Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

We've got the Jack: Are we really moving to the 3-4?

Beyond the small moves across the depth chart released yesterday, the big news was the informal launch of the 3-4 defensive era in Boulder.  A whole set of DT's are now classified as DE's, and last year's sack king Josh Hartigan is listed at the top of something called the "Jack" linebacker position.  Dogs and cats living together... mass hysteria!   
All is well.
Buffnik at Allbuffs does do a good job at speculating what this switch may mean for the future.  I'm not too sure about the Steelers free-association, as, while Dick LeBeau is the 3-4 guru, many styles of the 3-4 have been rolled out in recent years, but Nik gets his point across that recent recruiting moves are a good indicator of the coaches intentions.  The talent lines up if the coaching staff wants to dive into this.  Moreover, this change fits with the growing trend in college towards a 3-4 look on D.  Gotta keep up with the times, man.

Additionally, a 3-front with a hybrid linebacker isn't wholly unprecedented in recent CU history.  Remember, Super Bowl Champion Brad Jones played with his hand in the ground on a few occasions, and the Hawaiian ginger BJ Beatty also played in both the 3-point and 2-point.  Sure, the Buffs often stuck themselves in a base nickel set, but there were some flashes of 3-4 every now and again.
I'm going to miss BJ; he was fun to watch and a constant presence in the student section at basketball games.
The interesting thing is, despite all the eyes on practice and the microphones in the face of Coach Embree, no one really picked up on this until yesterday afternoon.  But what will this really mean in terms of actual on-the-field change?  I think in the immediate future, not a whole lot and that we're probably talking semantics.  On your average down I think it will still look like a 4-front with Hartigan, et al, rushing from a 3-point stance.  This is where Hartigan is comfortable and where he has had success in the past.

(Hartigan is going to pass rush no matter how he lines up, that's just what he does best.)

Specifically to this year, the semantic change to 3-4 may not matter much anyway..  It will get a little jarring if the 3-4 sticks, and the crew at "jack" starts moving around in pass coverage, but on the whole, regardless of what the linebackers are doing, this defense will still be made or broken in the defensive backfield.  If the D requires a 5th DB to keep the lid on an inexperienced set of corners, any discussion of linebackers will fade.

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