Wednesday, September 5, 2007

AF Mailbag: Why disguise?

Round 2 of The Gazette's Air Force Mailbag ...




Q: I just read your article “He’s Not Satisfied,” and you mentioned that (Coach Troy) Calhoun seemed displeased about “the poor disguising of blitzes and coverages by the defense – specifically the safeties.” Since I wasn’t able to watch Saturday’s game, could you expand on that? Chris Thomas led the defense in tackles … it doesn’t sound too bad for a first-time starter, at least on paper. However, without the benefit of watching the game first-hand, I realize that stats don’t show the whole picture. What’s your take?

A: Well, first of all, having been around coach for more than a month of practices, I think part of this is just coach’s nature. He always wants more. Case in point: When he was asked about TE Travis Dekker on Saturday (after Dekker caught three passes for 64 yards and a score), Calhoun said some nice things but also brought up the fact that Dekker had an assignment "bust" on one play. So I think the disguising of blitzes and coverages was not awful – it just needs improvement.

And the Falcons' disguise needs to be very good for defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter's 3-4 defense to work. In DeRuyter’s scheme, one of the four linebackers is coming on a blitz about 95 percent of the time (sometimes more linebackers will come, sometimes defensive backs will come). Not only does this give Air Force a de facto fourth lineman, but it gives it the element of surprise. From one play to the next, an offense has no idea where that 'backer is going to come from -- as long as that 'backer disguises his blitz.

So basically, according to ILB Drew Fowler, players need to change up their pre-snap activity. Sometimes they need to jump around and run up to the line and feign a blitz. Other times they need to fake like they’re dropping into coverage and then bolt into a blitz at the last minute. Sometimes they need to act like they’re blitzing and then blitz.

“You don’t want to become predictable,” Fowler said. “Sometimes you want them to say, hey, ‘They’re bouncing around, they’re going to come (on a blitz).’ Well, maybe they get used to that and all of a sudden you bounce around and then drop back into coverage. You’ve got to kind of play it to where it gets them thinking, ‘Well, they’ve done this before and they haven’t come, and yet they’ve done it before and they’ve come.’”

As for safeties, sometimes they will fly into a zone at the snap of a ball on anticipation of a certain play. The better they disguise this, the less chance the quarterback has of reading the coverage. And the better the chance Air Force comes up with an interception.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

This week should be a big test of DeRuyter's D.

jim said...

Thanks for your explanation, Jake. What Calhoun said makes more sense now. DeRuyter has chosen his safeties well, in that case. Giannini and Thomas both strike me as players who love when a challenge is put before them. I expect that they will continue to give great performances, even while the ante is being upped. I'm looking forward to this next game. As the earlier poster said, the D will be tested more strongly this week.

jake.schaller said...

Definitely true. Tommy Grady, the quarterback Utah is using to replace Brian Johnson, is a big kid with a huge arm (think former LSU QB JaMarcus Russell) and he has a slew of talented receivers to whom he can throw. One of the Utah receivers told me yesterday that he'll get 40, 50 yards downfield and think he's out of the play before Grady will launch the ball in his direction.

I think you're right about Giannini and Thomas. Giannini has been a starter since his freshman year and has tons of experience. Thomas has a chance to be the best player on the Air Force defense this year. Also, now that Aaron Kirchoff is healthy, the Falcons have some depth there.

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