Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Veterans return helps depth and competition, plus scouting Northern Illinois

By Brian George
Defensive Coordinator

We are very looking forward to be Getting DeVante’ Strickland at linebacker and Calvin Tiggle at safety both back from injury this weekend at Northern Illinois. Being able to have some of these guys get back after being out with injuries adds a new dimension, most importantly to our depth. 

At this level you can get thin pretty quickly when you get two or three veterans banged up, and we’ve been dealing with that through the first four weeks of the season. The return of DeVante’ and Calvin will help our depth, help us get players in the best positions possible for them, and also helps us get our players back to feeling like they are challenged each week in practice for their spots.

DeVante’ gives us a guy who has played for us and has an understanding of what we are doing. Having a guy who has played a lot of football over the course of the last four years adds some leadership and some knowledge to that position. Any time he is working in with that group, he is able to give something in terms of understanding what he sees to the young guys who are working with him.

It’s the same thing with Calvin. He has played a lot of football. He is another experienced guy who you are not having to teach every single step from the beginning. He is also a guy who creates competition at the position and allows us to move some guys around a little bit and let them compete again for playing time.

We will start to work both guys into playing again and that will give us a little more flexibility starting this week at Northern Illinois.

Northern is very similar to what we have seen the last few years. They are an explosive, run-the-football team. They have the ability to put the ball in the air, but the throwing really comes off of their running game. Their passing game is a lot of three-steps with easy throws for the quarterback – screens, bubble screens, smoke screens. They will also run some play-action and try to get it deep off of the runs.

Everything starts with them in the running game, and they involve a lot of different guys in that running game, from their running backs, to the quarterback to the wide receivers. Defensively, that means we have to do a good job of being sound, adjusting to the formations and the motions, leveraging the football, and then doing a great job of getting off of blocks and tackling.

That kind of running game that incorporates the running backs, the quarterback and the wide receiver, is kind of becoming the norm now. While it may not be full scale the way Northern Illinois does it, we have seen aspects of that kind of running game every week this season. From Ohio University to South Alabama, and from Ohio State to last week at Virginia, all of those teams have all or part of that type of offense. Because of that, we have spent a majority of our time working on that offense this season, and this week should be a continued step in our improvement. 

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