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.
I never really thought that when I was thinking about writing about the 4-2-5 that I'd find anything that discusses an eight man front. Seems like a lot of guys for a defense that has five players in the secondary. So who are these eight players?
The Eight Man Front
Patterson's eight players are everyone but the two cornerbacks and the free safety. That's easy and makes sense. You can seen from the diagram that Patterson knows that depending on the formation, the strong and weak safeties can step up and are supposed to step up to the line of scrimmage.
So what does Patterson mean when he talks about eight players in the box:
To be great at anything, you have to have a great belief in what you do. What we have hung our hat on at the University of New Mexico is establishing the eight man front. The reason for using the eight man front is that we believe you must stop the run first. If you can’t do that, nothing else matters. The 4-2-5 front allows us the multiplicity to always try to have one more player at the point of attack than the offense. The first people on your defensive staff that must buy into stopping the run first are your defensive back coaches. They have been taught to not get beat deep and be safe. Both thoughts are still important rules to go by, but as a staff we must free up as many secondary players as are needed to secure leverage and give run support. As a staff, we must do a smart job of using the multiplicity part of the eight man front to our advantage. If needed, we can play with nine players up, but you must know what you are possibly giving up. If fewer players are needed to stop the run, this will help us to achieve the goal of eliminating the big play. Remember, the reason we went to the eight man front is that we do not believe we will play with the same level of personnel as others do year in and year out.
The philosophy behind being able to play the run with only six in the box is that we want the ball to get pushed to the outside safeties. The safeties’ leverage allows us to stunt or slant any way we need to control the line of scrimmage. With the addition of the three safeties, this gives us the possibility of nine players playing the run against a two-back set.
I've just briefly talked about it, but Patterson's TCU teams have been good at stopping for quite some time. Quickly, for the past five years, TCU has finished 5th, 3rd, 1st, 11th and 2nd in the nation in stopping the run (cfbstats.com). Generally, Patterson talks a bit about how the safeties are a huge part of this equation and I have no doubt that the Texas Tech safeties will be stars in this defense. But at the end of the day, Patterson's third and fourth sentences are simple and revealing, if you can't stop the run, nothing else matters.
And Patterson talks a bit about leverage as well and that he wants to force runners to the outside, where he's leveraged his safeties to make plays and probably feels that given the speed of his defense, he's better off forcing running back outside.
I've been saving this video for a while, I think it's a good example, but incredibly rapid fire, of what the TCU defense tries to do. It's TCU vs. San Diego St. from last year and it's every TCU defensive play from the game.
Video after the jump.
Just within the first two and a half minutes, there's examples of TCU pushing the play outside. At the 0:33 mark (watch the free safety, the cornerback and the linebacker all string out the play), the 1:11 mark (watch the safety on the right side figure out that it's a run and step up and make a tackle), the 1:33 mark (the play gets inside and the running back has an 6 yard gain, a really well blocked play) and the 2:00 mark (watch the two plays in a row as there are two inside handoffs that go almost no where, the linebackers step up and take away the hole inside and the running back steps outside only to be met by a safety or two and in the second play watch the linebackers absolutely plug any holes along the line).
We've already also talked about how the players need to be strong and how Patterson focuses on all of his players being both strong and fast. Patterson talks a bit, in the second paper, about how important the strength of the safeties are:
Last year we had six safeties bench over 400. If you have to take on 290-pound guards, you better find some way to stay healthy. When you play an eight-man front, your safeties are going to be in some positions where they have to take on those big people.
And if you want a reason to think that Glasgow was a good hire, then look no further than a couple of those sentences in the first big blockquote of this post:
The first people on your defensive staff that must buy into stopping the run first are your defensive back coaches. They have been taught to not get beat deep and be safe. Both thoughts are still important rules to go by, but as a staff we must free up as many secondary players as are needed to secure leverage and give run support.
I have no doubt that Glasgow, as the former secondary coach at TCU, knows how to coach his players into buying into the idea of needing to stop the run. In fact, I'd guess that despite coverage skills, Glasgow has told his players that their playing time is almost wholly dependent on their ability to stop the run.
Up next: Establish a pressure package.