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budfosterBy Mike Kuchar, Senior Research Manager, X&O Labs

The research in this article is part of a special report that X&O Labs conducted on Virginia Tech University’s Bear Package, which it used to hold Ohio State to 108 rushing yards last season, giving the Buckeyes its only loss on their national championship season.


By Mike Kuchar
Senior Research Manager
X&O Labs
Twitter: @MikeKKuchar

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Please Note: The following research is part of a special report that X&O Labs conducted on Virginia Tech University’s Bear Package, which it used to hold Ohio State to 108 rushing yards last season, giving the Buckeyes its only loss on their national championship season.

The Bear package is a single gap control defense up front, which is why Virginia Tech defensive line coach Charley Wiles, a 19-year veteran in Blacksburg, spends more time on get-off than any other fundamental. Although they are shade players by alignment, the defensive line (at least the interior three) doesn’t spend much time reading the “tip” or “V of neck” of offensive linemen. They are getting off the ball and getting in gaps. The goal is simple: get penetration.

3-Technique Play vs. Zone Read (Pad Back Technique)

When studying this package, it’s inherently clear how the presence of two 3-techniques can ultimately disrupt blocking schemes and create chaos in the backfield. Often times watching tape we were amazed with how unblockable these players were. They were getting penetration in their gap play side and not getting cutoff backside. The reasoning is simple: many times these 3-techinques are reduced defensive ends who are working on offensive guards who don’t have the size or strength to handle them.

Wiles and Foster break up their teaching of these players to the front side and backside of run schemes. If the zone play is coming toward you (and you are front side), your rule is simple: get off the ball and get into your gap. However, if the zone is going away from you (and subsequently you are on the read side of play) now you must execute what is known as a “pad back” technique against the tackle. The 3-technique will hold his ground and stay square into the B gap to keep the area tight for the read side defensive end. He can’t get washed too far inside. The level of the back will tell him if he should anticipate a zone run scheme (Foster calls it level three, which is detailed below). If it’s level three, that defensive tackle is looking to pad back right now, which means hold the B gap. The run cannot get up inside them (Diagram 1).


Since Foster has the Mike run through the backside A gap in zone run schemes, if teams try to double team in that area, the guard is going to have to come off. “We don’t want the tackle getting washed,” Foster told us. “They want to stress the defensive end to run the option down hill. If he (the defensive end) squeezes too much, the quarterback will take off and run. What we are doing with the pad back is that back can’t just hit tight downhill. He needs to bounce back. Now the defensive end can tackle the C gap runner. He maintains his gap but not getting washed.”

To see cutups of 3-technique play in the Bear package, click on the video below:

Defensive End/Backer Play vs. Zone Read

In the Bear package, the defensive end and backer linebacker are one in the same. They both will be loose 5-techiques against two-man surfaces and loose 9-techniques against three-man surfaces. Unlike the defensive tackles, these players are taught to be a little looser in their alignments and more fundamental in their technique. Since they are force players in the run game, they must be wide enough to handle perimeter runs on run to them, yet quick enough to get down the line of scrimmage on runs away. Against one-back offenses, the majority of what these players are seeing is speed option and zone read.

Against zone read, that defensive end to the back should anticipate the concept coming to him based on the level of the back. He now will tighten down by alignment as to prevent from being washed down to create space and have the back wind back into an open C gap (Diagram 2). “Our defensive end must keep his shoulders squared and make a give read so the back has to bounce it outside and not get downhill and stretch the edge player,” Foster told us. We were curious to see how much teaching goes into having the Backer, who is usually a space player, execute this technique, but Foster was adamant about not over-coaching it and relied heavily on that player being athletic enough to both squeeze and play the quarterback on the pull.


To see cutups of zone read against the Bear package, click on the video below:

3 Days in Blacksburg…

X&O Labs’ Senior Research Manager Mike Kuchar spent three days in Blacksburg this Spring researching Virginia Tech’s Bear package. And, no, he wasn’t hiding in the bushes or going through the Hokies’ trash to get the skinny. Kuchar was the guest of Coach Bud Foster, who agreed to the “put-it-all-on-the-table” set of meetings.

We wanted to find out from Coach Foster how his Bear package could help other defenses, specifically those who run a 4-2-5, who defend the quarterback run game on a week-in, week-out basis.

Kuchar spent hours with Foster and his defensive staff analyzing over 196 clips of the Bear package, peppering him with questions - lots of questions.

Foster was revealing in these meetings, expounding upon how he defended sniffer formations, unbalanced X-off formations and the run concepts that are synonymous with them: Power Read, Speed Sweep, Split Zone Read, etc.

This is all first-hand information presented in a way that only X&O Labs can present - accurate and detail heavy. We call this brand-new special report: Virginia Tech’s Bear Package.

This report is available right now in X&O Labs’ exclusive membership website, Insiders.

As you can image, we were able to gather a large amount of information from Kuchar’s three-day stay in Blacksburg… and it’s all waiting for you right now in the Insiders.

See Virginia Tech’s Bear Package Here…



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