MQ Pressure Tape: Texas A&M vs Georgia (2019)
Smart is making his stamp as one of the better Saban disciples. MQ takes a look at his pressure package vs the Aggies.
Georgia plays defense. I'm pretty sure everyone is on the same page with that statement. Since Head Coach Kirby Smart arrived in Athens, the Bulldog defense has been one of the top units in the country. Outside of Smart's first year (2016), the Georgia defense has been in the top 10 in Defensive Efficiency every year. Within those four years, Smart has led the Bulldogs to a 44-12 record, with five of those losses coming in '16.
Georgia's matchup with Texas A&M illustrates how the Bulldogs defend (and pressure) a Spread offense. A&M's Head Coach, Jimbo Fisher, is one of the better offensive minds in the country and has produced numerous NFL QBs in his career. He is also part of the Saban tree and understands the Saban system. The battle of Smart and Fisher is a great look at two titans in the industry.
Georgia carries a plethora of pressures into every game, including Fire Zones (5-man), EYES or HOT blitzes (6-man), and of course Simulated Pressures (4-man). All of these combined give the offense a robust scheme to try and stop. Georgia's scheme is built on manipulating the pass protection and layering the coverage in different ways to make the offense left-handed. MQ takes a look at the Bulldog's package versus the Aggies.
Tennesse Head Coach, Jeremy Pruitt, loves Trap 2 pressures. Most famously, the Saban tree pressures are known as SHAKE (field) and CHOKE (choke) from their Nickle alignments. It is no surprise that the "X" pressures (three-safety) from the Saban system stems from this. Running a single-high or two-high system makes it difficult to blitz the CB and get into "safe" Trap 2 coverage versus two-WR sets. With three Safeties, this manipulation can change because the defense now has five DBs to distribute across the field. This is what makes the Odd Dime such an interesting tool as an every-down system.
The clip below illustrates several concepts that can easily be implemented into a defensive scheme. First, the front is Georgias ODD Front (505) with the two ILBs mugged in the "B" gap. This is a nice change-up to the traditional Odd Mug presentation with the ILBs stacked on the guards. Second, his type of presentation is also an Overload front, meaning there are more defenders (four) than blockers (three) to one side. The pressure is coming from the boundary, so Georgia places their overload to the field, to get the slide that way. This leaves a gaping hole for the CB blitzing.
Third, Georgia leaves a 5 tech. to the boundary. This forces the left tackle to lock on him. The Aggies decide to "chip-release" the RB. In a chip-release, the RB will chip or throw his shoulder into the DE to help the tackle. This creates major issues because of the Bulldogs blitz the CB. As stated, the slide goes to the field and the left guard slides with the rest of the O-line. There is no one for the CB inserting into the "B" gap. Great design and execution.
Many coaches will get out of pressure versus bunch formations to be able to have coverage. Georgia brings a simulated pressure, so the coverage distribution is left intact. The coverage piece behind this is a Trap-2 concept. Pre-snap, the defense looks like they are in a single-high look from the Bulldogs' "X" look, or three-safety presentation. Post-snap, the coverage will morph into a Cover 2 concept, with the field CB (FC) and Dime (Di) taking the flats. Over the bunch, the defense will play a Triangle or Cover 2 concept while the boundary will high-low the "X" WR. Mike and Jack are working in the middle of the field for any crossers.
HOT or EYES (Smart's term for 6-man blitz coverage) pressures are nothing new. Mike Dantonio and Pat Narduzzi made them famous at Michigan State. Most coaches are familiar with a Fire Zone (FZ) that brings five defenders. In a FZ, the pressure is brought from one side, usually from the seconds or third level, and a D-lineman or mugged 'backer drops into coverage opposite (these are also sometimes referred to as Creepers).
Instead of dropping someone out, EYES pressures keep the rush intact, playing a two-under/three-deep scheme behind the blitz. This puts more defenders in the box than the offense can handle. The "eyes" part comes from the technique of the low players. They are going to read the QB's eyes and relate to their man using their peripheral vision. With the pressure hitting fast, the theory is the QB will look to throw "hot" (see where HOT comes from?). The underneath players read and react, understanding where their man is leveraged and reacting accordingly.
In this particular pressure, the Bulldogs are bringing both overhangs from each side. The Nickel (Star) to the field and the boundary CB (BC) from the boundary. The D-line will PINCH or stunt one gap inside. This creates a six-man EYES pressure. Texas A&M slides the front away from the RB, leaving the Ni clean off the edge. The QB is forced to throw quickly to the RB.
With a Quads Bunch look, the EYES defenders will work to the bunch and the BS will take "X" man-to-man. The secondary over the Bunch plays this like a Cover 2 concept, with the $-backer holding the seam and the FC working out for the flat. The FS has the cap of the coverage. Inside the box, the Mike "runs the pole" or takes the deep third in coverage. Since the FC got width on the snap, he has leverage on the RB and kills the play immediately once it is thrown.
In the final pressure, Georgia a two-off-the-edge EYES blitz, attacking the Aggies play-action protection. The Mike and Ni will insert and the D-line will plug their gaps. The Aggies run a BAsh protection (RB works weak/guard pulls strong). The DE to the field works the edge and the Ni is left untouched in the face of the QB. A&M's QB is forced to throw the ball away and it sails out of bounds.
This pressure is built to overload the field side of the Aggies' protection. With the TE releasing and the protection sliding away from the field, the defense has numbers on the offense. The Ni is left unblocked and gets right in the window of the QB. In terms of numbers, the defense has placed four defenders on the aggies three. Plus numbers in blitz design mean someone is coming free.
EYES coverage is ran behind this pressure. Some coaches will pair their six-man pressures with man coverage or Cover 1 to get a post player. In man, the defender in charge of the RB can play an EYES technique if the RB blocks (same goes for a TE). These pressure are great when a defense has a bead on where the "hot" routes or "rush" throws will be. When in panic, the QB will immediately look for an escape to get the ball out to. That brings the EYES players to the ball. Smart talked about this concept during his lecture at the Texas HS Coaches Association Convention. One of his big studies after the 2017 season was to research how teams got tackles for loss, HOT pressures were a dominant theme.
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