Do simple better. A lesson from the Titans.
Tennessee doesn't have an exotic plan for 2nd & Long, a high percentage passing down in the NFL. Instead, they focus on one particular pressure and use coverage change-ups to keep offenses guessing.
There is beauty in the simple. At Baylor, Head Coach Dave Aranda’s mantra for the Spring was “Do simple better.” And therein lies the dichotomy of football. On the one hand, coaches want to have a curated call for every down, but on the other, there is a belief that players can play faster with less mental load from the playbook.
The duality of needing specific stop calls but playing a base that can encompass all scenarios is the great balancing act of defensive football. Teams like Georgia may go a whole half without calling the same scheme twice. Others, like Iowa, lean into their base and run it on most downs. Pitt is an excellent example of where the two theories of thought meet. On early downs, Pitt loves to run their 4-2-5 base Quarters system, but on 3rd Downs, they don’t mind getting funky with Odd Front blitzes.
Where Iowa and Pitt build around a base defense, some Defensive Coordinators build a defense around their favorite pressure. South Alabama’s Kane Womack is an excellent example of this at the college level—the Jaguars spam offenses with simple pressure, what I call Allen (Aranda’s Mex). The pressure attacks zone-centric offenses with a box ‘backer blitz-reading the Center (below).
The pressure can be run to or away from the RB, and the movement “floats” the Center. I call the blitz technique “Cross” because the LB will try and cross the Center’s face until he can’t (Center down blocks away from the pressure). In Aranda’s language, he calls this a “V-Tech” for reading the “V” of the Center’s neck. If the blocker turns to the blitzer, he will cross his face. If the blocker turns his back, the blitzer will pin the hip and climb vertically.
South Alabama keeps offenses honest by using “add” tags to make the call a five-man pressure and/or changing the coverage structure behind it. On one play, the Jaguars can run Quarters, the next a Cover 3, and finally a Fire Zone. All from the same call.
Coverage rotations, especially non-traditional Tampa 2s, have become popular. Defenses are more inclined to attack the RPOs, and play-action passes are built off the run game. Depending on the offense, defenses use coverage rotations post-snap to constrain space and confuse the QB. Using a simple pressure and marrying it with different coverages is another excellent example of meshing the two main philosophies of “more is more” and “simple equals fast.”
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