The DeRuyter Defense: A JOKER and New Roles!

Coach Eric Boles Analysis

Now that we have a surface-level understanding of what Coach Tim DeRuyter’s defense will look like from my last article, lets’ take a deeper look at his base alignment. From the writings of the man himself, Coach DeRuyter prefers the 3-4 defense, and for good reason. Some of his personal reasons for using the alignment are that it gets better, more recruitable athletes on the field (it’s easier to recruit LBs than DL), it allows for multiple fronts, and it allows more creative pressures and coverages.

Tim DeRuyter’s 3-4 Alignment

Though the base defense is a 3-4 in Coach DeRuyter’s system (above), it carries some 3-3-5 vibes. Really, it feels like a combination of the two, with the flexibility to parry the variety of offensive attacks in today’s college football. The flexibility of the defense and the athletic versality of its personnel allow it to shapeshift in response to the opponent. In base alignment, it’s a defense that allows Coach DeRuyter to use his preferred zone coverages while maintaining the threat of aggressive zone blitzes.

Defensive Technique Alignment

As with any defense, Coach DeRuyter’s starts with the defensive line, and in a 3-4 the defensive line starts with the nose tackle. This position is meant for a two-gapper that can control both A-gaps. The prototypical NT in a 3-4 system would be a guy like Jordon Scott. He was recruited to play that role in Coach Jim Leavitt‘s defense, and he’s perfect for the role. With Scott declaring for the draft, a current Duck that could fill this role is Popo Aumavae.

The defensive ends are guys that can play both the 3 and 5-technique (see diagram above). Coach DeRuyter’s DE’s will start by lining up in a 4-tech (head-up on the offensive tackle) and then stem (move) to a 4i or 5-tech right before the snap. Player profiles that Coach DeRuyter likes in the DE position are those that are tall and long, with the length to create distance and shed blocks.

Kayvon Thibodaux will Terrorize Offenses as the Joker.

The linebacking positions in this system tend to be task-specific. The Joker position is typically the best pass-rusher on the team, and almost certainly this will be Kayvon Thibodeaux. The Joker is the outside linebacker almost always positioned to the boundary but occasionally positioned to the field when the offense’s passing strength is to the boundary. The primary responsibility of the Joker is as an edge-rusher, though he also has some coverage responsibilities to keep offenses on their toes.

The other outside linebacker in this system is the Sam (strongside linebacker), and this may be the most interesting position to see filled at Oregon. Coach DeRuyter describes this position as a “big safety.” The Sam is the position that gives this defense some 3-3-5 aspects with alignment flexibility against different offenses.

Whoever mans the Sam position will mostly align to the field side of the offensive formation before the snap. If the offense’s pass strength is to the boundary, then the Sam will align to the boundary. Most of his responsibilities are in coverage, but he also has some blitz and pass rushing responsibilities.

The One-Man Wrecking Crew, Noah Sewell.

The Mike (middle linebacker) should be the more athletic of the two inside linebackers on the field. In fact, he will be responsible for defending the third receiver to his side of the field. The Mike will play to the pass strength of the offense, so he will travel with (line up on the same side as) the Sam. This is another position that seems more up for grabs than having a clear favorite right now, though a healthy Justin Flowe would seem well-suited for the job.

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The Will (weakside linebacker) is the second ILB on the field and will travel with the Joker opposite the Mike. The Will is the wrecking-ball of the linebacking corps, as his job is to come downfield, plug a gap and hit someone. Though he acts as a one-man wrecking crew, he does have to be able to contribute in coverage and play in space. The Will seems like the perfect position for Noah Sewell.

Oregon’s New Blitz Packages will Unleash Their Secondary.

The secondary in this defense is typical for the way that defensive backfields are built in other schemes. The safeties are interchangeable as far as skill sets, but they do play to specific sides of the field. The strong safety travels with the Mike and Sam, while the free safety travels with the Will and Joker.

There is also a field corner and a boundary corner, and Coach DeRuyter likes for his best corner to play the boundary. The idea is that offenses like to play their best receiver to the single receiver side, so the best corner is going to play to that side.

The way Coach DeRuyter builds his defense allows him to be flexible and disguise what he’s throwing at offenses. Not only will he be implementing a very creative defense with the Oregon Ducks, but he already has the pieces on campus (and maybe some incoming) to make it work.

Good times on defense are coming my Duck friends!

Coach Eric Boles
Newark, Ohio
Top Photo Credit: Tod Fierner

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