By Mike Kuchar, Lead Research Manager, X&O Labs
At Bucknell University, linebacker coach Brad Fordyce and the Bison defense vary its fits based on the run concept. Here is a look at how they address the increasingly popular Y-Off Formation within the 4-2-5.
By Mike Kuchar
Senior Research Manager
Editor’s Note: The following research was part of X&O Labs special report on “Linebacker Fits in the 4-2-5 Defense.” Scroll down to see how you can get a free copy of X&O Labs’ best-selling book, “The 4-2-5 Defense Study”, mailed directly to your home or school.
Bucknell University prides itself on stopping the run. In fact, they have been in the top ten in total defense at the FCS level the last four years in a row. Operating out of a 4-2-5 structure, the Bison rely on the pre and post snap movement of the Y to dictate where its linebacker fit in run game. Mike Kuchar sat down with Linebacker Coach Brad Fordyce to talk about how he fits common one back run concepts such a Zone Read and Power Read.
Once Bucknell gets a Y-off the ball, or a slot as it is referred to, there are a few questions that need to be answered before fits are declared. One of the more prominent concerns is the angle of the Y player. Is he flat across with the line of scrimmage to cut the back side C-gap as used in a Split Zone scheme or is he coming across with depth to block a perimeter player. For Coach Fordyce, the redirection presents visual stress to his box linebackers which is why he focuses more on pre-snap indicators than the action of the Y. “It’s either a 2x2 fit or a 3x1 fit based on what he declares,” said Coach Fordyce. “We see him from periphery and we’ll often make a pull call once that Y goes in motion.” One of the base indicators that Bucknell uses is deciphering whether or not the back is set to the slot (gun near) or away from the slot (gun far).
In Gun Near, there is no threat of Split Zone so Bucknell will use a 2x2 fit, but the presence of the Y alerts the defense to pop pass where offenses can pull linebackers in and throw it over their heads. “So we tell our linebackers that if you are to the side of the back with the Y off, you need to fire your feet,” said Coach Fordyce. “The Sam will run thought the A-gap, the Mike will rock back to play the crease and we will play some type of Quarters conversion concept so the weak safety can handle the pop pass of number two (Diagram 23).”
In Gun Far formations, the threat of Split Zone and Power Read becomes more viable. So, now it turns into more of a 3x1 fit because of the threat of the Y coming across the formation. In these circumstances, Bucknell will have to play a gap behind and try to get an extra player to the crease. “Your quarterback player (defensive end) is engaged with a potential trapper so you have to replace him with a backer,” Coach Fordyce tells us. The defensive end will spill everything coming back his way, while the Mike will be overlap. The Sam linebacker plays through the A gap, while the weak safety climbs through the B gap (Diagram 24).
If the offense starts in a trips Y-off formation, than the threat of a 2x2 fit becomes more likely. Now as the Y comes in post snap motion, the defensive end still spills the kick out while the boundary backer plays over the top into the C gap, the field backer plays over the top into the A gap and the strong safety fits late into back side B gap (Diagram 25B).
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