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Defending Navy's option offense

Gobucks2204's picture
August 15, 2014 at 12:04pm

I was just curious as to how our defense will perform against Navy's flexbone.  

What are the most important positions on our defense for that game? The defensive line? The Linebackers? Which OSU players will have to perform well to defend it? What players do you expect to get most of the tackles? 

How many passes do they usually throw out of the option? How ready do the defensive backs need to be ready for the pass vs. coming up on run support?  Do the defensive backs need to not cheat up on run support and stay in their back positions at all times due to threat of throwing long?

Lastly, who is going to play instead of Noah Spence, or could they move Adolphus to the outside and bring in say Schutt on the inside? Can our defensive line severely disrupt their offense so we won't need to rely on our linebackers and defensive backs as much?

I know it's a lot of questions. I just have no idea how it will or should play out. Any insights you guys can provide would be great.

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The Rill Dill's picture

Defensive ends/ outside backers are the key to the game.

+1 HS
VintonCountyBuck's picture

Penetration by the defensive line is always a key to any game.  Navy uses a lot of cut blocking in order to prevent this.  Our linemen have to stay gap-sound and remain on their feet.  

The ends must honor their responsibilities and turn everything back inside.  Navy doesn't pass much, but their play-action passes can really gash teams down field.

But, I believe that middle-linebacker spot of Curtis Grant may be the single most important position.  He has to be able to make the proper reads at the line of scrimmage and call out the right audibles with all of the different formation shifts from the Mid-Shipmen. 

“Right now, Michigan is not at the pinnacle of college football, and that’s all Urban Meyer cares about...He’s been there and knows what it takes to get there.” 

+2 HS
703Buckeye's picture

I played against Navy a few years ago and their O is a pain to prepare for. While it may sound like a given, it is more important than normal to focus on your individual assignments against Navy.... Do not concern yourself with covering for a teammate who is slacking. D-linemen must not allow themselves to get cut while at the same time preventing the Navy o-line from getting to the second level... free-flowing backers are pivotal. if the backers are allowed to move around the field freely, the option offense is much less effective. That being said, it's nearly impossible to stop Navy's option, rather it is more important to limit its effectiveness. 

"Attack the Strong, Trample the Weak, Hurdle the Dead!"
-Former OSU S&C Coach Lichter

+5 HS
Yoyoma's picture

As someone who has coached defenses in the past, I can tell you that there are two main components to defending an option based offense.  First the ENTIRE defensive line must be able to, at minimum, "absorb" the offensive line preventing second level blocking.  Then you must have a fast reacting second level run support.  Beyond that, on the perimeter, one of the options must be eliminated as quick as possible with second-level run support right behind.  The basic term for all of this is "disruption."

+1 HS
11UrbzAndSpices's picture

My qualifications: Defensive mastermind (at the middle school level), former player and coach of a flexbone offense.

The key to the offense we ran was getting to the next level with linemen and blocking intelligently (know who not to block, who to cut block), wingbacks that can block, a hoss FB, a smart QB. Navy has a great QB. Their FB game has been okay lately, but I'm not sure where that stands. WB have been good.

The worst thing we ran against were athletic DL. A good DL can blow up the point of attack and run the play down from behind. In an option offense, you're purposely leaving someone unblocked and running by/away from them. In a flexbone, the midline leaves a DT unblocked and in a pitch option you're leaving a DL/OLB unblocked. If these defensive players can play intelligently and soundly, it wrecks the option game.

Another thing, the flexbone is designed to get 3 yards at a time. The OL take huge 2-3 yard splits to spread out the DL, hoping that the FB dive/belly can be a quick hitter. LB need to read their gaps and make good tackles. Missed tackles=big gains.

On the whole, I'd say the best defense against a Flexbone is intelligent and sound players. Everyone needs to know their gap responsibility, don't get distracted by the smoke and mirrors, make good tackles.

I was able to completely stop two Flexbone offenses at my level with a 5-3 and a 3-4(really a 5-2) just by telling guys they were responsible for filling their gap, every play, regardless of what's happening in the backfield. Obviously not the same level of competition, but the concept still holds true.

