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Multiplicity But Simplicity | Create Offensive Confusion at the Line of Scrimmage

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Way back in 1997, as a defensive coordinator for New Mexico under head coach Dennis Franchione, Gary Patterson wrote a paper about the 4-2-5 defense, Multiplicity But Simplicity: Why the 4-2-5 Defense. This is a seven-part look at the 4-2-5 defense and trying to figure out how it all works. Patterson wrote a second paper, The 4-2 Defensive Package that goes into greater detail of the mechanics of the 4-2-5 defense.

Part I: Introduction.
Part II: Sizing up the defenses.
Part III: Create offensive confusion at the line of scrimmage.
Part IV: Play with great leverage.
Part V: Establish the eight man front.
Part VI: Establish a pressure package.
Part VII: The five spoke secondary.

Let's start with the quote from Patterson and then go on from there.  Here's how Patterson talks about creating confusion:

To create confusion at the line of scrimmage we must direct our energy at the pre-snap read. Offenses, as we all know, do a great job of exploiting weaknesses. As a defensive unit, we do not want to allow offenses this advantage if possible. For us, the 4-2 front, five spoke secondary gives us great disguise capabilities, plus movement from all 11 players independently. This movement all happens because the front and coverage before the snap can work separately from each other. The three safety system is the main reason all this can happen, because of the natural alignments in leverage positions, this allows the other eight players to move freely.

Separate Calls

There are a couple of things to take away from this, the first being that the defensive front six and the secondary are independent of each other, which means that the defensive line and the linebackers receive one call while the secondary receives a separate call.

I've said this before and I hesitate to repeat it, and I don't know if this should be an area of concern, but Glasgow was the secondary coach, and although I'm sure that he's fully aware of how that front six play, I'm guessing that he hasn't coordinated the front six as he's concentrated on the secondary.  If you have a concern about Glasgow, this should be it.

Obviously, having the guy that coordinated the secondary for TCU, one of the best pass defenses in the country for the past few years, has it's advantages.  Unless Tuberville could have hired Bumpas, which wasn't going to happen, he had to choose between the linebackers/defensive line coach or the secondary coach. I don't know that there's a right answer as one side wasn't going to be calling the other. For Texas Tech, hiring the secondary may very well have been the right move considering the awful shape that the secondary was in last year. The Texas Tech secondary probably needs a new, consistent voice. These guys have had 3 secondary coaches in 3 years and that's not an ideal situation. And in case you're curious, yes, this is me trying to find a negative, but I'm also thinking out-loud. If this is my biggest worry, then I think we'll be okay, as I'm sure that Glasgow knows what he's doing, but he's never coordinated the entire defense before and there are separate calls for the secondary.

Disguising Alignments

As to the actual principle, Patterson has two diagrams when talking about disguising alignments.  Obviously, what Patterson is trying to stress is the idea that the safeties close to the line of scrimmage can move up or move over, while free safety can go from side to side, even to the particular side of the strength of the formation if there is motion and the cornerbacks can move forwards or backwards (i.e. man-to-man coverage or zone coverage):

Again, I'm no expert and this is my first attempt to do something like this, but it's clear that what Patterson is trying to emphasize is that the 2 tackles, 2 ends and 2 linebackers are independent of how the safeties and corners operate. Thanks to DrB from Shakin the Southland, Patterson talks about how the the defensive fronts and the coverages are completely separate:

Our fronts and coverages have nothing to do with each other. The front is called by the use of a wristband. We break down our first 6 or 7 opponents and put the fronts on the player's wristbands. We don't have to teach anything new to our players during the season. The team's may change, but the fronts do not. We do teach during the season, but we don't have to re-teach our fronts.

As mentioned in Part II, I found yet another paper from Patterson where he talks quite a bit about how he actually implements the defense (again, you need to read this), The 4-2 Defensive Package, Gary Patterson and here is how Patterson talks how he divides coverages:

We divide our packages into attack groups. The four down linemen and two linebackers are one segment of our defense. We align the front six and they go one direction. The coverage behind them is what we call a double-quarterback system. We play with three safeties on the field. We have a strong, weak, and free safety. Theh free and weak safeties are going to control both halves of the field. They are the quarterbacks and they all make the calls.

Our fronts and coverages have nothing to do with each other. The front is going to be called by the use of a wristband. We break down our first six or seven opponents and put the defenses on the player's wristbands. We don't have to teach anything new to our kids during the season. The teams may change, but the fronts remain the same. We teach every week, but we don't have to re-teach our fronts.

