Mickey Matthews on his 4-2-5 Scheme

Jan 2, 2017 | Defense, Question and Answer Sessions

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


Interview with Mickey Matthews: During his 13 seasons, Mickey Matthews has firmly established James Madison University football among the nation's leading Football Championship Subdivision programs. While becoming the winningest coach in JMU football history, he has led the Dukes to an NCAA championship (2004) and to five other playoff appearances (1999, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2011).  Matthews three times has been National Coach of the Year (1999 Eddie Robinson Award by The Sports Network; American Football Coaches' 2004 award; 2008 Robinson Award and an award by Liberty Mutual) and was Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year in 1999 and CAA Coach of the Year in 2008.


Mike Kuchar (MK):  What has changed most in the 4-2-5 defense today from when it was a 4-4 defense?  How has it progressed?

Mickey Matthews (MM):  We went from a 4-3 to a 4-2-5 because of all the one-back sets we’re encountering now.  It’s easier to adjust with a 4-2-5 than a 4-3.  If you’re in a 4-3, one of your outside backers must become an adjuster, so it ends up being a 4-2-5 anyway against spread sets. 

MK:  Describe the personnel types of your three safeties.

MM:  What we call our Strong Safety is our hybrid.  He’s half-safety and half-linebacker.  He has to take on blocks and be at the point of attack.  The Strong Safety doesn’t have to be in space as much as our Free Safety.  We keep our Free Safety out of the box.  He’s not as big and not as physical as the Strong Safety.  There is no protypical size.  We’ve had tall ones and short ones.  These Strong Safeties are like tweeners for us.  The Weak Safety doesn’t have to be as physical.  For us, he’s usually 75 percent out of the tackle box and 25 percent in the tackle box.  The Strong Safety is usually 75 percent in the tackle box and 25 percent out of the box.  Our Weak Safety is more of a pass defender for us.  He’ll be a hash player for us at times.