A Synopsis of the Defensive Scheme Argument

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Roy McAvoy
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A Synopsis of the Defensive Scheme Argument

Post by Roy McAvoy » December 26th, 2019, 11:33 am

Gary Andersen was hired at USU prior to the 2009 season. After two seasons at USU, Gary determined that it fit USU's personnel and recruiting strengths to switch from a 4-3-4 (4-man front) to a 3-4-4 (3-man front) base defense. This decision would prove to pay off immensely. USU would go on to relative prodigious defensive success the next 8 seasons.

(I understand USU was in a 4-2-5 base defense this year and 3-3-5 base defense last year. The main premise is still there with the idea of playing a 4-man front straight-up man-to-man football (e.g. put your hand in the dirt and beat your guy off the block) vs. a 3-man front with more disguised and routine blitzing like we had become accustomed to seeing at USU.)

USU found a niche at LB where it was a position USU could recruit to by finding hidden gems and taking players who played other positions and switching them to LB. They could put on weight and muscle, learn the position, and find success.

Earlier this year, a New Orleans newspaper wrote an article about Dave Aranda and the defensive scheme at USU. Here are segments the article:
....McMackin told Andersen: "Gary, there is one guy you need to hire, and it's Dave Aranda". The deciding factor came down to scheme.

Andersen was shifting Utah State's defense from a four-man front to a three-man front. The Aggies' personnel demanded the change, Shaver said, because it's tough at that level to obtain enough true defensive linemen to run a 4-3 defense.

Utah State had a high supply of linebackers and Aranda, although he had run a four-man front at Hawaii, was innovating his defenses with something he called "simulated pressure."

Aranda was concocting pressure in opposing backfields by creating favorable matchups between his defenders and the offensive blockers, and he believed the system could be even more successful if an extra skill player was used on the field instead of another lineman.

"We had an idea of what we wanted to do," said Clune, a former linebackers coach at Utah State who now coaches the same position at Memphis. "We were turning the corner, and with Dave coming in, he put his fingerprint on it, and we took the next step."

The system flourished in the final season of the Western Athletic Conference — a league that was jam-packed with teams that had completely different offensive ideologies.

..."He wanted to show a different pressure," Shaver said. "Get them guys to check their protection and bring it a different way. So, basically a cat and mouse game with the offensive line."

...Those ideas set records at Utah State.

The Aggies recorded 42 sacks in 2012, tied for seventh nationally, and the defense set a school record with 13 sacks in a 49-27 win over San Jose State — a team that eventually went 11-2, the school's best record in history, and finished No. 21 in the AP polls with future NFL quarterback David Fales.
Then in 2019, when Gary was re-hired, a successful defense returning many starters from 2018 switched to a 4-2-5 base. As fans, we've had little to no explanation as to why this switch was made.

Two successful LB's (Tipa & Te'i) were switched to DL. This is the scheme the new defensive coordinator, Justin Ena, had been a part of at Utah. The perception among Aggie fans is that all of a sudden we weren't seeing the pressure on the QB we were accustomed to and the defense seemed to take a step backwards. If Gary previously identified that USU needed to switch to a 3-man front and then had success, why switch back to a 4-man front?

Let's look at what some advanced analytics say. There are rating systems that look at various factors of advanced analytics and weight things such as strength of schedule. I know this was our most difficult schedule of the modern times, but these rankings adjust for that. I looked at three of the more popular and respected ones and took an average. (The border lines indicate the period in which USU switched to a 3-man front. These rankings also have yet to update after the bowl games in which USU will surely drop more.These rankings are out of a total 130 FBS teams.)

Image

Also, while sacks are simply a small fraction of defensive success, I noticed a correlation between overall defensive ranking and the amount of sacks USU has had in a season.

Image

Next, I wanted to look at all the defensive players that have made the NFL from USU the past 8 seasons. Does USU really have more success with LBs than DLs? This list is from football reference. It includes players that have played in an NFL game. It does not include practice squad signings. (I'm including Woodward because he was so dominant in college and as long as he stays healthy he's a sure fire guy to play in an NFL game. Keep in mind it also excludes some great college LB's like Jake Doughty.) Look at the evidence here. 7 guys who played LB at USU have played in an NFL game. That's a high % of players who played LB at USU because some of those guys started for multiple years. Not a single DL has done it, yet.

Image

I know there's more variables and ideas behind the defense that go well beyond the surface or the data that is presented here. My intent is not to excoriate the coaching staff. I just think what the fan base really wants is to hear a real explanation for the switch from Gary and Ena and why they think it will work going forward when Gary didn't think so previously. Some response to a few of these critiques and a method behind the madness would go a long ways I think.

:utah: :state:


https://www.theadvocate.com/baton_rouge ... 6062b.html
https://www.footballoutsiders.com/stats/feidef/2019
http://www.espn.com/college-football/team/fpi/_/id/328
https://www.pro-football-reference.com/schools/utahst/
Last edited by Roy McAvoy on December 26th, 2019, 12:38 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: A Synopsis of the 4-Man Front vs. 3-Man Front Defense Argument

Post by oleblu111 » December 26th, 2019, 11:47 am

That is a lot of research to come up with, however the simple truth is alignment is made to where coach's think they have a advantage. After Woody's injury the kids in the front were not that good. Changing alignment with that group would most likely changed quality very little. The up front group must be strong regardless of alignment.



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Re: A Synopsis of the Defensive Scheme Argument

Post by GeoAg » December 26th, 2019, 2:02 pm

One thought to consider is that the coaches may be thinking that we are in a different place than we were 10 years ago with respect to the players we can get. The recruiting rankings would seem to imply that. Maybe they expect long-term to be able to get more legit DLs in. We'll see if that will be the case or not.
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Re: A Synopsis of the Defensive Scheme Argument

Post by Donman » December 26th, 2019, 2:42 pm

Has anyone asked Gary why?



