Jump to content

Join Our Community

Are you a fan of the Texas Longhorns? Registration is FREE and EASY. Join the discussion!
Sign Up for FREE
Sign in to follow this  
Coleman Feeley

Chalk Talk - Breaking down DL play in the spring game

Recommended Posts

submitted Today, 02:37 PM in Texas Longhorns Football By Coleman Feeley

The defense Vance Bedford showcased at the Texas Spring Game was complex, aggressive, and full of surprises. Coach Bedford utilized zone blitzes and stunts regularly while disguising coverages on nearly every play. Part of this complexity is Bedford’s utilization of the ‘Fox’ end, enabling him to shift his defense from a 3-3 to a 4-2 very easily (Fig 1). These shifts helped the defensive line, along with freshman linebacker Malik Jefferson, become the most productive group of the scrimmage.


Over the course of the game, the Texas defense intercepted the ball several times and forced a few fumbles – each of the turnovers was forced while Texas was executing a zone blitz or a pre-play shift of responsibilities. Unpredictability from complex defensive schemes keeps an offense off balance; however, it also puts added pressure on each defender to maintain his responsibility.

In Bedford’s schemes, defenders must think in terms of the ‘gaps’ between players more than the alignment of the players themselves. When blitzing it’s vital that each defender gets to his assigned gap or the offense could take advantage and rip off a big play (Fig 2). For the most part, the defensive line played fairly well and maintained a high level of intensity throughout the spring game.


The ‘first group’ of defensive linemen for the spring game was composed of Quincy Vasser (#92), Paul Boyette Jr. (#93), Jake McMillion (#96), and Bryce Cottrell (#91). The ‘second group’ was made up of Naashon Hughes (#40), Poona Ford (#95), Hassan Ridgeway (#98), and Shiro Davis (#1). My expectation is that the ‘second group’ will be the ‘starting group’ come fall – the best performances came from the more familiar players: Ridgeway, Ford, and Hughes.

Ford maintained his gap integrity almost the entire game and played with great explosiveness. With the ability to reach top speed within only a few steps, Ford’s quickness is crucial because defensive lineman only travel between 5 to 10 yards on any given play. Ford was not only impressively quick, his stout punch and solid base allowed him to handle double teams and zone combinations well.

Despite Ford’s best efforts, the top performance involving strength belonged to Ridgeway. Physically, Ridgeway doesn’t appear much larger than last season, but he does seem more explosive and powerful. Ridgeway also plays with great technique, consistently keeping blockers locked-out and away from his body, allowing him to separate and make the tackle.

When playing defensive line it’s vital to control the blocker in front of you with your hands. If defenders allow blockers to get close there’s less chance of separating from the block to make a tackle.

Run Defense

Texas’ offense made it difficult to judge how effective the defense will be against teams that use traditional run-based systems. However, when given the opportunity to defend against Texas’ run game, the d-line was very effective at stopping runs up the middle (with the exception of improvised QB runs). Ridgeway, Ford, and Boyette consistently shed blocks and were involved in tackles at the line of scrimmage.

The biggest struggle for defensive linemen was complex stunts and blitzes (when linemen were forced out of their gaps). The ‘Feast or Famine’ mentality comes to mind when watching this Texas defense. While many of the stunts played to the defense’s advantage, on several occasions the defense was caught out of position resulting in huge gains (fig 3).


Pass Rush

Texas’ pass rush was persistent and aggressive. Coach Brick Haley has clearly been working on the D-line’s hand placement and ‘hand fighting’ (refers to the movement and placement of hands).Pass rushes remained steady and active even when met with double teams and perfect pass blocking technique.

In addition to zone blitzes that required defensive linemen to exchange gap responsibilities, ‘stunts’ and ‘twists’ were also used. A ‘Twist’ refers to two defensive linemen exchanging responsibilities by swapping spots during a play. A ‘Stunt’ refers to movement of the entire defensive line (fig 4).

Coach Bedford didn’t use many twists in the spring game, but he did use stunts frequently. Frequent stunting resulted in d-linemen with hands on hips and heaving chests late in some drives. Coach Haley touched on this recently in a â€œMic’ed†up video of practice by telling his players, “When you get tired, don’t you start to lose your mind!†The movement of a defensive line creates a great deal of opportunities, not only for the linemen themselves, but for players like Malik Jefferson, Duke Thomas, and Jason Hall to make plays.

Similar to the way an offensive line propels a team’s skill players, the defensive line provides countless opportunities for their teammates. If a defense can supply an effective pass rush with just four players, it takes a lot of pressure off linebackers and the secondary.

Defensive linemen can provide a great deal of support in the run or pass game by holding offensive linemen to the first level. By freeing up linebackers to make tackles, or better yet, by making tackles themselves, defensive linemen can control an offense’s attack. 

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this  

Franchise Quest

  • Latest Posts

    • First half was 12min quarters, 2nd half was 10min.  OL didn't get enough push on run plays for sure, hard to tell from 3rd row at stadium about pass pro.  i thought most punts were pretty good, looked like he had a 60yarder in there.  3 10+ yard runs from RBs all game that I can remember, 1 by Young and 1 by Carter, Carter just isn't impressive.  J McCollough with a few pressures and a coule sacks. Maybe he gets more time a B-Backer?  Collin and LJH both played well. Reece played decent from what I rememeber.  4th Q, Thompson with back to back dimes and then a 20yarder couple plays later.  Overall, first half, we just arnt crisp. Penalties will kill drives again. I just don't think we can recover from a penalty Bc yards seem too hard to come by at this point. OL needs to spend every waking second together. Maybe sleep next to each other in sleeping bags. RBs are opposite of dynamic. Duvernay with 1 very nice deep catch where he got hit and held on. No much else. LJH and CJ are studs. No huge drops on the day. Few close calls on tipped passes. Sam no Shane stood out, neither will take over the game. Neither was bad. Horrible fumbled exchange on RPO early btw Sam and Carter.  Zero sum game, many guys that will play snaps out and Anderson should take over at LT in a couple months.  Hope recruiting went great this weekend! Weather held up great. 
    • Think we're offering Card as a QB or ATH?
    • We don’t like to reach out to kids during their trips. Will reach out once he leaves campus.
    • My five quick thoughts 1. The offensive line isn't much better than last year's version. 2. The defense looks salty. Roach and Hager definitely stood out tonight. 3. LJH is the best running back on the squad, with Yoder coming in second. 4. The two young QB's will be at the top of the depth chart next year. 5. LJH and Johnson will be the offense this next season. After what I saw tonight I am downgrading my expectations for next season. 7 wins in the regular season.