So it's clear that the defensive line and linebackers are independent from the secondary, but this is supposed to be about the defensive front 6 and how they confuse the offense.  Patterson talks a bit about this in the first paper:

The first answer offenses use to combat our movement disguise is to use the quick count. We feel this gives us an advantage because we are now playing the offensive coordinator not the quarterback. We also feel this limits the size of their game plan because we have taken away the audible possibilities at the line of scrimmage. The main coaching point needed to make all our movement possible is we must be able to carry out our assignments from where we end up. If not, you must first do your job!

So much more after the jump.

I think this is Patterson talking in pure generalities and this quote and/or thought is fairly simplistic. Patterson actually goes into much greater detail in his second paper as to how the defensive line decides to stunt, slide, slant, twist or blitz and this is really where Patterson teaches that all of this can be taught in the first 6 practices and that he doesn't have to re-teach the rest of the year. And we'll get into the detail of this in Part VI, because there is a lot of detail to get into.

Multiple Simple Options

For right now, I want to focus on the simplicity of the front four defensive players, yet having a multitude of options available. The first thing I want to tackle is alignment:

The front is going to have two ways to make a formation call and two ways to call the field and boundary. We are going to call tight and splits as a formation call. If the tight end is left, we call Liz and the defensive tackle aligns in a 3 technique to the tight end side. We do not flip-flop our defensive ends. If the defensive ends have a tight end, they align head-up on the tight end. If there is no tight end, they play a loose 5 technique. The noseguard aligns on the center in a backside shade.

We flip-flop the noseguard and tackle. The noseguard is generally big enough to be a two-gap player. We can usually find only one guy who can run like we want our tackle to run. That is why we flip-flog those two guys. If we want the tackle to align to the split end side, we call rip. That means the tight end is left and the split end is right.

If we don't want to adjust the 3 technique to the formation, we call field or boundary. If we are on the left hashmark and we want the 3 technique into the wideside, we made a field call, which will align the 3 technique right. The noseguard knows he is to align on the backside shade of the center away from the call.

If we call the letter G in our front call, the noseguard is going to lineup on the guard away from the call. If we call tight G, split G, field G or boundary G, the noseguard goes away from the call and aligns head-up the backside guard.

There is a ton of stuff here to digest, but the first thing that jumps out at me is that the ends don't flip-flop according to the side of the tight end. I think what this means is that no matter what, both of the defensive ends need to have enough size to be able to tackle on a tackle, but you also have to counter that thought with the idea that the 4-2-5 wants speed at all cost. If it were me, I think that the ideal defensive end size would be is in the 250 pound range. This isn't to say that the defensive ends can't be smaller, they can, but if the defensive end is too small, then the tackles can man-handle that defensive end, which is why I'm not completely positive about Sam Fehoko at defensive end.

The other thing is that depending on the line call, the defensive end and nose guard will flip-flop. Now that you know what the 4-2-5 calls are, when you see the noseguard and defensive tackle switching sides, the first thing you should look for is the tight end on the offensive side of the ball. That's the defense's key and that's your key. I think the rest of the calls are based on what the defensive coordinator is seeing and the particular call for a particular play.

Army, Toro, Tex, Ex, Tex-Ex, and Twist

And then Patterson talks about how simplistic it is for the defensive line:

You need to remember the way we call the slant, because as we start to add the blitz package to the front, it will sound a lot like an English class. We have 157 different calls with this system. The key is the limited amount of teaching you have to use with each position. The defensive tackles have to remember six words. That is all they have to remember no matter what blitz we are running. All they need to know is army, toro, Tex, ex, Tex-ex, and twist. We build sentences that tell the defense exactly what to do.

The Tex call is a tackle and end stunt with the tackle going first on the stunt. The ex call is a tackle and end stunt with the end going first on the stunt. The Tex-ex is a double stunt with one side running a Tex stunt and the other side running an ex stunt. And the Twist is a stunt run between the noseguard and tackle.

This is just the stunts, but this is pretty simple, and it gives the defensive line lots of options for each and every play and the defensive line also really needs to just know these stunts as well as if the play calls for a slant to a particular side.

And we haven't really even talked about the linebackers yet, but the truth of the matter is that Patterson doesn't talk much about the linebackers in either paper. I don't want to diminish what the linebackers do, but if and when the linebackers blitz, it's relatively simple:

When we call these fronts we don't put any coverage into the call. We are going to call a slant or a twist for the defensive front four. If we call blitz, we are going to tell the linebackers where to run through. They will run through the A, B, or C gaps or come off the edge.

The linebackers job obviously is more difficult than that, and the linebackers aren't blitzing each and every play, but what stood out to me was the thought that the if and when the linebackers do blitz, it's just a matter of what gap they're supposed to run through.

I could keep going, but we'll stop here for now.

Up next time: Play with great leverage.