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Re: A Synopsis of the Defensive Scheme Argument

Post by NavyBlueAggie » December 26th, 2019, 3:12 pm

And if we see we are going to continue with the 4-3 next season what results should we expect from AGGIE Football in 2020? If we see the 3-4 then perhaps an off season sea change has occurred. Ongoing recruiting should tell us quite a bit about what to expect for the 2020 season as led by Coach Andersen. Nice bit of research posted here Roy,,,,,,thank you.



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Re: A Synopsis of the Defensive Scheme Argument

Post by oleblu111 » December 26th, 2019, 3:14 pm

Of course we did run a 3 man front a lot this season.



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Re: A Synopsis of the Defensive Scheme Argument

Post by hickaggie » December 26th, 2019, 4:27 pm

oleblu111 wrote:
December 26th, 2019, 3:14 pm
Of course we did run a 3 man front a lot this season.
Losing Woody was a complete disaster and the Aggies did go with a 3 man front at times but it was a far less aggressive philosophy with a lot of 3 man rushes and Tipa dropping in the flat.

I've said what I think more than enough. While Woody's loss exposed this defense greatly it was poorly run and poorly coached from philosophy to fundamentals. I personally think it would have been a better D post Woody with Tei as an OLB full time and Tipa being able to utilize his finesse rush skills.

However, I don't know if it would have changed the Aggies record much. I think they beat Wake with last year's scheme with Woody, and don't completely get their asses kicked against the Zoobs and Zoomies. The bowl game result may have been different too as it would have only taken an assignment to hit the QB every play and one disruption of a drive late to win. Who knows.

I do know I've seen more than enough of Ena's D style. Hope I'm wrong and he pulls it together. Not crossing my fingers.

The argument that we can bring in true difference making real 4 man front D ends. Hope so. With the graduation of Henninger there is not one on the roster that I can see now.



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Re: A Synopsis of the Defensive Scheme Argument

Post by ShowMeAggie » December 26th, 2019, 5:15 pm

maybe stating the obvious, but i would point out the lag-year from 2011, when we made the change to the 3-man front and 2012, when we actually saw the benefits of the switch reflected in the statistics. what are the chances that our stats jump WAAY up over the next two years as we are able to plug the type of players into the system that are needed for the system to be successful...



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Re: A Synopsis of the Defensive Scheme Argument

Post by hickaggie » December 26th, 2019, 5:24 pm

ShowMeAggie wrote:
December 26th, 2019, 5:15 pm
maybe stating the obvious, but i would point out the lag-year from 2011, when we made the change to the 3-man front and 2012, when we actually saw the benefits of the switch reflected in the statistics. what are the chances that our stats jump WAAY up over the next two years as we are able to plug the type of players into the system that are needed for the system to be successful...
Do you also remember that Gary demoted Busch and hired some random guy as the DC. Heard a rumor somewhere that guy earns triple what Gary's paid doing something. Forget what.
s



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Re: A Synopsis of the Defensive Scheme Argument

Post by NavyBlueAggie » December 26th, 2019, 5:33 pm

Yes, IIRC Aranda came from Hawaii and a number of us were wondering just what that hire was all about and where it would lead our gridiron fortunes. I do wish our football program well in the recruiting and off season and trust we will enjoy some additional Gary Andersen JFW kind of AGGIE Football.



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Re: A Synopsis of the Defensive Scheme Argument

Post by Elkaggie » December 26th, 2019, 7:28 pm

Our Dline was considered the strongest and deepest unit on the team going in to year. Perhaps this is why the coaches felt this scheme would work. First Ingram our best coorner transfers, then Fua goes down and then we lose Woody. This was a recipe for disaster and as other injuries piled up it snow balled into a complete train wreck defensively. I trust GA will get the ship righted. He will move Maile back to defense, bring in another defensive coach and get our strength program back On track. At this point I don’t see us changing back to 3 man front. BUT I truly believe he will get us back to top D in the conference.
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Re: A Synopsis of the Defensive Scheme Argument

Post by El Sapo » December 27th, 2019, 1:14 pm

The defensive scheme is most obvious when you count players typically dedicated to stopping the run game. Players "in the box." We played 4-3 or 3-4? you have 7 big guys "in the box." You go 4-2 or 3-3? Only 6 big guys are on the field.

You see a trend now for teams to take advantage schemes leaning toward pass defense. It's a passing league right? But, power running game (49ers, Ravens) is on the rise and very successful against teams basing their defensive schemes on defending the pass.

GA is a defensive coach. Our success or lack success on defense is his to own


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Re: A Synopsis of the Defensive Scheme Argument

Post by Roy McAvoy » January 6th, 2020, 8:05 am

This article was posted in another thread by orangecountyaggie, but I just wanted to highlight that Gary did in fact answer some of the big question marks here. I don't think he'll dwell much on the past, but going forward at least I'm hopeful we'll see some changes.

https://www.sltrib.com/sports/2020/01/0 ... wants-his/



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Re: A Synopsis of the Defensive Scheme Argument

Post by Roy McAvoy » January 16th, 2020, 8:29 am

Major kudos to Gary for pulling the trigger here. I guess he felt the same way many of us did.

I don't know if it will work, but he's making some big changes for sure. It's tough to do that after just one season.



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Re: A Synopsis of the Defensive Scheme Argument

Post by Aggie84025 » January 16th, 2020, 8:54 am

I agree, not sure what to think of the CO-DC gig, but I like the people in those roles. Frank needs to be back on defense so that is good. I give credit to Gary for making this decision, i am sure those were not easy conversations. Excited to see how it turns out. Now please just don't run the 4 dlineman set very often. We do not have the horses to run that defense.



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