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Red Raider Gridiron | There's a Game on Saturday and What Happens to the 3-4 Defense

Recap:  By now, I think we've all had a bit of time to catch our breath.  Here's what we know, which is that defensive coordinator James Willis left the program on Sunday and that in December, there was a domestic violence incident at Willis' home, but the police have not yet confirmed or denied that the male involved was Willis.  I don't know what else to say other than what you've said yesterday.

Discussing the 3-4 Defense and Will It Continue: There's really nothing that I can throw out there to prove this, but I've done a very diligent Google search and that now makes me an expert.  Here we go.  What I believe is that the multiple front 3-4 defense was all James Willis.  He brought this same defense from Alabama where he was the linebackers coach and this was his baby.  Again, I can't find anything on the record that confirms that Willis was the only person running the defense, but here's the anecdotal evidence of why I think that and we begin to discuss if the 3-4 defense will continue.

There's this perception that head coach Tommy Tuberville is also a 3-4 defensive guy and he's the one that helped implement that defense.  I don't think this is true and I truly believe that like the offense, Tuberville let his coordinators coordinate.

Again, I've done a Google search, which will make all of my statements from this point forward completely accurate, but I do not believe that Tuberville has ever run the 3-4 defense, or at least he didn't while at Auburn.  Let's take a quick history lesson.  I don't think I need to remind you, but Tuberville coached at Miami and was an assistant coach under then head coach Jimmy Johnson.  For those of you who are Dallas Cowboy fans or fans of those 1980 Miami teams, Johnson developed a 4-3 defense that had an emphasis on speed and having a heavy rotation of defensive linemen.  Yes, there's a lot more to the defense than just these two things, but this was Johnson's defense that he eventually took to the NFL.  You can read about the evolution of the 4-3 defense and Miami's 4-3 defense in a lot of places, but the NY Times 5th Down blog is a good place to start:

Johnson knew he couldn’t recruit successfully against the big schools in his first head coaching gig at Oklahoma State. So he focused on recruiting athletes. Football talent and size was nice, but he made speed and athleticism his priority. He simplified the 4-3 scheme to a bare bones approach. There would be no reading and reacting, no camping in a specific area and controlling your gap. Instead, he coached his players to attack, penetrate and swarm along the front seven and used simple zone coverage in the secondary. He took safeties and made them linebackers. He turned linebackers into speedy, edge rushing defensive ends. Within 10 years, a huge number of college coaches had followed suit. In time, those coaches began producing a new class of defender that would change the face of defensive football in the N.F.L.

You should go read the whole thing, because I think there's about to be another switch, from the 3-4 back to the 4-3.

Anyway, this really sounds like something that Tuberville has been discussing since he arrived in Lubbock, but the difference is that the base was a 3-4 with an occasional 4-3 front.  What I think happened is that although Willis probably wanted to only run a 3-4 defense, but perhaps he and Tuberville knew that there just wasn't the personnel to exclusively run the 3-4.  

There's another website called that has a handful of free playbooks.  You can look at them for yourself, and yes, you can find plenty of AirRaid playbooks.  They're there.  In any event, the one thing that I wanted to look for early this morning was if I could find any the defensive playbooks for the Tuberville era at Auburn.  There are actually two defensive playbooks and they're both the 4-3 defense.    There's an Auburn 4-3 defensive playbook from 2002 (PDF) and one from 2004 (PDF).  In the 2004 playbook you'll see a name on the first page, Don Dunn.  In a total shot in the dark, yesterday I mentioned that I thought that Dunn might get a shot at the defensive coordinator position and my thought was that Dunn had been with Tuberville for their 10 years at Auburn.  Even so, I still don't think that Dunn is a serious candidate and I think that Tuberville doesn't necessarily want to hire Dunn in that capacity.

What I do think that Tuberville wants to do is to go back to his 4-3 roots and I fully support this transition and hope like hell he does this.  I keep mentioning Pat Kirwan's book, but he discusses how a team transitions from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense and that it can take 2 or 3 years (I'm going off memory) to make the transition.  Personally, I think it's easier to find high school players that can play the 4-3 defense and I also don't think that when I look at the 2011 recruiting class that there's really any players that scream that they're 3-4 defensive players.  Maybe OLB Terrell Hartsfield is a rush end, but there's not a huge nose guard or tackle (and I mean a 330 pound player that can take on double-teams) that can plug the middle that's usually required in a 3-4 defense. 

Northwestern and TicketCity Bowl Links:  I need to correct something from yesterday's Food Bet post, which is that Northwestern hasn't won a bowl game since 1949 and that it's a 61 year bowl losing streak, now a losing streak since 1961 . . . the official site has a blog, sorta, of the team's preparation for the TicketCity Bowl.  There's also video of yesterday's post-practice press conference.  I say that it's sorta a blog because a blog usually lasts for more than one week and I've always been told that blogs and blog writers live in their parent's basements and are unproductive members of society . . . I posted this link yesterday, but LAJ's Don Williams has an article on how the team will go on without DC Willis . . . LAJ's Williams also has a notebook from yesterday's practice and there's nothing earth-shattering there, but if you need to waste a few minutes of your day, then it's there . . . the DMN apparently has a new writer, Tom Spousta, and he now is 1-0 for writing misleading headlines, "Tommy Tuberville plans for heavier dose of running game next season at Texas Tech."  I read the story and I can't find anywhere that Tuberville said that he was going to run the ball more next year, but that he was going to run the ball more than Leach did.  Congrats to Tom!