By Mike Kuchar with Matthew Scott
University of New Haven (CT)
The transformation of the Nickel (Star in New Haven’s defense) has allowed defensive coordinator Matt Scott to utilize his field pressures more frequently. In 2021, these field patterns were utilized from a traditional Under (5-0-5) front, but last spring he shifted to using them from three-down structure, by subbing out a defensive lineman and bringing the Star off the edge. And the versatility of the Star has given him the opportunity to play him off the line of scrimmage. “We used to play him at the line of scrimmage but now he can be deeper because we have more of a safety body than linebacker body,” he said. “And we’re making those tight ends have to work in space as far as their blocking goes. It gives us a little more takeoff to set the edge in the run game and helps him to identify pass or run quicker as well.”
New Haven Secondary Personnel:
- Star- Nickel Safety
- Mike- Strong Side Inside Linebacker
- Mo- Weak side inside linebacker
- Will- Boundary Defensive End
- Hero- Field Safety
- Field Corner
- Boundary Corner
Before addressing the Star’s responsibility on the scheme, the bubble will be set to the field and the front will always have the following rules:
- Field End- Long Stick, chase hip of Guard
- Nose- rip across Center
- Tackle- COP vs. pass (contain rusher), but stay in B gap vs. run
There are two different pressure patterns in New Haven’s trap sims- “crash” and “bullets” and both are called by Coach Scott. And if any of these terms are combined with either a “Reach” or “Contain” call. For example, “Star Reach Storm” tells him vs. pass he is the contain player. Against run with back to him he plays dive and with back away from him he is a mesh charger.
In the image below, the “Crash” pressure pattern is called, so this tells the Star that he is the contain rusher where he is essentially up the field and go.
In the “Bullets” pattern, the Star is a bend rusher where he’s asked to be a spill defender against the run. This is extremely efficient against any option schemes where he is able to be a mesh charger and blow up the mesh. “When the back is away with Bullet, we tell the Star to MCU (which is mess crap up),” said Coach Scott. “We don’t worry if he’s a dive player or not, just go blow up the mesh.”
Against any type of base or reach block, the Star needs to get across the face of the tight end. Coach Scott talks about when in doubt, cross his face. “Teams used to use a gap hinge where they would be hard down and then hinge out because they would see us go off his butt,” he said. “We would get caught outside and lose the C gap. We told him that if he’s ever in doubt, get across his face because we can’t have him trying to run behind it and get turned out and washed outside.”
If pass does develop, he can’t be too fast, because he’s still responsible for the QB if he extends the pocket. So, his aiming point becomes the back shoulder of the quarterback. He’s always a contain rusher, he never will bend.