I give Dennis Dodd credit — give me a lede with Joe Lee Dunn in it, and I’ll read the whole deal.
The seeds of college football’s most popular defense reside in the recesses of a 75-year-old coaching mind. Joe Lee Dunn’s time has largely come and gone, but the game owes the coaching veteran something more than a passing mention heading into the 2021 season.
It owes him a place in history.
Dunn is credited with helping refine the 3-3-5 “Stack” defense.
There’s a certain amount of throwing stuff up against the wall to see what sticks, but this does appear to be the defensive philosophy du jour:
A “hyper-light” box is a three-man front that breaks down modern spread defenses to an essence: stopping the run with as few people as possible. The fewer the better to defend the pass downfield.
Of course, this, just like about every strategy, has its tradeoffs.
Verticals: The best way to beat the Stack is for all the pass catchers to run straight streaks toward the end zone. “It always comes down to the four verts,” one former Big Ten defensive coordinator said. “How are we going to cover four verts?”
Pressure … or lack of it: With only three down linemen to confront, offensive lineman can outnumber the defense.
Stopping the run: With that many defenders at the second and third level, savvy offensive coordinators will simply run the ball and physically dominate.
Sure sounds like when you come back to it, the Jimmies and Joes still matter the most. This, too, though.
“Obviously, they’re scoring more points [these days],” Long said. “It’s much more difficult to stop, partially because of rules. You can’t touch quarterbacks. … The rules are such that the defense could be aggressive enough to slow people down, but you can’t intimidate anymore. You have to be more finesse because very few people are lining up trying to pound the ball. Nobody’s patient.”