Thoughts from never-never land

The Texas flag in Morgantown. (Will Gallagher/IT)
The Texas flag in Morgantown. (Will Gallagher/IT)

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Every now and then I find reason to appreciate exactly why I’m so glad my days of teaching this wonderful game are history. I find keeping up with the new-fangled discoveries contrary to every rule that so guided my career. Damn, we were so fundamentally dependent compared to the swashbuckling attitude today’s game offers—hate to admit it but we were far less exciting to the appetite and by extension the ulcers. Mystic.

Let’s start with the TE position. Anybody that believes an in-line TE can effectively block a for real DE isn’t paying attention. The physical matchup doesn’t measure up anymore. Every third year the only college TE that can hold his own gets drafted early. The remaining drafts take the athletic receiving TE’s first and fill up the last two rounds with blockers they hope won’t die an early death in the trenches.

The great thing about today’s game is the in-line TE doesn’t always face a kickass DE at the point. It’s more likely he faces an off the line OLB or a hybrid safety hidden in a variety of alignments in order for the defense to have more flexibility. Offenses now merely utilize the “H-Back” way of life when facing DC’s that refuse to give up their domination on the edge.

H-Backs use alignment to attain blocking angles when they aren’t utilized with motion to achieve an advantage. I find 99% of the present day H-backs are much better pass catchers than effective blockers but that largely depends on how many chicken poop blocks they are offered. I liked it better when we called H-backs fullbacks but then they did grunt work without all the fanfare like the rest of us. Trade-off I guess.

Watching Orlando spin his magic last fall was a downright inspiration for me. I’m converted and probably spoiled now. I have a hard time convincing myself we can play defense where the only defender that can’t fly is the NT and he must have short area quickness with the ability to penetrate a stone wall. Anything less will be a huge disappointment.

It’s my belief part of our success on defense last fall was Orlando’s use of deception and total disregard for allowing conventional wisdom to influence his plan. There is zero doubt in my mind these guys were super well coached. In order to eliminate busted assignments in a complex system facing up-tempo offenses is mind boggling to those of us that paced the sidelines back in the day of normal football. Wow is all I have.

I have few suggestions for the modern day DC but the first question I would ask all would be WHY don’t you use a designated “spy” against every passing situation. I’m in the group that believes not making the QB throw the ball in those situations offers the opponent the easiest conversion.

Something can go wrong if you make him throw—haven’t seen many QB’s flat out fall/trip in the open field but then I have a strong ambition to hit every QB as often as possible dating back to my playing days. There is just something about finding out just how bad those QB’s want to make that first down in those situations.

While I’m on the defensive kick I’m rapidly understanding the need for the 6 DB’s way of life in this (big 12) conference. As long as you surround yourself with a balance of cover guys in accordance with some “knock bark off a tree with their noses” kind of safeties you can effectively mix and match in anticipation of the often wild hare offensive minds stacked in this conference.

The secret is to find players that can tackle first. The second trait is solid in coverage. The third trait is the ability to stunt from a variety of alignments. Once you establish the pecking order you can start assigning duties with regard to individual strengths. I strongly believe you can sell DB’s on playing time when you play six at any given time and it’s obvious Orlando isn’t shy about flooding the field with DB’s.

This also plays into our system. Eric has repeatedly told us the state isn’t LB friendly. I can believe that. If I were still coaching I would take my best force player and move him around but always on the LOS. In the days of old you made him your Mike backer until he proved he couldn’t be a difference maker there.

You can’t do that anymore—OC’s will simply scheme him completely out of a big role as a gap filling Mike. They can make him play coverage. I understand they can unless you stunt him every down. If you are stunting him every play why play him off the LOS—he’s steps closer as a DL/OLB.

I will finish this ordeal with a small pet peeve. The age of being fundamentally sound at the edge is pretty much history in today’s world. Nobody worries about being out-flanked anymore. You see it all the time. Defenses align and dare you to run to the designated weakness. They CYA with athletic movement.

Try running the ball at that designated area. You will find more soldiers attacking that area than you can block—it’s hard to block moving targets especially athletic targets. They fly in from every direction. The secret is to not get centered up by the blocker—they must beat the blocker by beating him while he’s still arriving at the scene.

Recognition quickness paired with ground covering speed allows the defender to function successfully despite being at an apparent disadvantage on alignment. It drives me crazy to witness being out-flanked in alignment. When you spend a lifetime preaching aligning sound and teach technique from there it just somehow goes against the grain to watch big 12 play the brand of ball offered most days.

It brings out my dark side. I fall back into the mystic—take 11. Fittingly.