Guidry's Multiple Nickel Defense: The Basics
Some of you know me from many, many years back where I would create the occasional instructional post on defensive football. I don't want to go on too much about my resume, but I can say I have some good coaching or playing experience with the following systems: Gary Patterson 425; Bud Foster 43 over; Charlie Strong 43 under; 34 2-gap and slant. The bulk of my training and experience is in what one would call a traditional 425. Respectfully, I feel somewhat qualified to share my ideas and knowledge with respect to the same.
DISCLAIMER FOR THE ENSUING DISCUSSION:
*The bulk of this discussion relates to base defense--any type of blitz pressure involves a different conversation (which we can have)*
*Be aware of language barriers--you and others may be saying the same thing, but using different words. Don't play a word game with someone*
*I don't know what happens behind closed doors in Guidry's meeting rooms--thus, I can only present my past experiences and in-game observations*
There is a lot to talk about--and I want to start with the basics.
Coach Guidry and Coach Patterson (imo the father of the 425) share a lot of similarities in temperament, philosophy and defensive system (aka "skeem"). It's my opinion that Coach Guidry's system is a natural progression from prior iterations of the 425. FWIW, Guidry might even refer to his system as a 43. Regardless, through 4 games, based on what I can see, we are functioning like a 425. I want to talk about nickel based defense generally and what I can glean from Guidry's system. Coach Guidry, if you're listening, I'd love to sit down and pick your brain over lunch.
Nickel Defense Generally:
As I've stated in other posts, the 425 is a sectional, no-huddle defense, with a lot of moving parts turning it into a bit of an amorphous blob. It can be a 44, 43, 42, 33, 52, Bear, etc. all in the same personnel grouping. This is is not necessarily unique to the 425--but I would argue this system provides the most flexibility today based on the current state of CFB. I am not a proponent of 33 based nickel defenses, which is the subject of another topic of conversation.
Generally, when sending base 4 man pressure, the front's responsibilities are completely independent of the secondary's. Taking it a step further, the secondary can feature split field coverage, meaning the one half of the secondary's responsibilities are independent of the other half's responsibilities. Everything is taught sectionally. One position group would have to learn as little of 8-15 terms/concepts.
For example, the below illustrations generally outline the concept of split field coverage. The free safety calls the passing strength "read side" based on formation, personnel and ball placement. The "away side" defaults as the weak side. The assignments are independent of each other, unless the call is for a mirrored coverage (cov1, cov3). Each yellow box functions independent of each other.
Below is an example of TCU's base coverage being played to the "read side", and man coverage being played to the "away side". *OJO... Their use of the term "cover 2" actually means "cover 2-invert". A whole thread can be made about this distinction.*
The play call complexity lands on the coach, where it is usually relayed to the defense in sentence format. In some occasions, two coaches are making the play call: the front, stunts and blitzes are handled by one coach and the coverage call is handled by another coach. Each position group looks for their key term(s) and they execute their key term(s). Complex for the coach, simple for the players. This is a sample call sentence, which can be numerated on a call card or individually signaled:
Blast Tite (g) toro; Read 2/Blue
Blast=9 tech for strong side end
Tite=strength is called toward TE
Toro=DT movement towards the strength
(g)= 2i tech for nose tackle
Read 2=read side plays Cov2 invert
/Blue=away side plays quarters
Here is a sample card used by the coach and players. It provides a good summary of front/movement terms:
'T' words represent movement towards the front strength
'A' words represent movement away from the front strength
Bullets are blitzes involving both linebackers
Dogs bring one linebacker and one safety
Smokes bring the strong safety and weak safety
The strength can be called based on whatever you want:
A specific player
Whatever you want!
Alignment--Where Patterson and Guidry Meet:
I can't stress enough the importance of proper alignment and teaching your guys to do so quickly and with confidence. The latter of what I said gets addressed with the robust language system I touched upon above and repetition/experience. Several posts could be made about proper defensive back, linebacker and defensive lineman alignment.
