Building on the Tite Alignment: Shake 2
Notre Dame illustrates one of the more popular Trap 2 pressures in SHAKE 2.
Marcus Freeman has had a meteoric rise over the past five years since taking the Defensive Coordinator job under Luke Fickel at Cincinnati in 2017. A two-time All-Big 10 linebacker in the 2000s, Freeman began his career as a GA at his alma mater and followed Ohio State WR Coach Darrel Hazel to Kent State and then to Purdue where he would end his tenure there as the co-DC. The marriage of Fickel and Freeman would pay off as the Bearcats have become a rising program in college football (and soon to join the Big 12).
Freeman showed his innovativeness in ‘20 with his own trademark of the Odd Stack that has taken over college football. With elite players all over the field, Cincinnati was able to develop and deploy its own brand of football against some of the best programs in the nation. Similar to the Big 12, the American Atheltic Conference (AAC) is a petri dish for hybrid defenses as the conference has everything from Triple Option to the uber-spread.
Freeman and Fickel come for the Ohio State tree which has been based on a 4-3 Cover 1/3 scheme since Urban Meyer became the head coach, and will change this year with Jim Knowles (Okie St.) at the helm. Both brought that same mentality to Cinncinnati only to find major issues as they did not (yet) have the players to run it. From desperation usually comes inspiration as we have seen in college football, namely John Heacock and the Cyclone Stack. Freeman didn’t need to look very far within the playbook to find what he need.
The Dollar personnel grouping was a 3-3-5 package within the Bearcat system. From that base, Freeman and Fickel were able to create a defense that would quickly rise to be one of the more efficient in the country. From ‘18 to ‘20, the Bearcat Stack was a Top 25 defense in DFEI (efficiency) with the ‘20 camping topping out at #2 according to bcftoys.com. The country was put on notice when Cincinnati played extremely well against a Top 10 ranked Georgia (#7), holding them to 24 total points.
The ‘21 season saw Freeman move to Notre Dame as the DC under Brian Kelly and lead the Irish to a Top 15 finish in DFEI (#11). With Kelly’s departure to Baton Rouge, many around the country felt Freeman was the perfect fit. So did the Notre Dame brass. The Irish gave Freeman access to the top athletes in the country, and though he did not run purely his Dollar package as he had in Cincinnati, Notre Dame brought a multitude of looks to the table every week.
One pressure, in particular, is a great example of utilizing hybrid schemes to combat spread offenses. Against Virginia, Notre Dame utilized the Tite Front against the Cavs’ “heavy” Spread offense (12 pers. based spread looks). Pulling from the Saban catalog, Freeman used a five-man pressure known as Bench Shake 2 Roll to attack the Virginia offense. A diagram of the Georgia version is shown below.
The SHAKE pressure is the next step in the installation process of the Mint Front. As a package, the Mint Front is a Nickel alignment within the 3-4 world. The base front structure is the Tite Front or 404. In many cases, the first replacement pressure installed with the Mint world is Star 3 Auto (SUPER), or a Nickel Creeper pressure. By installing and running Super, the defense can now install the coinciding five-man pressure SHAKE.
As the Star (Ni) shows pressure pre-snap, the Safety to his side will sink down to align as though the defense is going to run Match 3 (Rip/Liz) behind it. The pressure is a trap because once the ball is snapped, the defense is no longer running MOFC coverage, but “snapping” to a Trap 2 (MOFO). SHAKE is a great example of how concepts can overlap and build on one another. For Tite/Mint Front teams, SUPER and its cousin SHAKE are built to look and feel the same but force the QB to decipher a moving target post-snap. Both are best-practice pressures within the Tite Front universe.