For this week's edition of Cougar Sports Weekly, I went back and watched the spring game again to get a sense of how new defensive coordinator Mike Breske will be using Travis Long in his new "buck" position. Here's a snippet of the 1,700-plus words I devoted to the topic:
Defending modern college football offenses requires an ability to provide multiple looks in order to match their opponents’ ability to attack them in multiple ways. Flexibility is key, so simply labeling WSU’s defense a "3-4″ doesn’t do it justice — most especially because it doesn’t really seem to function like a true 3-4.
One of the keys to Breske’s defense is the "Buck" position — Long’s new spot. It’s a hybrid defensive end/outside linebacker position that requires the player to be equally adept rushing the passer and dropping into coverage. I wanted to see how Breske is planning on using Long in this new capacity, so I went back and watched the spring game again, charting all of Long’s snaps — which side he lined up on, whether he was up or down in a three- or four-point stance, and whether he rushed the QB or dropped back. I did the same with his backup, Logan Mayes.
The more I watched, the more questions I had as I tried to understand what was going on conceptually. The questions led me to do a fair amount of research on the internet, which led me to more questions, which led me to watch the spring game for a third time. While I’ll readily admit, as usual, that I’m no coach and that it’s tough to know exactly what was intended on each play given the limited camera angles available to the layperson, I think I now have a pretty good idea what Breske’s scheme is trying to accomplish in the front seven and the role that Long and Mayes play in that.
First, let’s take a look at how Long and Mayes were used in the spring game. Here are a few easy-to-grasp charts that summarize the data. There were 50 total snaps that I was able to chart (fuzzy camerawork and the early end of the online feed conspired to keep me from charting any more).
That, my friends, is what we call a teaser. I also examined baseball's non-existent NCAA tournament chances. Subscription info here.