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Film Room: Defense 2020 Part Two—Stunts

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Ryan Walters is back, and he’s bringing his line stunts with him.

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

In the last installment of our analysis of Ryan Walters’ 2019 Mizzou defense we looked at his defensive fronts. Today we will look at some defensive line stunts Walters used out of his favorite fronts.

Line Stunts

Line stunts involve defenders on the line of scrimmage moving after the snap, looping around one another and switching gap responsibilities.

This diagram depicts two line stunts, one on each side of the ball.

We would call the one on the left a T/E stunt: the tackle goes first, slanting to the C gap, and the defensive end loops around him to take the B. On the right we have an E/N stunt, with the end attacking the B gap first, and the nose tackle twisting around him to the edge.

Here are some examples of line stunts Ryan Walters dialed up last year.

This is an E/T on the left, and a T/E to the right, on a play that results in an interception.

T/N

N/T

Here’s a wicked three-man loop. I guess we’d call it an E/T/N.

Walters sometimes paired his stunts with blitzes. This is an N/T with a strong safety B gap blitz.

Defeating the Trap

This topic is not stunt-related per se, but I thought we might take a quick look at the ways Walters’ defenses deal with trap blocks. Loyal readers might remember that we discussed this way back after last year’s West Virginia game.

On a trap, a playside defender is initially unblocked, only to be attacked by a backside blocker. Here is an example of a popular trap play, the Counter Trap.

The left guard (in green) is pulling to the offense’s right side, attempting to kick out the left defensive end (in red).

There are two main schools of thought on defending the point of attack on a play like Counter Trap—Spill technique and Box technique.

Walters’ defenses did both. Let’s take a look at the techniques that were employed.

Spill Technique

The Spill technique has the defender getting trapped attack the trapper with his outside shoulder (this particular move is called wrong-arming), forcing the ball to bounce to the outside.

The key to this tactic is that the linebackers must scrape over the spill, finding the ball on the outside. (Against Counter Trap, defensive coaches also need to decide whether to have the LB spill the blocker wrapping around for him, or turn the ball back to the inside. Walters seems to have his linebackers do the latter, as we’ll see.)

A few examples of Spill technique.

Here right DE Tre Williams (#93) spills the ball out to Nick Bolton (#32) who is scraping across the formation. Bolton fails to turn the runner inside, but further spills him to the safety, Tyree Gillespie (#9).

In this clip end Chris Turner (#39) spills the ball to Bolton, who makes the tackle.

In this last example we have a wrong-arm technique from an interior player, left defensive tackle Markell Utsey (#90). Utsey doesn’t completely close down the gap, but he takes up two blockers. Akial Byers (#97) disengages and cleans up.

Box Technique

The Box technique requires the defender getting trapped to take on the block with his inside shoulder, keeping contain, forcing the ball inside. The linebacker fits must adjust with the ends’ technique—the LBs plug the inside gaps into which the ball is funneled.

Examples.

Left end Chris Turner (#39) funnels the ball inside to Mike linebacker Cameron Wilkins (#40).

In this clip. Tre Williams forces the ball inside, where it is swallowed up by nose tackle Jordan Elliott (#1).

On this final example, Jatorian Hansford (#28) forces the ball inside where strong safety Ronnell Perkins (#3) turns it in further toward an unblocked Bolton.

DLineZou: Extreme Boxing

DLineZou was built around defensive ends who could burst off the line, deployed in a scheme that allowed them to scream upfield, looking to brutalize quarterbacks. Without such a defensive structure, those ends we’ve come to revere — Sam, Ealy, Golden, Ray, et al — may not have made the impact they did. Who knows, we might have been denied this iconic DLineZou moment from the 2014 Cotton Bowl.

Because the ends were turned loose, they were rarely asked to play spill technique. The defense was designed to force running plays to the inside. It’s hard to argue with the strategy given the success of those defenses, but in my mind there is an exception.

In the 2013 SEC Championship game, Auburn ran a fair amount of Counter Trap, exploiting the upfield rush of the Mizzou defensive ends.

Here’s one example.

Right end Kony Ealy (#47) flies upfield and is kicked out. In the tight shot we can see especially well the void this creates in the line.

The Tigers were criticized (and continue to be criticized on Mizzou forums) for failing to make adjustments to an Auburn rushing attack that ran absolutely wild (to the tune of 545 yards!). I think this is a fair criticism. An immediate adjustment might have been to slow the ends down a bit and have them squeeze the hole to the inside. The next step would be to have them wrong-arm the trapper, spilling Tre Mason outside, forcing him to run horizontally to find his gaps.

Conclusion

We’ve looked at fronts and defensive line movements, tactics, and techniques in these first two segments. In the next few installments of this series we’ll turn our attention to the secondary as we survey Ryan Walters’ favorite pass coverages.