The Countdown to Hunkering Down

“Coach Richt has the scout teams cranked up now, trying to get the guys a good look at the Louisiana-Lafayette schemes. I’d bet behind closed doors, they are already scheming for the Gamecocks. But they are sworn to secrecy on that one. This is a smart start to the schedule. Damon Evans and Coach Richt did a nice job with this. Open with a exhibition type game, before the big SEC opener.

September is critical to the season obviously. South Carolina and Arkansas are back to back. And that trip to Starkpatch can be trouble (just ask the Gators). I realize that some fans have already put “W’s” next to those games, but it’s just not that easy. Seriously. Go ahead and count on the showdown in Columbia being a physical, competitive battle.

And then, one week later here comes Ryan Mallett throwing it all over the field at Sanford Stadium, with Petrino calling the plays. The issue at Mississippi State is this: it is a mental game. Going in, the player knows State is typically bad. So, there is a mental letdown. And they play physical football.

Just don’t believe the ‘Dogs can open the season 4-0, unless they are forcing some turnovers and running the ball effectively. Basically, this team needs to hit the ground running.”  Buck Belue

Basic 3–4 defense info…

The 3-4 defense was originally devised by Bud Wilkinson at the University of Oklahoma in the 1940s. Chuck Fairbanks learned the defense from Wilkinson and is credited with importing it to the NFL. The 1972 Miami Dolphins were the first team to win a Super Bowl with the 3-4 defense, going undefeated and using number 53, Bob Mathison as a down lineman or rushing linebacker.

When the Oakland Raiders defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XV, it marked the first Super Bowl in which both teams used the 3-4 as their base defense. Also notable, the Big Blue Wrecking Crew, the defensive unit for the 1986 New York Giants who won Super Bowl XXI, was a 3-4 defense and featured all-time great Lawrence Taylor as outside linebacker.

Fast linebackers, sitting back to survey the offensive set, can key in on an inside ball carrier and “hit the gaps” quickly to offer help to the 3 down linemen when defending the rush. In pass coverage, the 4 linebackers are already in a “sitting back” position, able to see the patterns develop and cover the short/intermediate pass.

The defensive line is made up of a nose tackle (NT) and two defensive ends (DEs). Linemen in 3-4 schemes tend to be larger than their 4-3 counterparts to take up more space and guard more territory along the defensive front. 3-4 defensive ends were usually defensive tackles when entering at first. They must be strong at the point of attack and are aligned in most cases head-up on an offensive tackle. First and foremost, they must control run gaps.

Size and strength become more of a factor for linemen in 3-4 defenses than in 4-3 defenses because they move primarily within the confines of line play and seldom are in space using athletic ability. Ideally 3-4 DEs should weigh 285–300 pounds (129–140 kg) and be able to beat double teams by getting a push.

The 3-4 nose tackle is considered the most physically demanding position in football. His primary responsibility is to control the “A” gaps, the two openings between the center and guards, and not get pushed back into his linebackers. If a running play comes through one of those gaps, he must make the tackle or control what is called the “jump-through”—the guard or center who is trying to get out to the linebackers. The ideal nose tackle has to be much bigger than 4-3 DTs, weighing around 330 pounds or more.

The base position of NT is across from the opposing team’s center. This location is usually referred to as zero technique. The two DEs flank the NT and line up off the offensive guards. The location off the offensive guard is usually referred to as three technique.

In a 3-4 defense, four linebackers (LBs) are positioned behind the defensive line. The linebacker unit is made up of two inside linebackers (ILBs) flanked by two outside linebackers (OLBs). The OLBs often line up closer to the line of scrimmage than the ILBs, but may also be positioned at the same depth or deeper in coverage than the ILBs (though this is somewhat rare).

Strengths of the 3-4 include speedy ILBs and OLBs in pursuit of backs in run defense and flexibility to use multiple rushers to confuse the quarterback during passing plays without being forced into man-to-man defense on receivers. Most teams try to disrupt the offense’s passing attack by rushing four defenders.

In a 3-4, the fourth rusher is usually a linebacker, though many teams, such as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Baltimore Ravens, use a talented safety to blitz and confuse the coverage, giving them more defensive options in the same 3-4 look. However, since there are four linebackers and four defensive backs, the fourth potential rusher can come from any of eight defensive positions. This is designed to confuse the quarterback’s pre-snap defensive read.

