Tracking Odd-Front Defenses

Av-7_tiny by Beergut on Jul 23, 2010 9:07 PM CDT in Tracking Odd-Front Defenses

Of the 120 D-I football programs taking the field this Fall, only 19 of them will be using an odd-front as their base defense. Alabama, Army, Brigham Young, California, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Houston, Navy, Notre Dame, SMU, Stanford, Texas Tech, and Texas A&M will be running a 3-4 defense, while Louisiana-Monroe, Michigan, San Diego State, Tulsa, and West Virginia will running a base 3-3-5 defense. Georgia, Georgia Tech, Houston, Notre Dame, Stanford, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech are all moving to the 3-4 this season, while Alabama, Army, Navy, et al, have already been running it. Michigan is returning to the 33 Stack after running an even-front last season in Greg Robinson's first year as their defensive coordinator. Going back to his time at West Virginia, Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez has been a proponent of the 33 Stack. San Diego State will be going into its second season running the Stack, with co-creator (and former New Mexico head coach) Rocky Long entering his second season as the Aztec's defensive coordinator. West Virginia continues to run the Stack, and Tulsa, under former West Virginia defensive coordinator and current head coach Todd Graham, is also running the Stack. With less than 1/6 of the college football programs in the nation running odd-front defenses in the 2010 season, I thought it would be interesting to track their results as the year goes on.

The teams who ran the 3-4 met with various results in 2009: Alabama finished the season #2 in total defense, Air Force #11, Army #16, BYU #28, California #72, Navy #34, and SMU finished at #84. It should be noted that Alabama, Air Force, Army, and Navy all ran ground-based offenses in 2009, which helped keep time of possession down, and keep their defense off the field. However, time of possession isn't the only factor, because SMU finished #28 in the nation in time of possession while running June Jones' version of the run-n-shoot offense, so simple fundamentals like getting to the point of attack and making tackles still matter. Of the 33 Stack teams, Louisiana-Monroe finished #33 in total defense, San Diego State #74, Tulsa #85 , and West Virginia finished #36. As with any defensive scheme, the more experience and talent you have, the better.

A&M and Tech will be the only two teams in the same BCS conference running an odd-front defense in 2010, so it will be interesting tracking their progress. The advantage of an odd-front defense, as seen by looking at the number of teams running these schemes, is the scarcity of it in the college game. With so few teams running odd-front defenses, it makes it more difficult to to scheme for games against those opponents, because it is different from what you see the rest of the season. When you have teams like A&M or Tech or West Virginia who run offenses you don't see every week, the issue is compounded, because now you are asking scout teams to emulate an offense and a defense they don't see at any other time that season. Running an odd-front defense is also an advantage in recruiting, because it allows you to pursue players other schools in an even-front can't play. A 'tweener who is too slow to play safety but too light to play linebacker has a place in a 33 Stack. A player too small for DE but too big for ILB can play at OLB in the 3-4. A&M and Tech moving to the 3-4 should actually help recruiting at both schools, because they won't be pursuing some of the same players that OU and texas will.

The results of the various odd-front defenses should be an interesting trend to track during he 2010 season.