7/10/2013 9:52 AM
which defensive sets do you use?  
7/10/2013 12:23 PM
Personally I only use the 4-3, nickle and dime.
7/10/2013 4:35 PM
4-3, 4-4 and Nickle
7/10/2013 10:50 PM
4-3 and Nickel as primary sets.  4-4 and Dime in spots.  Been thinking of switching to 3-4.  I know some coaches that have really made it work.
7/12/2013 2:56 AM (edited)
Under another ID, I won a few NCs by playing only nickel (most of the time) & 5-2 (on running downs & vs. I, Bone & Box), very aggressive all the time.  Saved roster spots at LB by only carrying 4 OLBs---recruited one each year, prioritizing Speed, Ath, GI & Tackling, and used the extra roster spots for DBs (spd, tech), DL (tkl, str) & OL (str, GI, blk).  Those teams usually won with defense, and a good part of the success was due to this roster advantage, I believe.  Probably not for everyone, but since I'm not playing anymore, I don't mind sharing, and maybe some others would enjoy experimenting with it.
7/12/2013 10:16 AM
dream has hit on a key item.  How do you create an "advantage" over your opponent?  This is one way to do it.  If you run 4-3 and Nickel and you have your best LB set to the ILB spot...then he does not get on the field when you are playing Nickel.

Some have used 3-4 for similar reasons.  You can recruit 2 great LBs for the price of 1 great DL.  
7/12/2013 3:20 PM (edited)
I'll second what dream76 stated. I won a NC and made it to the NC game a couple of other times running only Nickle. My reasons were the same as his; I used the freed-up roster space to add depth elsewhere, in particular at DB. Although I carried 5 LBs, with one always in redshirt.

In recruiting LBs, my top four priorities in order were GI, Spd, Elu and Tech, with Str, Ath and Tak all pretty well sitting equal close behind in 5th place. Relying on the Nickle where the LBs were going to have to do a little bit of everything, I felt it essential to have players who were going to consistently recognize whether the play was run or pass (GI), be quick to the edge and work through traffic to the ball (Elu and Spd), and cover in space (Tech and  Spd) against the Shotgun in particular.

To hold up against the run formations, I strictly recruited DT types to go across the entire defensive line, placing those DTs with greater Str and Tech in the interior, and those with greater Elu and Spd on the edge. I can't think of one time I ever recruited a rush end for my version of the Nickle.

As for the DBs, I also made an outside-the-box choice there and essentially recruited all Safties, again placing high importance on GI for play recognition and the zone coverage the games uses. I probably placed more importance on Str and Tkl for DBs than most coaches, but I wanted guys who could play run support and create turnovers.

In a general sense, I tried to think of my Nickle setup as more of a 4-2-5, a defense that may not be great at any one thing but is pretty good at everything and can stay on the field all the time.

Not coincidentally, a good part of the reason I went all Shotgun on offense was the strategy of taking the roster spots I saved on RBs and using them to hoard WRs, to the point that I was always starting very good upper classmen across the board. That was a big advantage as it almost always created talent mismatches in my favor against opposing secondaries unless the other team was exceptionally deep at DB.
7/12/2013 1:55 PM
I run primarily the 5-2 and dime. I carry 4 linebackers on the roster.....
7/12/2013 4:06 PM
Posted by sleeper99 on 7/12/2013 3:20:00 PM (view original):
I'll second what dream76 stated. I won a NC and made it to the NC game a couple of other times running only Nickle. My reasons were the same as his; I used the freed-up roster space to add depth elsewhere, in particular at DB. Although I carried 5 LBs, with one always in redshirt.

In recruiting LBs, my top four priorities in order were GI, Spd, Elu and Tech, with Str, Ath and Tak all pretty well sitting equal close behind in 5th place. Relying on the Nickle where the LBs were going to have to do a little bit of everything, I felt it essential to have players who were going to consistently recognize whether the play was run or pass (GI), be quick to the edge and work through traffic to the ball (Elu and Spd), and cover in space (Tech and  Spd) against the Shotgun in particular.

To hold up against the run formations, I strictly recruited DT types to go across the entire defensive line, placing those DTs with greater Str and Tech in the interior, and those with greater Elu and Spd on the edge. I can't think of one time I ever recruited a rush end for my version of the Nickle.

