The “404” Defensive Scheme is BACK with DC Jim Leavitt

Coach Morris Analysis, Fish Reports, Learning the Jim Leavitt 3-4 Hybrid Defense

My friends, we are fortunate again to have an Analysis from our own Grizzled Ol’ Coach, Mike Morris, as he will be slowly releasing information about the new Oregon Offense and Defense over the next couple of months along with our other superb coaches aligned with Do know that the defense that our beloved Ducks will be running is actually quite unique within college football, hence quite interesting to learn about before football season. Enjoy!  Charles Fischer

Back in the days of defensive line coaches Jerry Azzinaro, and the early days of Ron Aiken, the Ducks’ most effective defensive scheme was the “404“.  I called it that because of the techniques used by the 3 defensive linemen:

Every shade of positioning is important….

A “4 technique” was used by both Defensive Ends, and a “0 technique” was used by the Nose Tackle, thus the “404” defensive alignment. (For more information for learning gaps and techniques–refer to this article)

DEs Taylor Hart, DeForest Buckner, and Arik Armstead wreaked a lot of havoc while wonderfully using the 4 technique.  (If you click on those links–you will find superb analysis of the 404 technique in the past by our own GOC-FishDuck Note) At the recent Oregon Coaches’ Clinic, Oregon Offensive line coach, Mario Cristobal, called the 4 technique on defense,

“the hardest to block against”.

Later we’ll give more information and examples of the 4 technique in future analysis articles.  But for now:

The Defense Ends (DEs) are responsible for the “B” gap inside and can move outside as well.

The Defensive End (DE) above lines up on the inside shoulder of the Offensive Tackle. (OT)

He attacks the OT’s inside shoulder, and looks to protect his inside – B gap responsibility. When he is sure the ball is going to his outside, the DE crosses the face of the OT to get to the ball.  Thus the term, “2 gap” – he can stop running plays on both his inside AND outside gaps.

The Nose Tackle “Two-Gaps” as well.

The 0 (zero) technique requires the Nose Tackle (NT) above to drive the center straight back into the offensive backfield.  If he controls the center properly, the NT can stop running plays to both A gaps.  (Another “2 gap” technique)

Whenever a DE uses a 4 technique, the Outside Linebacker on his side must blitz and contain.  So if both DEs use a 4 technique, 404 is a 5-man rush [a “blitz”], and the other LBs and DBs must cover accordingly. (We’ll discuss pass coverages in other analyses)

Now let’s watch this 404 defense in action, (below) in the Spring Game against the Oregon offense, running an Inside Zone Read:

Great 404 Defense!

The Oregon running back, Tony Brooks-James No. 22, wants to find a hole to his right, but there’s no open holes; the red arrow above is Left Outside Linebacker [the new defender named “Duck” in this defense], No. 32, Lamar Winston, who is containing and taking the C gap. When the Left Defensive End, No. 48 Hunter Kampmoyer, (the green arrow above) sees his OT block out on the OLB, he quickly attacks the outside shoulder of the Offensive Guard, securing the B gap.

The Nose Tackle No. 51 Gary Baker, (yellow arrow above) attacks the center and drives him straight back, securing both A gaps. The Right Defensive End No. 74 Elijah George, (blue arrow above) attacks the inside shoulder of Oregon’s Left Offensive Tackle and secures the B gap on that side.

Below is a GREAT SHOT of ALL FOUR defensive linemen simultaneously getting separation from and controlling their offensive blockers.  Note the extended arm positions of all four.

Linebackers are in position…

The Right Outside Linebacker No. 42 Jonah Moi, (red arrow above) is responsible for the QB if he keeps. The Left Linebacker No. 35, Troy Dye, (green arrow above) attacks the LOS to his side, keeping inside-out leverage on the ball carrier, first making sure the A gap is secure.

The Right Linebacker No. 55, A.J. Hotchkins, (yellow arrow above) shows why it’s important that the Oregon inside linebackers line up 5 yards deep: A.J. first checks the A gap to his side, but when the ball carrier, finding no hole on the right side, tries to cut back to the C gap on his left–A.J. sees this, is deep enough to adjust, and beautifully fills that gap from the inside out.

Also when the Right Defensive End, Elijah George, (above in video) sees the ball carrier trying to get outside of him–then No. 74 crosses the Offensive Tackle’s face, and gets in on the tackle. Finally, the Right Outside Linebacker, Jonah Moi, who originally was responsible for the QB, by “slow playing” him, now sees the QB doesn’t have the ball, so Moi gets in on the tackle of the ball carrier.

On the very next play, of the Oregon Spring Game, the Oregon offense again tries to execute an Inside Zone Read to their right, this time with the H-back blocking the Right Outside Linebacker. So, again, let’s watch the individual techniques of the 404 Defensive Technique below:

Controlling their Gaps!

The ball carrier, Tony Brooks-James again wants to go to his right. (But there’s nowhere to run) The Nose Tackle, No. 51 Gary Baker (green arrow above) really explodes and drives the center back, and then extends his arms to separate from and control that blocker. The Duck/Left Outside Linebacker No. 32, Lamar Winston, (red arrow above) has the outside, C gap, contained.

Wonderful defensive technique…

The Left Defensive End No. 48, Hunter Kampmoyer, (green arrow above) executes a truly classic 4 technique; first he secures his B gap, by attacking the inside shoulder of the Offensive Tackle. Then, when he’s sure the ball is going outside him, Hunter crosses the OT’s face and makes a beautiful tackle…

The Left Linebacker No. 55, A.J. Hotchkins, (yellow arrow above) gets a bit of a late start, but when he realizes where the ball carrier is going, he quickly and beautifully fills the hole from the inside out, for a great tackle.  Hotchkins was my “Defensive Player of the Game” in the Duck spring game.  He’s come a long way.

So apparently has the Ducks’ defense.  There weren’t two defensive plays all last season as beautiful as these two consecutive plays.  And we, at, will have a lot more examples of excellent Oregon defense, and some mental errors, for you to see and learn about during the rest of the summer.

Coach Mike Morris  (Grizzled Ol’ Coach)
Pleasant Hill, Oregon

Top Photo by Gary Breedlove

New 2024 FishDuck Publishing Schedule….

During the off-season the publishing schedule will consist of articles on Mondays and Tuesdays. Do keep checking as new articles could be published during the week when a writer has something to say.

In mid-August of 2024, we will go back to the seven-days-a-week of articles during the football season as we did in the football season of 2023.

The Our Beloved Ducks Forum (OBD) is where we we discuss the article above and many more topics, as it is so much easier in a message board format over there.  At the free OBD forum we will be posting Oregon Sports article links, the daily Press Releases from the Athletic Department and the news coming out every day.

Our 33 rules at the free OBD Forum can be summarized to this: 1) be polite and respectful, 2) do not tell anyone what to think, feel or write, and 3) no reference of any kind to politics. Easy-peasy!

OBD Forum members….we got your back.  No Trolls Allowed!