A drawback of the 3-4 is that without a fourth lineman to take on the offensive blockers and close the running lanes, both the defensive linemen and the linebackers can be overwhelmed by blocking schemes in the running game. To be effective, 3-4 linebackers need their defensive line to routinely tie up a minimum of four (preferably all five) offensive linemen, freeing them to make tackles.

The 3-4 linebackers must be very athletic and strong enough to shed blocks by fullbacks, tight ends, and offensive linemen to get to the running back. In most cases, 3-4 OLBs lead their teams in quarterback sacks.

The 3-4 defense generally uses four defensive backs. Two of these are safeties, and two of them are cornerbacks. A cornerback’s responsibilities vary depending on the type of coverage called. Coverage is simply how the defense will be protecting against the pass. The corners will generally line up 3 to 5 yards off the line of scrimmage, generally trying to “Jam” or interrupt the receivers route within the first 5 yards.

A corner will be given one of two ways to defend the pass (with variations that result in more or less the same responsibilities): zone and man-to-man. In zone coverage, the cornerback is responsible for an area on the field. In this case, the corner must always stay downfield of whomever it is covering while still remaining in its zone.

Zone is a more relaxed defensive scheme meant to provide more awareness across the defensive secondary while sacrificing tight coverage. As such, the corner in this case would be responsible for making sure nobody gets outside of him, always, or downfield of him, in cases where there is no deep safety help. In man coverage, however, the cornerback is solely responsible for the man across from him, usually the offensive player split farthest out.

The free safety is responsible for reading the offensive plays and covering deep passes. Depending on the defensive call, he may also provide run support. He is positioned 10 to 15 yards behind the line of scrimmage, toward the center of the field. He provides the last line of defense against running backs and receivers who get past the linebackers and cornerbacks. He must be a quick and smart player, capable of making tackles efficiently as well as reading the play and alerting his team of game situations.

The strong safety is usually larger than the free safety and is positioned relatively close to the line of scrimmage. He is often an integral part of the run defense, but is also responsible for defending against a pass; especially against passes to the tight-ends.

Russ (UGA Mascot) is on Facebook

New season, but no new Uga – yet

Silver Britches and Black Threads: Georgia Intending to End Uniform Chatter

Uga (pronounced UH-guh) is the name of a lineage of English Bulldogs owned by Frank W. “Sonny” Seiler, which have served as the mascot of the University of Georgia (UGA) since 1956. Although the University is located in Athens, Georgia, the dogs have lived with the Seilers in Savannah, Georgia.

In addition to Uga, a person in the costume of a bulldog also performs as Hairy Dawg at Georgia Bulldog athletic events.

The dogs, tended by members of the Seiler family, are present at every Georgia Bulldogs home football game, most away games, and many University-related functions. Uga wears a spiked collar and a red jersey with varsity letter. In 2007, he wore a black jersey for the “Blackout” game against Auburn University.

Uga is friendly and outgoing, and loves to lick children who attend the games. His jersey is made from the same fabric as the players’ official game jerseys. Uga is even issued an official student identification card. Uga travels in an air conditioned dog house and sits on bags of ice at games, as the breed is susceptible to heat stroke (a problem in the humid southeastern United States).

To date, there have been seven dogs to carry the name “Uga”, which is derived from an abbreviation for the University of GeorgiA. Each is the son of his predecessor, and each is a solid white English Bulldog. Deceased Ugas are interred in a mausoleum near the main entrance to Sanford Stadium.

An epitaph describing each dog graces the mausoleum nameplates. Several Ugas have “retired” as part of elaborate pre-game ceremonies, during which there is a “passing of the bone” and the new Uga begins his reign. Uga even has his own cheer, “Damn good dog!” that the fans shout, during the ceremony. This tradition dates back to the very first Uga.

Uga VI died of congestive heart failure on Friday, June 27, 2008. Seiler reported that on the evening of his death Uga VI “was breathing heavily” and died soon thereafter. University of Georgia Athletics Director Damon Evans called the date of Uga VI’s death “a sad day for the entire Bulldog Nation.” As on any sad day for the University of Georgia, the university’s flag was flown at half staff. Published reports touted Uga VI’s win-loss record in Georgia football as the best in the University’s history.

Uga VII was named as “Uga VI’s Loran’s Best” on Friday August 29, 2008, the day before the school’s first home game of the 2008 season. He was officially introduced on Saturday, August 30, 2008, at that game, which UGA won. Uga VII died on November 19, 2009, from a heart attack. His doghouse was left vacant, with a wreath placed on it, for the game on November 21 against Kentucky.

