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Missouri Defense: Scheme and Execution

I took a look at Missouri’s defensive scheme and where they are having breakdowns in execution.

The Missouri run defense is the worst one in college football, and if you’re as bad as they have been, accountability for that falls on everyone in that building. Players and coaches alike have to take their performance through five games personally as they, through this horrendous start, have squandered a lot of the goodwill that this program has generated.

To start off, I don’t know if Steve Wilks is going to work out at Missouri. He’s known as professional coach and is making the transition to college, has only two years on his contract, and through five games, the results have sucked. Missouri’s defense has to be better prepared to play, and as the coach that falls on him and Coach Drinkwitz. Coaches have to be held accountable as well.

At the same time, coaches can’t play the game for the players. Players have to execute the scheme.


Missouri’s defense has a solid scheme that works for many other college programs in the SEC, and they’ve made adjustments to at least try compensate for Missouri’s lack of talent on the defensive line and at linebacker. They run a 4-2-5 base, but are flexible in their ability to change personnel in the game based on situations. That’s why you may see different amounts of linebackers and defensive backs at a given time. All of that is very normal for college football.

The gap scheme, and gap integrity in general, is a basic level of defensive football. If you can’t win your gap and handle your responsibility, it’s hard to get stops. That’s what’s actually beautiful about defenses when they’re fully in-sync. If you can get 11 guys flowing to their responsibilities and simply doing their jobs, it’s fun to see the offense realize they have nowhere to go. So far, we haven't seen the Mizzou defense do this on a consistent enough basis.

Let’s Talk About Execution

What do you do as a coach when your scheme puts your players in a position to make a play.... and then they just don’t?

If you watch closely, Tennessee pulled a lineman and the linebacker takes a poor angle into the blocker instead of a wrong arm to the inside. Since the right side of the DL is getting blocked down, that opens up a natural gap right there. There’s one chance of making the tackle for an average gain, but the safety screams down into the box at a poor angle, misses the tackle and it’s six.

In my opinion, this was the absolute worst play of the day:

It’s 3rd and 12, you just got a sack on second down and are trying to get Tennessee off the field and maybe try and make this a game. They throw their quick screen, and from there the wheels fall off the wagon. I see #3 at the bottom of the screen getting driven eight yards off the line, a missed tackle due to a poor angle from #29, #0 with a brutal whiff and then finally...

What my father would describe as a “piss poor effort” from #2. That is unacceptable. I’m not one to try and single people out, but there is no way that can go unaddressed. It’s frustrating from a fan, teammate, or coach’s perspective to see someone quit on a play that could have been made.

Let’s keep moving...

These are the two starting linebackers, the best ones on the roster and both have played far too much football to be this undisciplined with their eyes. I understand seeing a pulling guard, and following it, but at the same time, someone has to have the QB contained. Instead, we have two linebackers moving rather slowly into the same gap.

Once the defensive end closes down (actually a good job), there has to be a linebacker on that edge. When he sees #25 bite down, it’s an easy keep for the QB.

These are just a few examples of far too many that show a complete lack of execution. It’s simply an unacceptable product in all phases. The Tigers aren’t executing basic actions of football at this point, and given the overall talent level, it’s hard to find a fix for that.

Where do we go from here?

It’s oh so bad. It’s really bad right now.

It’s actually so bad, that Coach Drinkwitz decided to make a change with the staff on Sunday afternoon.

After a loss like the one against Tennessee, I’m not surprised that someone lost their job. The on-field product was that bad. I can’t speak to what that locker room needs from their defensive line coach, and maybe they just needed a fresh voice in that room, but I just have a hard time believing that this is going to make a meaningful change to the on-field product. The guys who play aren’t changing, and it’s ultimately going to have to be on them to find a way to right the ship.

There has to be a renewed commitment to the executing the fundamentals and to doing those little things on defense that help you win games. It sounds cliché or a bit corny, but this defense needs to focus on the game from a play to play basis. Worry about this play. Execute your assignment on this play. This film is going to force this Missouri Tiger football team to have some uncomfortable talks, and they’re going to have to speak some uncomfortable truths as a team to figure this out.

Let me leave you with this, though:

I know that this has been rough start to the season, and I get that as a fan it’s frustrating to see your team get gashed continually. However, you are never as good or as bad as you think you are in the SEC. Things change and can change very quickly on a week to week basis in this conference.

So while it may seem like this program is down in the dumps and destined for a 3-9 season, just remember there’s a lot of season left and college kids are fickle.

Follow me on Twitter @iAirDry!