Although the BYU Cougars stand at 4-4 this season, they have been involved in a ton of close games, partly due to their defensive prowess using creative blitzing schemes. Ryan Dukarm takes a closer look at the BYU stunts and defensive line schemes utilized this year.
The BYU Cougars have given fans their fair share of suspense in 2016, with six of the eight games they’ve played being decided by three points or less, and the next closest was a double overtime win over Mississippi State. Both their offense and defense have pulled their own weight, with the defense tied for an FBS leading 14 interceptions as a team, many of them caused by the front seven applying pressure on the quarterback. While they are middle of the pack in terms of sacks with 16 total (tied for 60th) many times they’ve forced throws into tight coverage, resulting in breakups and interceptions on the back end. The Cougars defense, led by first time defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki, have used a variety of creative schemes along the defensive line to pressure opposing passers.
Weak End / Strong Tackle Exchange
The weak end / strong tackle exchange, shown below in an image from the New England Patriots’ 2003 playbook, is a three-man stunt on the defensive line where the weak side defensive end and defensive tackle crash inside and the strong side defensive tackle loops around to the weak side behind both of them.
The purpose of the weak end / strong tackle exchange is to free up the strong side DT by occupying the weak side offensive linemen with the crashing defensive end and DT. BYU uses this stunt fairly often to rush the passer, and an example from their game against Utah is shown below.
With 3:18 remaining in the first quarter, the Utes offense is facing a 2nd and 4 from their 28-yard line and use 11 personnel in a gun left, pro left, slot right formation. Slot receiver Kyle Fulks (#6) motions from right to left, and QB Troy Williams (#3) fakes a jet sweep to Fulks at the snap, who then releases into the left flat as an outlet. BYU runs their weak end / strong tackle exchange with the three down lineman towards the short side of the field, with DE Harvey Langi (#21) and DT Logan Taele (#62) crashing while Tevita Mo’Unga (#50) loops behind them.
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This is just one example of BYU using the weak end / strong tackle exchange, something they do regularly under Ilaisa Tuiaki, and the Cougars defense looks primed to continue using this stunt for the rest of the 2016 and beyond.
Double Tackle / End Exchange
BYU runs a few standard tackle / end exchanges on their own, which is when the DT crashes outside and the DE loops behind them to the inside, hoping to catch the interior OL following the DT outside.
An example of BYU using the double tackle / end exchange comes from their 2016 game against Mississippi State, with 8:45 remaining and the score tied at 14. The Bulldogs face 2nd and 8 at the BYU 25-yard line, and use 11 personnel against the Cougars’ base 3-4 defense. BYU runs the double tackle / end exchange on this play, with DTs Travis Tuiloma (#91) and Kesni Tausinga (#94) crashing outside for Sae Tautu (#31) and Maurice Maxwell (#98), respectively.
Center Jamaal Clayborn (#60) down blocks to his right towards Tuiloma to help fill the void left by Desper. Because Tuiloma is crashing he occupies Clayborn and the right tackle. This opens a lane between Clayborn and the left guard for Tautu to rush through, which frees the DE to get in the quarterback’s face and chase him down for the sack.
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The double tackle / end exchange has paid dividends for BYU this season, opening one-on-one opportunities up the middle as the defensive ends loop inside. With the prevalence of the single tackle / end exchange in the Cougar’s defense, the double version of it is a great change of pace for BYU.
Zone blitzes are one of the most common ways defenses can confuse opposing offenses, taking place when a defensive lineman drops into zone coverage and a back seven player blitzes. BYU uses a variety of zone blitzes to rush the passer, and we’ll look at one example from their game against West Virginia.
With 1:32 left in the first quarter West Virginia uses 11 personnel, with a gun left, inverted slot left, wingback, and split receiver right formation. BYU shows Cover 2 at the snap, with a four man front.
At the snap, BYU rotates to a Cover 3 Buzz defense, with the boundary safety dropping into an underneath zone and the field safety taking the middle deep third zone. Up front BYU drops the right defensive end into an underneath zone and slants the other three defensive lineman to that side. In addition, the two linebackers over top of the formation loop to the left, trying to go through the left B gap and C gap.
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BYU uses a variety of zone blitz looks on defense, and they incorporate stunts up front, like slants and exchanges, into these looks. With the ability of their defensive backs to create turnovers, creating even a moment of hesitation for the quarterback with a zone blitz can pay off in a big way for the Cougars.
Overall, the BYU Cougars have an incredibly diverse package of defensive line stunts and pressure schemes. While they may not lead the FBS in sacks, collapsing the pocket, forcing incompletions, and turnovers has been a staple under first time defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki.
Follow Ryan on Twitter @DBRyan_Dukarm. Check out the rest of his work, including covering the UCLA Bruins’ use of Spot Concept, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ end around rush, and Buffalo’sdouble track block scheme and deep passing game.
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All film courtesy of the Fox and ESPN.