As for the DBs, I also made an outside-the-box choice there and essentially recruited all Safties, again placing high importance on GI for play recognition and the zone coverage the games uses. I probably placed more importance on Str and Tkl for DBs than most coaches, but I wanted guys who could play run support and create turnovers.

In a general sense, I tried to think of my Nickle setup as more of a 4-2-5, a defense that may not be great at any one thing but is pretty good at everything and can stay on the field all the time.

Not coincidentally, a good part of the reason I went all Shotgun on offense was the strategy of taking the roster spots I saved on RBs and using them to hoard WRs, to the point that I was always starting very good upper classmen across the board. That was a big advantage as it almost always created talent mismatches in my favor against opposing secondaries unless the other team was exceptionally deep at DB.
Folks--thanks for sharing, and this is an interesting discussion---Sleeper, you reminded me that I forgot to mention the priority of tackling for DBs.  If they weren't fast, and couldn't tackle, I wouldn't recruit them.  My logic was that with playing very Agg all the time, missed tackles would be a problem, especially in the secondary. 

For what it's worth, I had the most fun with a balanced offense, one that could blow the 3-4 defenses off the ball, or punish those who stayed in 4-3 too much.  I tried an all-shotgun team one time and had one dominant NC run with them, but this was also partially because I rigged the classes to have something like 7 SR*s that season. 
7/12/2013 10:19 PM (edited)
dream, it's interesting to hear you found consistent success playing Agg/VAgg. Myself, I felt I found more success running Con as a base, with VCon on obvious passing situations and when facing Shotgun. The most 'aggressive' I typically ever got was Bal, and that was against heavy run formations (Wish, Box, sometimes I) in heavy run scenarios.

My defenses never racked up many sacks--they were typically in the lower reach of that category--but they did pretty good on holding opposing QBs' completion percentages down, and generally ranked towards the top in INTs.

Against the run, they generally landed somewhere in the upper-mid rankings. That got a little bit better towards the end of my playing time as I continued to hone things.

On the offense side, one of the things that I think made a difference in finding success operating out of the Shotgun all the time was committing to running out of it with the WRs 15%-20% of the time (not including QB scrambles). The YPC wasn't there, sure, although it got to the point where I could pretty well count on about a 3 YPC average per game (excluding QB sacks).

But the real advantage, I believe, was eating up just enough clock to be sure my defense wasn't going to have to be on the field so much (and the other team's defense was), and keeping the QB fresh over the course of a drive. Where I saw so many other pass-happy teams always ending up with a significant TOP disadvantage, my teams were generally reasonably on par with my opponent's team, and on occasion maybe even a little ahead. That strategy, I think, helped me win a lot of games down the stretch.

Of course, I have another theory on why committing to running out of the Shotgun paid dividends, but that gets into AI voodoo where I might just be seeing what I want to see.
7/13/2013 1:21 AM
Season

76
Games

17
Pass comp
404
Pass att
732
Pass%

55.2
Pass Yds
4321
Pass TD
22
Pass Int
31
Rush att
484
Rush Yds
1410
Rush avg
2.9
Rush TDs
14
Rec

404
Rec Yds
4321
Rec Avg
10.7
Rec TD
22
77 19 291 588 49.5 2687 9 44 523 1731 3.3 8 291 2687 9.2 9
78 16 255 527 48.4 2506 8 31 536 1741 3.2 11 255 2506 9.8 8
79 17 259 512 50.6 2566 14 35 582 1980 3.4 10 259 2566 9.9 14
80 19 352 683 51.5 3638 15 40 548 1663 3.0 7 352 3638 10.3 15
7/13/2013 1:46 AM (edited)
Above are the 'stats against' for a pretty good run I had with one D3 school (NCs in 77 & 80)---throughout this period, I played a pretty balanced, pass-run offense, and for defense, mostly nickel, a little 5-2, very aggressive for every formation, down & distance.  Except in obvious running downs, I had it set to either mostly pass or always pass, hoping for INTs.  Never figured out if there was one DB trait that would make them more likely to intercept--I wanted starters to have at least 70spd, so maybe there wasn't much variability to see an effect there, but hands definitely didn't produce interceptions, nor did GI seem to.  I did value Tech quite a bit....  Anyhow, even in running downs vs. running formations I would play balanced (except 3rd & 1 or 4th & 1).  I figured I could still stuff the run with nickel & mostly pass, as long as I was very aggressive by having my fast LBs & sure-tackling DBs close to the line of scrimmage (I know that interpretation is controversial, but it worked for me).

