise your pass rush/coverage options better. Remember, it’s the defense that flustered Peyton Manning a few years ago.


  3. Hogbody Spradlin

    I don’t know about that stud thing. Looks to me like your nose guard just has to be a large immoveable monolith like Eric Montross or Terrence Cody.


  4. SECC in '10...Please

    Unfortunately, I think those are our weakest two positions going into next year, on paper at least. I think Dowtin and Robinson are more talented than Dent and Gamble, but too small to dominate at ILB and take on OGs. Dent and Gamble are probably big enough, but I think they’re the least talented of the four.

    As for NT, who really knows at this point. Geathers or Tyson could be big time, but its certainly unknown.


  5. 69Dawg

    From what I’ve read the NFL likes it because most NFL team have abandoned the old run first scheme and have started passing on every down. The 3-4 lets you pressure the QB. 3-4 pro teams do have trouble with power running teams but they see them so little it is worth the risk. Besides a 3-4 can turn into a 5 or 6 man front real quick. That is where the DC comes in he’s got to know the O’s tendencies on down and distance and confuse the QB on every play.


  6. JC in Powder Springs

    Not sure we should give Holt’s assessment much weight, though I guess he’s a somewhat respected DC (with a checkered record). You’d think with the wide open offenses in the Pac 10, he’d take a much harder look at the 3-4.

    I’m sure Tyson, Geathers & Bean are enough candidates to get the job done (with Garrison Smith & Mike Thornton coming). I think Belin will have the inside ‘backers much better prepared.


  7. Macallanlover

    Holt bullseyes my primary concern about the 3-4. I would feel much more comfortable with the 3-4 intro in the PAC 10 or Big 12 because they just do not pound the gut like the SEC and Big 11. Hope I am proven to be too simplistic to get it, but that is a lot of responsibility for NT and 2 ILBs in this league.

    I am sure we will be stunting and gambling often with those three spots, which could blow up enough plays to stall a drive, but this is a tough league to find yourself soft up the middle. Cautiously optimistic only because of this concern.


  8. Never a doubt

    We’re not using a traditional 3-4. The Washington coach is really talking about a two-gap version where the NT has to hold up against two blockers so that the other tackles can square up against their OL and protect two gaps. We aren’t doing that. It’s a one-gap 3-4, as Grantham has pointed out on numerous occasions, which is why he was able to get away with a smallish NT in Dallas, not the traditional house in the middle of the DL.


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