Is Utah State's Defensive Allignment Designed to Face the Spread?

Pregame Blogs

Pregame Blogs
Videos are just the START of the conversation. Each show has a dedicated blog post with show notes, links, and pics. Plus, the host and guests continue the conversation in the comments section!

Is Utah State's Defensive Allignment Designed to Face the Spread?

I can't tell you if the Utah game will surpass the posted total. (not yet)

I can't tell you, with any sort of certainty, that Utah can cover 21 points tonight. (not yet)

And I'm not an expert on allignment strategy when facing a spread offense. But neither is Michigan, Alabama, Oklahoma, or BYU, right?

I do know this:

Traditional 4-man defensive fronts are completely susceptible to the spread option. I'll save you all the diagrams and all the techno-jargon and give you a simple explanation as to why Appalachain State whipped Michigan or why Utah creamed Alabama or why Florida destroys every defense.

For me, it all started with Bobby Wagner (last night). He's was a talented linebacker for Utah State last season. As a Freshman he had 51 tackles, but with a horrible defensive line in front of him, he only had 2 tackles for a loss. In any case, he was the clear choice for starting outside linebacker in 2009.


Utah's former defensive coordinator took the job at Utah State and  Bobby Wagner was moved to defensive end. It's a curious move, and I was licking my chops, thinking that Utah would run over this kid whenever he lined up across from one of their 300 pound offensive tackles. You see, Bobby Wagner weighs 217 pounds.

Allignment mismatches like Utah State's 231 and 217 pound defensive ends are like candy to a handicapper. There is no way around the fact that SIZE MATTERS in the trenches. There's no way around it! Or is there?

Did it shock you that Alabama's size was useless against Utah in the bowl game last year?

Did it shock you that Michigan's defense looked like a prep school unit against App. State?

How did those big defensive ends, 3-4 linebackers, and defensive tackles get beaten by a division-1 spread offense?

A lesson:

The intention of the spread offense is to SPREAD OUT THE DEFENSE so that the offense can RUN THE BALL.  The spread offense wants to run the ball between the tackles. They don't care to run the ball to the edges, because that's where the bulk of the defense has been placed. The spread offense creates weak points between the tackles, and that's why Percy Harvin and Tim Tebow made a living off SEC defenses. They'll do it again this year too.

The weakness of the defenses that face a spread is usually a strength against a Pro-Set.

The 270 pound BCS defensive ends are taught to push the tackles back. They want to collapse the pocket and get into the backfield, and when this occurs they take sweeping strides that open up a gap between the guard and tackle. With eyes upfield, the big defensive end sweeps toward the QB and a hole opens up, then the nimble little QB/RB scampers through that big gap for 8 yards.

In the spread offense, the offensive tackle will actually walk a defensive end back, then leave the end, and proceed to smash into the nearest linebacker.

WHAT! he leaves the rush end?

Indeed! The rush end will usually have the job of covering the QB, so he can't directly assualt him (for fear of losing him), so he stays parallel to the QB. The problem with the big BCS defensive end is that he's not fast enough to "hawk" the spread QB, and he's already missed the running back on a delayed handoff, so that huge gap between the guard and tackle is an "engineered" anomoly. A creation of the spread mentality; and the death of any 4 man defensive front!

So what do you do?

Let's look at what a former Utah DC would do. Well, I'm telling you what he would do. He would add a sure tackling linebacker to his defensive end grouping! IF THE OFFENSIVE TACKLE FOR UTAH IS GOING TO PEEL OFF AND HIT A LINEBACKER, THEN YOUR DEFENSIVE END MUST BE A FAST AND SURE TACKLER. A man just as fast as the QB! A linebacker body-type.

Bobby Wagner is going to be the new prototypical defensive end, and if the BCS world is watching, then they need to find a "rover" that occupies the offensive tackle for EVERY spread offense they face.

Utah State belongs to a conference that runs 3 and 4 wide recievers on all but one team, so they have to adapt, correctly, to what Utah is offering tonight. The placement of a 217 pound linebacker on the defensive line is a clear indicator of what a man, who has practiced against a spread offense for a decade, would do if he ever coached against a spread.

This little article should serve as a wake-up call for those of you that are dead set on the OVER or on Utah as a 21 point favorite. The defense that will be facing Utah tonight was not good last year; And they still don't have the personell to beat Utah, but PLEASE be aware that the Utah QB will be PROPERLY "hawked". The Aggie defense MUST play a ton of spread defense this year, and the mistake of the past coach was his inability to create the proper stops in his defenses.

This is the beginning of the Utah State revival. In three years they will win the conference. If they do well tonight (meaning if they cover), then the lines will be off for the next few weeks for USU and Utah. Utah is playing a defense that can see them coming. Other defense will still be ignorant.

This is a great game to watch. Please focus on the defensive ends for Utah and Utah State. Look to see if the tackles pull off the ends to hit a linebacker, and also look to see if the ends stay parallel to the QB or if they dive at him.

I'm just a handicapper, but this seems like a veritable petri dish!


I have to edit this today, but I'm posting it now....I apologize if the rough draft is hard to read or if I've made a few errors, but the general point is there.......


bear with me....  :)



  • It's not so much about Wagner, but rather the right way to hit a Spread.

  • Utah State will compensate for Borel, just like the Aggies will compensate for the Ute QB. BUT YES! Borel is efficient, and all he needs is a defense that wont give up 413 yards per game.

    They could finshed quite high in the WAC. They have the perfect coach, and the experience they need on defense. I will definitely be looking hard at them.

    I didn't mention Borel becuase I was more focussed on the defensive side for the Aggies.   :)

    Also: Wagner is not starting....if I'm reading right...but he'll be involved for sure.

  • I am a big follower of the WAC.  I do have Utah St as the surprise team of the conference.  Surprisingly, you failed to mention a talented, unknown QB for the Aggies in Borel.  He will give teams a lot of problems with his dynamic running ability.  

    GL this season KM.

  • Still have to edit....