"Quit skipping leg day bro" - Dr James Andrews

+5 HS
JasonR's picture

As somebody who won 5 straight national championships in NCAA '14 and had the #1 defense every year, I feel I am qualified to say that the way to stop the option is to all-out blitz every play. Worked for me!

+9 HS
Gobucks2204's picture

Thanks for everyone's response. Your input helps a lot.  I'm starting to get a grasp of what we need to do to defend Navy. Only a couple weeks away!

"Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends"

+1 HS
Geraffi's picture

Good questions and good feedback.  I had similar questions because I don't really have a solid grasp of alignments, schemes, player responsibilities under certain conditions, etc.  Ross Fulton's breakdowns are great reads!

I have to say, the cut blocking concerns me.  I would really hate to lose one of our defensive linemen to a knee injury from a sketchy block.

+1 HS
Seattle Linga's picture

I am just glad we have had a little extra time to prepare for them. We need to be clicking on all cylinders from kickoff.

+1 HS

I remember watching replays of the ND-Navy game from 2012 that was played in Dublin. ND killed them but the thing I remembered the most was NDs DL totally manhandled Navy's OL. The OSU DL not only has to stay on its feet but its got to keep the Navy OL from moving at will, much like our OL last year that consistently got to the second level. Navy can't be permitted to do that regularly.

"Sherman ran an option play right through the south" - Greatest Civil War analogy EVER.

+1 HS
HeuermanTheFireman's picture

Every position becomes important against Navy. The key for the defense is to play assignment football. Do your job and trust your teammates will do theirs.

The person responsible for toes clearly wanted you to stub them.

+1 HS
NashBuckeye's picture

Good Topic..this game will be different than every other game for the D. Good test for Chris Ash's new simplified D. Option football is all about following assignments and that was a glaring weakness in our D last year.

Mean Mr Mustard's picture

Do any of you agree that we should just to be disciplined in our assignments and run Cover-2 or man the whole game?  I wonder if there is a need for these guys to learn all of the pattern matching assignments for a flexbone offense. 

I did re-watch the OSU vs Wisconsin game when Ash was the Wisc. DC.   Wisconsin's defense, who was so disciplined and knew their assignments so well,  gave our option fits.

+1 HS
11UrbzAndSpices's picture

I'd say Cover 4 or man would work better, but Cover 2 could work. In the current defense I run (4-3), safeties are force players and corners aren't good tacklers. In cover 2, safeties lose run responsibility and corners will cover the flats/runs. In Cover 4, the safeties are downfield players, looking for #2 (wingback or slot receiver) to go vertical. If they block, the safeties should come downhill in run support. I like man against the flexbone because then a safety picks up the motion man, linebacker takes #3 (inside wingback who is not in motion), so the backside safety, Mike, and backside OLB all help in the run game backside and playside you'll have athlete covering athletes.

"Quit skipping leg day bro" - Dr James Andrews

+1 HS
Mean Mr Mustard's picture

Cover-4 is a good idea b/c the safeties are up there for run support.  I am just wondering if it is worth spending the time to learn all of the pattern matching schemes against a flexbone.  I think O-St wins w/ man and c-2 regardless.

11UrbzAndSpices's picture

Uh... I don't know who O-St is, but Ohio State uses a Cover 4 scheme

"Quit skipping leg day bro" - Dr James Andrews

+1 HS
Mean Mr Mustard's picture

Ohio State has a Cover-4 base.  It is not like Ash will never deviate from the Cover-4.  He actually is known for Cover-2 also.  Do a Google search.  I am sure that he will throw some Cover-2 or 2-Deep Man coverage into the mix on 3rd and long.

The only question I was asking was about pattern matching schemes against the flexbone.  Is it worth learning those assignments for one game?

whiskeyjuice's picture

I hope this years defense will give opposing offenses fits, major fits. I hope that OSU gets to play a top SEC team where the defense frustrates their offense so bad that the TV announcers say that $EC needs to start recruiting B1G speed.

"Championships are not won on Saturdays in November. Championships are won on Tuesdays in August." -- Kerry Combs

osu407's picture

I will breathe a monumental sigh of relief when the fourth quarter of the navy game ticks down to zero with the buckeyes winning. 

WesPatterson23's picture

Urban said that either Steven Miller or Rashard Frazier will take the spot. He also said that Jalyn Holmes is making a push for it.