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Clinic Talk: 2016 Owls Football Defense

Take a look at how James Coley picked apart the Owls defense with a play from Mark Richt’s playbook.

Brad Kaaya
Kaaya, UM v UV

The Florida Atlantic Owls Head Coach Charlie Partridge and Defensive Coordinator Roc Bellantoni have a short yet distant connection (I’m guessing that’s the best way to word that) in the coaching football coaching world. Coach Partridge is a Drake graduate (‘95) and was on the staff there from 1996-1997. Coach Roc was there 1998-1999, just missing each other. However, the connection doesn’t stop there- both Charlie and Roc coached together and split duties as Recruiting Coordinator at Eastern Illinois in 2002.

While Coach Roc stayed at Eastern Illinois from 2001-2011, Coach Partridge moved on and made stops all over the country on his way to being named head coach at FAU and hiring Roc to be his Defensive Coordinator in 2014. Coach Roc employs a 4-2-5 defense that plays quarters pattern match coverage.

However, while I find most of the TCU-based 4-2-5 defenses to be very gap-sound, Coach Roc’s defense was extremely unsound against the ‘Canes in 2015. A play that was executed by Brad Kaaya to perfection was the “Texas” route (“Angle” for you EA Sports NCAA Football nerds like me out there). Joe Yearby and Kaaya connected on a couple of big Texas routes in 2015, one for 6 points and one that got Miami down to the 2 yard line. What Coach Coley did was take advantage of knowing the weaknesses of the base 4-2-5 quarters scheme.

In the 4-2-5, the inside linebackers will take their pass drops at 45 degree angles into the H-C-F or hook-curl-flat. This leaves the middle of the field open in the base defense. Aligning in a 2x2 10 personnel “Quads” set (as seen below) dictated how the defense would align.

As you can see above, Miami lines up 2x2, and the Owls do what a 4-2-5 defense normally does: to the top of the screen- they play the Sam or up-safety (depends on who you ask) on #2 (the slot) and the FS is playing deep to make up for 4-verts or anything else that gets over the top of the pressed corner playing #1. To the bottom of the screen the Owls play #1 straight up while sneaking the WLB out to help with the flat against #2, and the SS over #2 at 10 yards.

Miami acknowledges this and runs “Texas” with two smash routes on the outside. In the diagram below, you can see a “Smash” is a short-hitch from #1, and a corner route from #2.

Now below, you can see the coverage and pass drops used and figure out why this play was so successful for the ‘Canes.

Take a look at the GIF below and see Yearby use his athleticism and a great outside-in move to get leverage on the linebacker and find the end zone.

Let’s also not forget Coach Dennis Erickson using this same idea to perfection against Nebraska in the 1992 Orange Bowl game with another talented athlete named Kevin Williams.

In the GIF above, the same idea is used, having the back (remember, Coach E called his slot receiver a “tailback” from an empty set at the goal. Williams uses a quick move and his blazing speed to burn the Nebraska ILB. With two verts to the top of the screen with Williams’ angle, and a vert and dig on the bottom, the safety is nullified and the linebacker can’t hang with Kevin’s speed.

With Coach Richt liking dig routes, angle routes, and throwing to the back, I can see this being used to perfection in 2016 on September 10th against the Owls.