Middle Linebacker Technique: Jimmie Swain Is Making Plays!

This fall, we have often used examples of the poor technique by the Oregon defense to help learn more football. However, the Utah game showed us glimpses of how Jimmie Swain is emerging as a solid player for the future of the Duck defense. He’s becoming a legit Pac-12 starting linebacker (good enough to be a defensive strength, instead of a weakness) and while his progression has not been overnight, it is now quite evident. This 6’2″ 235-lb. junior linebacker from Olathe, Kan., has the body profile and the speed to help our beloved Ducks turn things around defensively for the long term.

Let’s examine two plays to see his technique, and at the same time - learn more football!

(A special thanks again to the Grizzled Ol’ Coach, Mike Morris, for teaching us more about defense!)

Lined up right...

From Video

Lined up right …

The first player in this sequence is defensive end Henry Mondeaux, (DE in yellow letters above). He will get trapped, but has a part in this play. Next is the outside linebacker (OLB in  yellow letters above), Johnny Ragin III and the emerging player on the Oregon defense, Swain (MLB in yellow letters above), who is really going to show some speed and toughness here.

Swain on the attack!

From Video

Swain on the attack!

Mondeaux (yellow DE above) is getting his hands on the offensive tackle to slow him down and prevent a block down on the MLB above. Swain is moving fast to attack the B-gap to beat said down block. Note how close he is to the line of scrimmage as the running back is just getting the handoff. Ragin will be correctly attacking the ball carrier (later) from the inside-out.

THIS is how you blow up a play!

From Videio

THIS is how you blow up a play!

By attacking and penetrating so quickly, Swain beats the offensive tackle blocking down. He is blowing up three different blockers for the Utes (including the pulling guard aiming to kick out Mondeaux) with his speed, toughness and aggressive play. Mondeaux (No. 92) keeps the running back from bouncing outside and Ragin is tracking inside-out to the open gap.

Note safety Khalil Oliver closing fast for run support help; that is superb, as you need that help from your safeties against a powerful running team such as Utah.

Set-up ... take down!

From Video

Set-up … take down!

Ragin (yellow arrow above) is right there to meet the running back and keep the play from going anywhere. His correct inside-out angle from his OLB position and his tacking form enabled you to hear the hit on TV – a rare occurrence this year!

The way that Swain (above) attacked swiftly and blew up the blockers is a great way to take on the Power play as well. His aggressiveness set up his teammates for a tackle at the LOS, which gives everyone on the Duck defense more confidence.

You gotta love that classic 4-3 look...

From Video

You gotta love that classic 4-3 look …

This (above) is another example of how Swain makes a good play filling a gap to set up his teammates for a big tackle-for-loss. Note the contain defender at defensive end is T.J. Daniel, and the MLB is Swain once again (yellow arrow above). Do keep an eye on the green arrow, showing defensive back Tyree Robinson.

Great work by everyone to fill their gap!

From Video

Great work by everyone to fill their gap!

There is a lot to like about the screenshot above as the Utes begin a sweep play to their right. T.J.(black arrow above) is working fantastic contain technique attacking the outside shoulder, thus the blocker cannot “reach” him to the inside. Swain (yellow arrow above) is moving downhill toward his gap quickly, and freshman defensive tackle Gary Baker is fighting to maintain control of his gap.

Note how Tyree Robinson (green arrow above) is on a corner blitz from the backside!

Nowhere to go!

From Video

Nowhere to go!

The screenshot above is a beautiful vision of team defense; start with the black arrow of Daniel maintaining outside contain so that the running back cannot get the edge. Then we see Swain beat his blocker to his gap; he is at the LOS before the running back! Note No. 51, Baker, maintaining his gap to prevent a cut-back lane. The running back is stopping in his tracks with no place to go. Sweet!

Also check the backside pursuit: Justin Hollins would normally pursue from behind about five yards deep, but with Robinson in a corner blitz, that allows Hollins to forego his normal contain responsibilities to the corner, and he can rush in a flatter path closer to the LOS. This running back is trapped!

Every Oregon defender filled their gaps, but the swiftness again of Swain filling his gap from inside-out before the blocker can make contact, gives the running back a look with nothing open directly in front of him. These are plays that simply did not happen in the early part of the year. The Duck defenders appear to have moved beyond the 3-4, two-gapping, stand-’em-up technique, as they are starting (finally) to identify their gap and attack it faster.

Oregon is not there yet, obviously, but this is how you start to turn this defense around; one game at a time! We’ve been criticizing the LBs all season for reacting too slowly, but the above plays represent the fast-and-nasty attack attitude we’ve been looking for!

Retired coach Mike Morris has been talking to me about how Swain was getting better throughout the season … from, “He’s horrible,” to “He’s doing some things right,” to “He’s turning into a Pac-12 linebacker!” The excitement for a coach comes from watching a player’s technique improve, his confidence grow and seeing the blossoming of a badly needed linebacker in the Oregon defensive front seven. He is but one of several bright spots for next year!

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

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

Top Photo from Video

 

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