Linebacker Technique Analysis: Taking on the Blocks

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Analysis, Fish Reports

Much that has been written about the Oregon defense and why it is one of the worst in college football has been centered around recruiting and the lack of talent on the defensive side of the ball.

“We are being overpowered on the line-of-scrimmage and do not have enough 4-star defensive players to take on the sophisticated offenses and talented offensive linemen Oregon sees in the conference each week.”

That is a crock.

Something that the Grizzled Ol’ Coach Mike Morris (GOC) would say often after a game during Oregon’s recent successful years is how most of Oregon’s touchdowns were primarily scored due to the mistakes of the opposing defense. I was too busy studying the Xs and Os to check into that assertion at the time, but the phrase has come back to haunt me this year, as teams are running Oregon’s own plays against the Ducks, and the Ducks are the ones making mistakes on defense.

Oregon has the talent and the players to do better, but poor technique is the issue with our beloved Ducks. Against USC the difference with both of the Trojans long rushing touchdowns was not superior USC talent on the offensive line but the bad decisions made by the Ducks’ linebackers as well as gap integrity lost on plays that could have been stuffed for no gains. Fans want to know why Oregon is doing so badly on defense, so let’s use this opportunity to understand the technique errors and at the same time “learn more football!”   

Oregon is running a slant on the defensive line.

Oregon is running a slant on the defensive line.

As you note above, the Oregon defensive tackles (green arrows) are running a slant to their right. The key players to keep an eye on this example are the defensive tackle (‘DT’ in yellow) and the linebacker on the Ducks’ left side. (‘LB’ in yellow)

Get your head in that gap!

Get your head in that gap!

The Duck defensive tackle (green arrow above) is being met in the “A” gap by the Trojan center, and the right guard of USC is coming out to meet the Oregon defender in a double-team combo block. It is crucial that this Oregon defensive tackle get his head in the gap between the center and guard and effectively demand a double-team to help the linebacker come up and take the “B” gap. (Dotted green line and arrow) (To learn about Gaps….go here)

This is not a good start at all!

This is not a good start at all!

The Oregon defensive tackle above has been “hooked,” as the USC center has his head in the “A” gap and the Oregon defensive tackle (green arrow above) is in the wrong gap. The right guard, No. 60 of USC, is realizing that the center needs no help, and he can now move out to block the Oregon linebacker. Why is the linebacker just standing there? MOVE NOW!

The linebacker above should be charging this “B” gap and should be zipping past the right hip of the offensive right guard at this instant. If he does – the play is stopped before it starts.

This is cringeworthy...

This is cringeworthy…

It takes only one defender to mess up a play, but the Ducks have both the defensive tackle in the wrong gap, as well as terrible technique by the linebacker, contributing to a USC touchdown. Note how we have two Oregon defensive tackles side-by-side above; it is not supposed to occur that way.

The linebacker needed to quickly attack and fill the “B” gap, to “dip-and-rip” with his inside (right) arm and shoulder up through the OG’s (No. 60) outside shoulder, beating the OG’s attempted hook block.

Linebackers should never do what you see above, as taking on a mountain of an offensive lineman head-on is going to get you buried, hence why you attack one side or the other. Linebacker Technique 101 is ‘Never take on a block head-on; always attack a side’ – and it needs to be the side that puts your head into the gap you are responsible for.

So taking on the wrong gap above by the Oregon defensive tackle was mistake No. 1 and then the linebacker hesitating and not attacking the open gap was mistake No. 2. The third mistake was the linebacker taking an offensive lineman head-on and not attacking past his outside shoulder. In military parlance … “It was a cluster …”

Note this play above was not about size or 40-yard dash time of Oregon’s defenders; it was decisions and techniques because if the defensive techniques are done correctly and all gaps are accounted for? The play is stopped with little gain. (Many thanks to the GOC for educating us all!)

We are in a BEAR!

We are in a BEAR!

Above you see the Ducks lined up in a BEAR defense to mix things up on the Trojans. A BEAR defense has two defensive tackles lined up in the “3” alignment, on the outside shoulder of the offensive guard, and a linebacker is on the LOS (LB in yellow letters above) to defend the “C”gap in a “7” alignment. The linebacker to the extreme right is responsible for the “D” gap on the outside and is in charge of containing the perimeter.

At the snap, the USC linemen are going to move to their left, as indicated by the red arrows.

Linebacker....get your head in that gap!

Linebacker … get your head in that gap!

The ball is snapped and the tight end of USC, No. 48 above has moved to his left to get his head in the gap and try to “seal” the linebacker of Oregon to the outside of the gap. It is imperative that the Duck defender get his left shoulder inside of the left shoulder of the Trojan tight end. Thus, his head will be in the gap and the “C” gap would be defended with the outside linebacker guarding the “D” gap.

Don't take him head-on!

Don’t take him head-on!

The Oregon outside linebacker above to the extreme right clearly has the “D” gap and outside defended. Thus, the “C” gap must be filled by the linebacker. You have to gulp when you see the Duck LB settle for taking on the tight end head-on, which is the worst thing a linebacker can do. Now the Trojan tight end can get his head on the inside of the “C” gap and seal to outside the Oregon linebacker.

It makes me ill, and it is simple technique.

It makes me ill, and it is simple technique.

Here we have the Oregon outside linebacker covering the “D” gap and the perimeter above. Sure enough, the USC tight end, No. 48, has moved his head to the inside of the “C” gap (the green question mark) and has sealed the Duck linebacker away from the gap. The running back has not even made it back to the LOS and it is all over but the screaming for the Ducks.

Who is teaching these techniques to the linebackers?

I have a couple of coaching consultants who each have said that they would be embarrassed if their linebackers in high school played this poor of technique. If the Oregon linebacker is in the “C” gap on this play? It is a tackle-for-loss! And it is all technique!

Coach Morris wrote an article last week about some superb defensive coaching taking place at Vanderbilt by the former defensive guru/coordinator at Stanford, Derek Mason. Auburn is a team that would stick at least 55 points on Oregon’s defense, and yet the final score was 23-16, Auburn – with the game coming down to the last play. Vandy is giving up only 21.6 points per game, and that average would have enabled Oregon to win a TON of games! The point is that good defense will keep you in a game and give you a shot at winning, and you cannot say that Vanderbilt has superior talent to that at Oregon. It is coaching, my friends!

“Oh how we love to learn about college football!”

Charles Fischer   (FishDuck)
College Football Analyst for
Eugene, Oregon

Top Photo from Video

Disclaimer: Readers: Every writer on is allowed to express their opinion in their articles. However, articles do not represent the views of the other writers, editors, coaching consultants, management, or the principals of    Charles Fischer

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