This post focuses on the versatility of Guidry's system and his maximizing of nickel personnel in today's CFB. Regarding the remainder of this post, it is foundational to understand that the hash marks in CFB are similar to high school in that they are at least double the width of the NFL. The wide sides of the field are more wide and the short sides of the field are more short. In my opinion, Guidry takes advantage of this. See the two illustrations below:
Regarding alignment, for purposes of this post, we will discuss the first step of alignment rules or "pre-alignment" based on placement of the ball in relation to the hash mark. As discussed in past posts, the nickel based systems feature a "five spoke" secondary. Those five spokes are (from field to boundary): field corner, strong/field safety (Star or Nickel or Sam), free safety, weak/boundary safety, and boundary corner]. Every position pre-aligns based on placement of the ball in relation to the hash.
Generally, the strong safety (Star or Nickel or Sam) is always inverted; the free safety is always deep; and the weak safety does both (but always to the short side of the field). See below:
The diagram above shows how easily the secondary shell can change without ever losing structural integrity. Generally speaking, the diagram above shows all alignment possibilities for each of the safety positions--not very much. Again, Patterson refers to this as the "five-spoke" secondary because of its ability to easily shift or rotate, while keeping its structural integrity.
From what I gather, Guidry runs the "five-spoke" concept at times. He also runs a good amount of mirrored coverages, which break this rule. I have seen a healthy amount of man-free, which would flip the strong safety/nickel to the boundary from time to time. However, even when Guidry runs man-free, his front appears to be operating independently of the the coverage.
Guidry takes the "five-spoke" concept and applies it to the front. It seems Guidry plays with the following pre-alignment rules:
Field Safety (Nickel/Star/Sam)
Free Safety (rolls to strength)
Field Defensive End
Defensive Tackle (flip-flop's on strength call)
Nose Tackle (flip-flop's on strength call)
Boundary Defensive End
Strong Inside Linebacker (flip-flop's on strength call)
Weak Inside Linebacker (flip-flop's on strength call)
See the illustration below for an example where Guidry uses an odd front using base nickel personnel. Because of these alignment rules, Guidry is able to create multiple levels of hybrid positions:
(From boundary to field)
#2, #20, #5, [?CB]
#12, #81, #99, #3, #31 (LB)
At first glance, we see a bear or 50 front--it's obviously not an even look by any means. This the the perfect example of Guidry manipulating the front to drum up "pressure" and keeping the secondary largely unmolested. The play-call involved the inside backer (#31) bringing pressure of the field edge, while the boundary defensive end (#12) added to the coverage scheme. Obviously, the result of this play was a first down for TAMU, but it created pressure without having to bring an extra guy.
What can we learn from this illustration and our play after 4 games:
1. The front is virtually always pre-aligned in a position to drop 8.
2. We have multiple hybrid positions on display and being developed:
-a. boundary defensive end: athleticism of guys like N. Kelly and J. Harvey can be used create enough doubt when disguising pressure out of an odd front. They can play coverage in a condensed field. It allows our bigger guys like Mesidor and Bain to play to their strengths.
-b. boundary safety: this is the do everything position. It is tailor made for someone like James Williams. He can play deep on a condensed hash, he can play off the edge in underneath coverage, or he can come play in the box in a bear front.
-c. field safety (Star/Nickel): this is the hybrid Sam/Nickel position. A whole post can be made about this position. So many people can play it--it is more about mentality than anything else. Preferrable you want a twitchy corner with good ball skills, that is tough as nails.
-d. weak inside linebacker (need to evaluate this more): I need to evaluate this more, but I suspect Guidry wants a true Mike backer (#51), but this position might be getting developed into someone instinctual enough the fill a B gap and cutback lanes, but also skilled enough to come off the edge. I'm not sure yet, but it seems Guidry really likes using bear fronts--and this position would be the extra edge player.
3. Because of 2, we are able to play multiple fronts, allowing us to put our players in the best position to succeed.
Multiplicity, but simplicity
...ok I'm tired of writing. Let's elaborate on these topics in the discussion. See you tonight, @DMoney @Peter Ariz