There are some interesting defensive tactics that appeared in the Alamo Bowl win in addition to the continued emergence of DeForest Buckner on the defensive line. His star has been rising and the trendline of his growth manifested itself again in the Oregon Spring Game. Let’s look at what he is doing so well, and how Defensive Coordinator Don Pellum might have some new stratagems to help counter the plethora of teams converting to the Spread Offense.
In the circle, above, note how Buckner has fired out and is engaging the inside shoulder of the Texas offensive tackle. That gap between the guard and tackle is the “B” gap and Buckner is responsible for defending it. The Longhorn is probably thinking, “I have angle and there is no way that _____ Duck is going to take that gap.” Normally a 3-4 defensive end such as DeForest is lined up head on the offensive tackle, but this time he lined up on the tackle’s inside shoulder, thus makes it easier for the Duck defensive end to get inside and protect that gap. The Grizzled Ol’ Coach (Mike Morris) growled about how his head should have been on the inside of the tackle’s head … not outside.
The explosion of power from DeForest is amazing as he has stood the Longhorn offensive tackle up and moved his head on the inside as our consultant Coach preferred. Now Buckner is “crossing his face,” as discussed in an analysis of Taylor Hart. DeForest has total control of the “B” gap – did you note how the Texas tackle has his shoulders at an angle? Coach told us before that the offensive tackle wins if his shoulders stay square, and this time the emerging Oregon star has the advantage by making the Longhorn lose his leverage.
Watching Buckner overpower the offensive tackle by using the combination of power and technique? “Its a beautiful sight, Charles, seeing how the bench presses, coaching and player dedication come to fruition,” smiles the Grizzled Ol’ Coach.
It doesn’t get boring watching No. 44 (above), here on the left side of the Duck defensive line to beat the blocking and help stuff the Longhorn running play! (How many times did you enjoy watching it?)
Later in the Alamo Bowl Oregon (above) lined up in a 3-4 defense … or is that a “Bear” defense? While that is a topic for another day, we will witness the use, above, of a defensive line twist involving a looping action. Hart (lower yellow arrow) is going to explode into the right guard and center of the Longhorn offensive line, while Wade Keliikipi is going to loop around behind it all and meet the ball carrier. The surprise of the play is Buckner coming in from the backside (upper yellow arrow).
I numbered the players above to make it easier to keep track. Hart (yellow No. 1) is blasting into the right guard and center and drawing the attention of the Texas right tackle, as well. Keliikipi (yellow No. 2) is beginning his loop around — and as it is occurring, I hear Coach Morris tell me,”he’s taking too wide an angle!” We see DeForest (yellow No. 3) contending with a double team on him from the left Texas guard and tackle.
Hart (No. 1 above) is being buried by Texas linemen, but he did his job to plug the middle and force a double team on him. Keliikipi (No. 2 above) is turning the corner unimpeded and appears to be headed to a clash with a Longhorn pulling guard who is leading the way into the hole. Does Buckner (No. 3 above) look like he is busting through that double team?
This defensive play is a gem when everyone completes their responsibilities! Poor Hart (yellow No. 1 above) is overwhelmed and effectively took one for the team. Keliikipi (yellow No.2 above) did turn the corner a little too wide and instead of a head-up tackle, is instead getting the RB’s feet tied up. When you look at No. 3, above — there are two players near it but focus on the player below the yellow “3” as that is Buckner. This is after he broke the double team and his arms are open wide as he is about to swoop up the Texas ball carrier. Wow!
We can’t forget the efforts of Rodney Hardrick on this play, as he scraped into the H-Back and helped to blow up the play, as well. He is No. 48, and he is the “Mike,” or middle linebacker, on the play as he starts on the 31-yard line and in front of the Longhorn center.
This defense looks innovative with the alignment — that we’ll cover in this space another time – and well coached, as Oregon is employing tremendous technique in the short span of a play. DeForest Buckner became more noticeable as the season progressed, and he just had a monster bowl game with his combo of strength, technique and athleticism. He is my projected “Blow-up Player” of 2014 on defense, and I suspect we are going to see him featured here in slow motion often this next fall.
“Oh how we love to learn about our beloved Ducks!”
Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
Oregon Football Analyst for EugeneDailyNews/FishDuck.com
Top photo by Andrew Shurtleff