Tom Herman is set to face the famed TCU 4-2-5. I won’t be going into detail about it, but if you’d like to delve deeper, google it. Most football geeks are familiar with what originally made Patterson’s defense unique, split-field coverage and divorced coverage and front, they weren’t getting along (lol). Texas will need a simple plan to account for the front’s different alignments (techniques) and the variety of slants and gap exchanges they employ. They will also need to account for the aggressive filling of the strong and weak safeties in the run game. Route combinations, especially in the quick pass game must account for man and the variety of zone coverages TCU plays, Cover 4, Cover 2 Robber, Cover 6, 2-Man, Cover 1 along with variations of each, nasty.
The generic answer to all of these considerations is to formulate a game plan that stresses the strong and weak safeties’ assignments and responsibilities in both run and pass defense. I don’t intend on that meaning other defenders are no worry. After all, the Texas offensive line must block TCU’s front. Don’t laugh. If the TCU front alone can continually defeat Texas’ run blocking and pass protection, it’ll be a long night! Expect that anyway. You want this to be an ugly game, uglier than the Okie State game. This Saturday, it’s mainly about survival. So, what will you see? Let’s take a look.
It’s important to note the area and or space shared by the strong side SS, Mike linebacker and FS as well as the weak side CB, WS, and Sam linebacker. Texas must attempt to distort and attack these “complexes” via a quick-hitting inside and perimeter run game, horizontal and vertical stretch concepts, and the use of both run and pass action fakes to keep these players “flat-footed”. Let’s take another look, different formation.
What Gary’s defense can do is mix and match man coverage at the corners, underneath with the corners and linebackers, and play zone with the non-man coverage defenders. The non-man defenders can play different zone coverages as well, by keying different route breaks. Yes, it’s typically nasty, if that’s what you’re thinking. Take the above ‘Trips’ formation. Either the field or boundary corner can be in man. If it’s the boundary corner, the boundary WS will typically key the #3 receiver (outside-in) to the field. If the field corner is in man, the SS, Mike, and FS can key the inside 2 receivers to the ‘Trips’ side, leaving the 2-high structure to the boundary intact. Respectively, the former and latter are referred to as ‘Solo’ and ‘Special. There’s more too, Gary’s a genius. Let’s just keep it simple here. Here’s a more distorted formation.
What you’ll also note, the SS & FS align to the passing strength and the WS, opposite. These are the ‘Read Side’ and ‘Away Side’. It’s my opinion, the best way to attack Gary’s defense is to distort its structure. Here’s another example.
Whoa, do you see the extra defensive back? Gary’s been ahead of the curve in this respect and has deployed his 3-2-6 personnel against the likes of Texas Tech. Expect to see it when Texas has 4 WR sets and in 3rd & long situations. Still note, the distortion and the similar plus-1 structure to each side. Whether a linebacker or extra defensive back, TCU will align plus-1 to each side against both run and pass. You see similar from Todd Orlando. One more example of the 3-2-6…
What Gary can do with that middle safety is keep him in the intermediate to deep middle or have him key on WR #3 to the field (outside-in) or in-breaking intermediate routes from the single receiver to the boundary. It will be confusing and it’s my opinion, neither Shane nor Sam will fair well having to throw into coverage. How do you attack this beast? That’s a good question. Let’s briefly discuss that, as you’ll read it again in the preview.
A few points, I’ll flesh them out in the preview. Ideas I like, the quick pass game, stacked and bunch formations, quick-hitting inside and lead perimeter runs, play-action “both ways”, think motion, and seeking to distort and stretch the above mentioned “complexes” with formations and versatile route concepts. In the past, coordinators default to simple 2X2 and 3X1 formations in attempt to give the quarterback similar pre-snap ‘pictures’. This, in my opinion, is a mistake. TCU plays too fast and allowing them to more easily attack formations allows them the ability to play purely downhill. This will completely suffocate the Texas offense.