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Jan. 16, 2017

3-4 defense

Welcome, Husker Nation, to the Carriker Chronicles, and it does not get any more real or raw than the show that is the Carriker Chronicles. We are on vacation in the mountains, getting ready to hit the slopes, and here I am doing a show for you folks at home. I love doing it, it's going to be fun, I have my three fierce offensive lineman. Addison Carriker, Trinity Carriker, and Jacob Carriker. We're going to talk about the differences between the 3-4 defense and the 4-3 defense. I have some notes here, because I want to be a little prepared here. It's really raw, but gotta be a little prepared.

I talked about being cautiously optimistic the previous show. I'll tell you why a little bit more in depth. I LIKE the hire of our new Defensive Coordinator. The guy did great at Notre Dame, had great defenses, with great success. I like the 3-4 scheme. Schematically, if I had to choose between the 3-4 and the 4-3, I would choose the 3-4. I know several NFL coaches, which is where I ran it, and what I'll refer to, who don't like going against the 3-4 on offense. It's harder to game plan against, harder to read and recognize, it's hard to decipher what's going on.

So, if we're in a 4-3, the defensive end lines up outside the offensive tackle, the d-tackle lines up in a 3 technique (outside the guard to the strong side of the offensive formation,) the nose guard lines up in a 1 technique to the center's weak side, and the other d-end lines up outside of the weak side o-tackle. When the quarterback walks up to the line of scrimmage, he immediately knows where the strength of the defense is because of the alignment. He knows whether they're a weak side blitz team or a strong side blitz team, which gives some advantages to the offense. The 4-3 defense has some advantages as well, especially if you can get some athletic guys on the field. There have been a lot of successful teams who have used that scheme.

If you have a 3-4 defense, what happens is the d-ends are both head up on their respective o-tackles/ tight ends, and the nose guard is head up on the center. To the quarterback, everything looks the same due to the symmetry, regardless of if they're on the left hash right hash, redzone, or at the 50 yard line. It is so much harder to decipher, so much more cerebral, you can disguise things, blitz from everywhere, and just harder to figure out what's going on. That's why a lot of offensive coordinators don't like 3-4 schemes. I like it. It's easy to confuse people with it. Especially younger quarterbacks.

There are a lot of different 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. In some 4-3 schemes, you're not flying off the ball at the snap. You take a short, 6-inch step at the snap to defend against the run. This was not the case with Banker's defense. I've played in both styles of 4-3 defense. Banker's defense was attack, and then react. He wanted a big first step, and for the d-line to play the run on the way to the quarterback. You're going to give up some big plays because you're attacking, but you're also going to cause some tackles for loss, sacks, etc. because it's a more aggressive style of defense.

Having said that, there are different styles of 3-4 as well. You can be more aggressive, line up in the gaps, etc. but that is not what our new defensive coordinator likes to do. He's from the Bill Belichick coaching tree, and that's not what bill likes to do either. He likes his linemen head up on the offensive line. So, you are doing the exact opposite in the new defense that you are in the old defense. Banker's was a 4-3 attack and react, and this 3-4 defense is more read and react. Rather than flying off the ball with a big first step, you're taught to move laterally and mirror the offensive linemen. You're not trying to create a bunch of plays in the backfield, but it is a no crease, no big play type of defense. The d-linemen eat up blocks, take on double teams, and the linebackers are free in the back end to roam around and make a bunch of plays.

I'll never forget when I got to Washington, DC. I played football, going back to middle school for 16-17 years. The first day we were there was the first time I had ever played a 3-4 defense. We were doing drills I had never seen before in my entire life. I had never in my entire life seen the ball hiked, and I was supposed to mirror the offensive line with lateral movements. It was something I had never seen, Phillip Daniels, a 15 year vet had never seen, but if you look at the Steelers, Patriots, and some of the best defenses in the league and it's what they do. They have these space eaters that eat up the offensive linemen. If I attack the gap between the linemen, I can't take up two of them (take a step this way, sweetie) but if I'm lateral, and I engage the o-tackle, and the guard is trying to block me, I have now taken up two and there's a linebacker free to make a play. That's why this defense is successful and the attack and react defense has its plusses and minuses.

I like the 3-4 as far as Nebraska goes because you don't need -- there are only so many highly recruited 3 techniques (d-tackles who excel in a 4-3) and elite inside pass rushers in the country. I love Nebraska, but there are certain challenges to recruiting there. And so, along the defensive front, you need some big boys who are unselfish, who are willing to be the fullback of the defense, willing to eat up blocks, and let everyone else make most of the tackles. The defensive line is not going to make a lot of sacks or tackles for loss. That's the way it is. It's the linebackers who are going to get most of the stats. So, you need a big war daddy in the middle, a big Vince Wilfork in the middle, and then you need some unselfish big boys who can move quickly in tight windows at the defensive end spot.

As far as the linebackers, these guys are kind of a hybrid. As far as recruiting, it makes it easier as well. You can take- if you want more of a pass rushing guy in a particular defense, you can take a big high school safety and move him down and he has speed off the edge as well as cover the pass. Depending on if it's a rip/liz (strong right/ strong left call for the defense) maybe the right outside linebacker is dropping, maybe the left outside linebacker is dropping. Sometimes they're called dog and cat, the right and left outside linebacker. You have to be able to rush the passer as well as drop back in coverage. You can also take a high school middle linebacker and put him out there, as well as take a defensive end- a guy who's really good at rushing the quarterback and stand him up knowing that if you put him to a certain side of the defense, he's going to rush the quarterback most of the time. So it gives you more options of guys who play the defensive end or outside linebacker position to rush the quarterback. The middle linebacker is calling the plays, if the nose guard and defensive end are both eating double teams, he's free to make plays. So, the middle linebacker has to be able to cover everything zone, and be able to read and react real quick to the A and B gaps and what's open.

In the secondary, not a whole lot changes. The back 4 is still the back 4. I know in every defensive coordinator's scheme, he has a boundary corner and a field corner. The field corner is technically a little better at coverage because there is more space, whereas the boundary corner is a little bit more physical. So what ends up happening, is since there's more space, the field corner tends to get a little more help from the safety because there's a lot more space and room for big plays out there. The boundary corner at times can almost feel like he's on an island. You can counter that with various things, part of that is I know Diaco likes to run Cover 2, Cover 3, a lot of the zones, so that could help that boundary corner out as well.

The defensive linemen also have to be able to play hybrid 4-3s. If you're playing a spread offense, the 3-4 is not the best defense. So, your defensive end has to be able to come down and play a little 3 technique. The outside linebacker has to come down and play a little defensive end, if you're playing more of a spread offense. You have to have that hybrid. In a nickel situation (5 defensive backs instead of the usual 4) it's very simple what happens. You take the big, 350-pound war daddy nose guard out of the game, the defensive ends now move inside whether in the A gap or B gap, the outside linebackers now put their hands in the dirt, and you have speed on the field. You take the big guy off the field and replace him with an extra corner back. Perfect for goal line, short yardage this defense is because you have a whole bunch of big bodies.

This week, going into our regular schedule, Monday, Wednesday, and I'm going to try out a Fast Friday, so check out what that is this Friday. So, Monday, Wednesday, and Fast Friday. So Husker Nation, until Wednesday, Go Big Red, and always remember to THROW THE BONES!!! (kiddos).