We were rewatching Texas State's win over Coastal Carolina, because we can't get enough of that teal field, and notice a slight tweak that defensive coordinator Randall McCray has added to his 3-4 look. We're not sure what they're calling it, it reminds us of John Chavis' "Mustang" defense that he schemed to be a spread killer at LSU. We're going to call it a modified dime; we'll get to that in a second.
Personnel matters, especially in this era of going fast and deploying athletes all over the field. Defenses are adjusting and putting similar athletes all over the field. Those beautiful unicorn linebackers that dominated the eighties and nineties, with their giant neck rolls and limited hip flexion, have gone the way of the dinosaurs. Gone too are oversized strong safeties that play primarily in the box. If you can't cover and tackle in space, you can't play.
What is McCray's Texas State derivative? Against Coastal, on obvious passing downs, he restructured his defense, almost entirely. Here are two screen grabs to illustrate the defense.
Here's a 2nd and 3.
Texas State lines up in a 3-4 with base personnel, Sami Awad, Jordan Mittie, and Dean Taylor are the front three, Easy Anyama is playing outside on the boundary, Frankie Griffin is playing the field side outside linebacker, and A.J. Krawczyk lined up at strong safety.
Here's the next down, 3rd and 6.
Notice the change in personnel; the Bobcats drop Mittie from end into the nose, shift Anyama and Loyd into the defensive ends, Frankie Griffin moves between outside the defensive end and a three-technique and bring A.J. Krawczyk from safety to linebacker. Now McCray has six defensive backs in the game. Krawczyk, who we love at the linebacker spot provides coverage and run fit.
The key is the speed that McCray can now utilize all over the field. Mittie, who played nose last year at just 235 pounds, plays at 265 as a quicker option inside. Anyama and London assume track stances and get upfield while Griffin is free to move, spy the quarterback, play the run, dog blitz, and confuse linemen, more on that later. The Bobcats have athletes all over the place.
In 2010, John Chavis started using what he called a "Mustang" package on third downs to combat the influx of spread concepts into the SEC. The Tigers used three defensive linemen, two linebackers, and six defensive backs. Now the terms LSU and athletic are almost synonymous, and Chavis had enough talent on his hands to load up NFL rosters. Intentionally putting more guided missiles on the field was probably a war crime, but LSU became the scourge of spread offensive coaches for the next five years.
It's not fair to compare 2010 LSU to 2017 Texas State, but the base ideas are the same: match speed with speed and add an element of chaos up front.
The Bobcats were effective with their modified dime. Limiting Coastal's passing down options and using Griffin, London, Anyama, and Loyd to bring pressure from different areas and angles. We'd rather not show you a bunch of incompletions, exciting though that might be. Instead, we'll show you a free rusher blowing up a perfectly nice quarterback.
This is a 3rd and 8; tendency says this is a passing down. Loyd is lined up to the field side, with Griffin. Griffin tends to shift inside over the guard, which is what he does here. Numerically, without a back to help, it's a wash, the numbers match up.
Coastal runs an RPO, the tackle and guard release five yards downfield (the tackle releases only after a pretty nice illegal hand to the face of Griffin. Loyd runs free, the back who we suspect is going to pick him up whiffs. We bring this up all the time, but it's so rare to find a college back that can pass block. Here the back knows where the threat is but doesn't alter his path to account for the faster Loyd. Loyd gets a dead sprint into and through the chest of the poor, unsuspecting quarterback - probably in front of his family and girlfriend. The ball comes free, Griffin picks it up, and Texas State is in business.
We love this wrinkle McCray throws in because he alters his personal and moves players around the chess board to great effect.