Oregon Fans: A Glimpse of a Jim Leavitt 3-4 Defense

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Analysis, Fish Reports

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It was fun in yesterday’s article to ponder the possibilities of the potential defensive staff and sense that Oregon might be building the foundation that can become a program-changing defense for Ducks football. The Grizzled Ol’ Coach (“GOC”) Mike Morris and I were talking about the 3-4 defense that Oregon’s new Defensive Coordinator Jim Leavitt will put into place, and it is evident some changes will be both obvious and welcome.

Let’s look at three fundamental areas that will be interesting to follow in Spring Football. Rest assured, we at FishDuck.com will dig deeper into these areas in the off season in an effort to learn more football, and share that knowledge with all of you.

Oregon will return to a Two-Gap “Zero Technique” Nose Tackle:

Watch this true Nose Tackle…

That subtitle above is a perfect example of something that sounds complex, yet when explained in normal terms, is quite easy to understand. The Colorado Nose Tackle (red arrow above) will take a “zero technique” in how he aligns, which means that he will simply be head-up on the center. He won’t shade one side or the other; just straight on so as to not give away where the defense wants to attack.

Two-gapping is something we’ll get into later … but it means that he stands up the center and is responsible for the “A” gap on both sides of the center, not just one “A” gap.

In the video above, the Buffs’ Nose Tackle blew up the center and drove him back into the quarterback, creating havoc and ultimately a sack for a teammate. A true Nose Tackle is important to set up other defenders, hence why Willie Taggart just offered a 340-pound brute in Florida to fill that essential role in Eugene.

Oregon’s Linebackers will be faster “filling” their gaps!

Watch the two arrowed players above…

You will want to watch the Ducks pulling guard (yellow arrow above) and the Colorado linebacker No. 31 (red arrow above) on this play. Oregon is going to run a Power Play where the right guard will pull and run over to the left side to lead up into the hole for the linebacker. On this play, it is crucial for the linebacker to recognize quickly and take on the upcoming blocker correctly.

This is a superb defensive play by the Colorado linebacker (No. 31 above). He doesn’t have to take on the inside shoulder of the guard because he is so fast in his recognition to “fill” his gap that he simply beats the blocker to the gap for a run-stuffing play.

Defensive Back Technique is Key on Third Down…

Not a true 3-4 on third down!

Coach Leavitt will always play regular 3-4 defense on first down, but he will switch it up in obvious passing situations on second and third downs. The 3-4 defense has changed from it’s origins and we’ll cover that another time. For now, look at the third down defense employed by Leavitt above. It is a 4-2-5 nickel defense: you see the four rushers on the line of scrimmage, the two linebackers, and four of the five defensive backs (the fifth defensive back is with Oregon WR Darren Carrington at the bottom of the formation).

Quarterbacks will typically go to a receiver who is covered one-on-one. If that WR was Darren Carrington … wouldn’t you? The Colorado corner must be fast, yet maintain his technique in order to stay with a Carrington for a come-back route near the sticks. The defender must have had his hand on the receiver’s hip and out of view to stay with him through any pass route that materializes. To stay so tightly on Carrington is simply a money play. Leavitt defenses have had very good defensive back technique, and it shows in the results.

This primer on a Jim Leavitt defense is already a refreshing departure from what Ducks fans suffered through in 2016 (and 2015). We will have a ton to watch for and learn over the bowl season and beyond to prepare us for a better Oregon defense in 2017.

“Oh, how we love to learn more football!

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

Top Photo from Video

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