Saturday, August 18, 2012

Two gap or not two gap

It’s amazing how a phrase can convince anyone of anything.

Nebraska defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski said in an Omaha World Herald story that the coach staff is going away from the traditional read-and-react two-gap scheme but not because they don’t have that stud that can handle such a task. The purpose is more because they want to find him.

“We try not even to say two-gap anymore,” Kaczenski said. “A lot of two-gap philosophy is read and react. We’re going to attack. We want to go through the blocker and play from there. We don’t want him to react, sit on our heels.”

Kaczenski was hired away from Big Ten Conference foe Iowa after John Papuchis was promoted from defensive line coach to defensive coordinator after Carl Pelini took the head coaching job at Florida Atlantic.

“You’re going to play against the best offensive lines around in this league,” Kaczenski said. “You can’t just have your guys line up with their hand on the ground in the same spot every time. You have to change things up, move people around, attack from different angles.”

Everyone may have their theories on why Nebraska might be going this route with its defensive lineman. I think it’s finally realizing that without a dominant force like Ndamukong Suh up front like 2009, or a blanket secondary like 2010, that this scheme without at least a dominant one or the other is just not going to get it to work. It finally took last year to realize that. Nebraska’s 2011 defense was far from Kevin Cosgrove’s 2007 sieve but the Husker defense certainly did not have the same sharp teeth as 2009 and 2010.

Kaszenski comes to the Husker staff highly recommended. Kaczenski built an impressive resume on Kirk Ferentz’s staff at Iowa. The performance of Kaczenski’s defensive lines played a key role in Iowa’s success the past five seasons. With Kaczenski as a member of the full-time coaching staff from 2007 to 2011, Iowa reached a bowl game in each of his final four seasons, including an appearance in the Orange Bowl following the 2009 season. His defensive lineman earned nine first- or second-team All-Big Ten awards from 2007 to 2011.

An attacking defensive line, mixed with an attacking secondary should make for a pretty salty defense. Having guys like Suh, Eric Haag, Prince Amukamara, Dejon Gomes, etc. really probably hid some issues in the two-gap scheme. I really hope to see this new approach translate into more sacks, hurries and stuffs (tackles for loss). It seems last year that Nebraska played too many games behind the 8-ball on third downs. I really hope that this new scheme unleashes the hounds.  

It also shows that head coach Bo Pelini, although stubborn, isn’t stupid. He has brought in a position coach from the Big Ten who has a proven track record of success and a defensive backs coach (Terry Joseph) who wants DBs to play like those who have won two National Champions the last three years (Alabama). Though I don’t think the SEC has invented football, Alabama is not a bad secondary to emulate.

However, I do not think the two-gap approach is going away entirely. It’s just been modified so we move forward to make the first contact rather than play to let the offensive line come to us and then try shed the block or force your angle to get to your assignment. It will seem more traditional in a sense because of that. The place I think we’ll see the difference is on the ends as it sounds like they’ve got a little more freedom from being able to be aggressive.

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