I don't have my old excel file with the more detailed stats handy, but for some reason I was never that great at causing fumbles--usually around the middle of the conference that was about half SimAI.  For scheduling, I would try to get a playoff team from the previous season in slot 4 or 5 (but not one that got past the 2nd round), a decent human team for the other 4/5 slot, a bad human team for slot 3, and terrible sim AI teams for slots 1&2 to get freshman playing time up.  Usually, for either humans or Sim AI, I'd look for a team with a slow secondary and slow receivers (relatively speaking) so I knew I could throw on them, and shut down their passing game.  I did better against some good teams this way, I think.  As long as one of the human teams I beat was decent by the end of the year, the SOS was usually good enough to get me into the top 10 as long as I could win the CC. 

It's kind of fun to reflect on this---it has been quite a while since I've taken the time to think about the patterns here.....

7/13/2013 12:40 PM (edited)
thanks for sharing, dreamer. this is great stuff. i wish i had kept my spreadsheets, too. ...oh, wait. i never had any. lol. (i'm lazy. just ask my ex wife.)

i definitely agree with you on Hands. never saw where it made a difference in INTs, though i still wonder if it might have factored into passes defended (PD). GI seemed to affect consistency. i felt like the better overall GI my defense had, the fewer big plays they gave up. but again, that could've just been me seeing what i wanted to see.

in thinking about it, Tech may have had the biggest correlation to INTs of anything. but that's not much better than a hunch. of all the murky business of the AI, i'd really like to see the hard logic on how INTs are worked, and coverage in general.

Speed is always good. although i came to believe that (within reason) it didn't carry the level of impact i would've expected, particularly at the CB spots where i encountered more than a few players that seemed to do really well with average or even sub par speed. i suspect that was due to the games all zone/no man coverage. that said, i did find speed made an impact at the true Safety positions. with the 4-2-5 scheme in mind, i treated the CB3 position as another "true" Safety and made sure the starter there had plenty of speed. that probably had no impact on the game, but it fed into my fantasy of being an actual XnOs coach. heh.

as for fumbles, i came to believe that Str was an impact factor. another reason i probably placed more emphasis on Str at the DB positions than maybe other coaches.

my scheduling habits mirrored yours to a decent degree, but our game planning looks to have been pretty different. in my Con approach, i was always hedging my players toward the line of scrimmage in bias to the run. on first down, for example, i set all defense to Run/Con, even typically ND Box. The exceptions were Shotgun, for which i virtually always went with Heavy Pass/VCon, and Wish Bone, which was typically set to Heavy Run/Bal.

even in obvious passing situations, i never went with an Always Pass defense because i felt like that left me too open to the short underneath passes. so Heavy Pass was the most pass bias i ever used. in similar fashion, i never went Always Run. my perception was that doing so was getting me burned by runs to the outside. in my mind, i rationalized it in comparison to the real world where LBs can get too close to the line of scrimmage and find themselves caught inside battling traffic and without any good attack angles to the ball.

did i mention i coach in the game as if i'm coaching for real? heh.

with that mentality established, i felt like the basic Run/Con approach had my LBs and Safeties close enough to the line of scrimmage to be effective against the run. but with no blitzing going on, and with making sure to have speedy Safeties in place, i was always able to be in position to cover the pass. in evidence of that, i'll say that even with the run bias, i rarely, rarely got beat on a deep throw, and opposing QBs generally did poorly against my defense compared to their season averages. RBs tended to have a little under their average YPC.

**afterthought: dreamer, it just occurred to me you're like the Nickle version of Dick LeBeau to my Dom Capers! think i'll get a tattoo to commemorate ...

** after-afterthought: for anyone interested in the 4-2-5 scheme for reals, check out this site: http://coachhoover.blogspot.com/2011/12/4-2-5.html. TCU's Thunder Concept is a fun look.

gods help me, i love the look of fear and confusion in a QB's eyes. 

7/13/2013 12:44 PM
I won an NC using nothing but nickel-balanced-balanced.  Every down, every distance, every play, every game.  Make of that what you will.
7/13/2013 12:55 PM
Posted by slid64er on 7/13/2013 12:44:00 PM (view original):
I won an NC using nothing but nickel-balanced-balanced.  Every down, every distance, every play, every game.  Make of that what you will.
Talent matters? 
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