Russ, another bulldog from the Uga family line, filled in as an “interim mascot” for the Georgia Tech game and the bowl game, similar to Otto stepping in for Uga IV. UGA went on to win both games under Russ’s watch. Regarding the selection of a permanent mascot, however, the Seilers have said, “There’s lineage out there we can depend on in unforeseen cases such as this.”

  • Uga I (“Hood’s Ole Dan,” 1956–1966) – the original, a grandson of a bulldog that accompanied the Georgia football team to its Rose Bowl victory and national championship in 1942. One SEC football title (1959).
  • Uga II (“Ole Dan’s Uga,” 1966–1972) – two Southeastern Conference (SEC) football titles (1966 and 1968) and one national title (1968 Litkenhaus poll).
  • Uga III (“Seiler’s Uga Three,” 1972–1981) – presided over Georgia’s second consensus national championship season in 1980 and two SEC championships (1976 and 1980).
  • Uga IV (“Uga III’s Magillicuddy/Seiler’s Uga Four,” 1981–1990) – was the first live mascot ever invited to a Heisman trophy presentation in 1982 when, while wearing a tux, Uga IV accompanied Herschel Walker to the Downtown Athletic Club; two SEC championships (1981 and 1982).
  • Uga V (“Uga IV’s Magillicuddy II,” 1990–1999) – portrayed his father, Uga IV, in the motion picture Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and was on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1997; propelled to the national spotlight when he lunged at an Auburn wide receiver, Robert Baker, during a game in 1996.
  • Uga VI (“Uga V’s Whatchagot Loran,” 1999–2008) – two SEC championships (2002 and 2005), two Sugar Bowl victories (2003 and 2008), and more than 20 victories over ranked opponents, more than any Uga before him. Uga VI was also larger than any of his predecessors, weighing in at 65 pounds. Uga VI has the best winning percentage and most wins overall of any Uga.
  • Uga VII (“Uga VI’s Loran’s Best,” 2008–2009) – his tenure ended abruptly, near the end of his second season, when he died of heart failure on November 19, 2009.

The names “Magillicuddy,” “Loran’s Best” and “Whatchagot Loran” were given in honor of longtime Georgia icons Dan Magill and Loran Smith, respectively (when former lead radio announcer Larry Munson called Smith for a sideline report, he asked “Whatchagot Loran?”).

2010 College Football Predictions: Can UGA Bounce Back in 2010?

Q: What are the early returns on how the switch to the 3-4 defense under new coordinator Todd Grantham is going?

A: About what you’d expect—a combination of respect for Grantham’s knowledge and sense of purpose and concern about whether he has the personnel to carry it off this year. In short, it’s a work in progress. The most encouraging thing early on about the defense isn’t the scheme, though. It’s the renewed emphasis on fundamentals, something that’s been clearly lacking for a while.

Q: The Bulldogs lost three defensive lineman to the NFL. Do they have the depth to fully implement the new defense this year?

A: In my opinion, it’ll be touch and go on the defensive line. I sense some real concern that there’s not enough depth on the line to keep the players there as fresh as Grantham would like. The big question is whether they can get significant contributions from Geathers and Anderson, or perhaps one of the incoming freshmen.

Q: Tackling machine Rennie Curran is gone too. Who steps up to take the leadership role at LB?

A: Grantham has stated that he’s expecting big things out of Justin Houston this year. Darryl Gamble, by all accounts, has also had a fine fall camp and is pressing Cornelius Washington at the other outside LB slot. He’s a senior who was moved to a new spot with the scheme change and could have sulked about it. Akeem Dent, who’s currently hurt but is expected back by the South Carolina game, is another senior expected to lead on defense.

LuckyBogey SEC Predictions
East W L Overall Record
Georgia 6 2 10-2
Florida 5 3 9-3
South Carolina 4 4 7-5
Kentucky 3 5 6-6
Tennessee 2 6 6-6
Vanderbilt 1 7 2-10
West W L Overall Record
Alabama 7 1 11-1
Auburn 5 3 9-3
LSU 5 3 9-3
Arkansas 5 3 9-3
Mississippi 4 4 8-4
Mississippi State 1 7 4-8

Related Previous Posts:

Uga VII Is Dead!

A Few Dog Stories: Winston, Champ, Mara, And Russ

TGIF: Ain’t No Use In Preachers Preaching…

Sunday Diversity: Green Living, The Group Of Death, And Southern Dogs