Dirty Work Wednesday - It's All Gap Control These Days

The weekly Dirty Work segment is back after a week off, making it bi-weekly? Whatever, our near-weekly look at blocking and tackling is back, and we’ve got three fun ones for you. Let’s start with a little double team pile up and a fullback lead from UTSA.

Kick’em Out

UTSA fans will be surprised to know it wasn’t all bad news on Saturday night; the offense did execute a few plays. Here’s one:

This is a counter; the line blocks down, Roundup Hero Halen Steward moves across the action to kick out the outside linebacker and bang, a seventeen-yard scamper through the crater. The left guard and tackle double down on the defensive end and crush him. Brenden Brady runs counteraction to get the Eagles flowing to wrong way, and Steward knocks the stuffing out of his man on the lead.

Gap control from SMU

Rewatching the Tulane game, SMU’s defense is showing significant improvement. New defensive coordinator, Kevin Kane’s unit, is attacking and disciplined.

When we use the term gap control or run fit, we’re talking about how a team dispenses responsibility for stopping a run game. If you divide an offensive line into gaps, between the center and guard and guard and tackle on either side, a defense must account for those gaps.

On each snap, a defender will have a gap, sometimes two, they’ll need to cover. Run fits are probably best described a defender defends that gap. Generally, you want defenders to work inside out, protecting the inside of the gap, setting an edge, and pursuing out from that locked down position.

Here’s SMU defensive tackle Demerick Gary doing just that against Tulane on Saturday afternoon.

First things first, the line of scrimmage is won by "get off," a players ability to beat his opposite number to the punch or point of attack. Notice how Gary explodes with his hips, gets his hands inside the frame of the guard and controls him. The best thing Gary does though is he keeps his gap integrity, he doesn’t get upfield and create space. Instead, he buries his forearm into the guard’s chest, “sets” and works inside out.

Treat a Running Back Like a Running Back

Last one, this is UTEP’s great newcomer linebacker A.J. Hotckins against Louisiana Tech.

Finding running backs that can protect in pass pro is a difficult task. If you can do it well, chances are you’ll get a shot in the NFL. Most college backs struggle to add much to pass protection, so much that a lot of college schemes will send backs into routes rather than keep them in to protect. Blitzers then become the responsibility of the quarterback to check down and get rid of the ball quickly.

As a defender, if a back wants to step in and protect, the best path is through their chest. See if they’ve got enough sand in their ass to stop you. Hotchkins takes that approach and blows up the play, right where quarterbacks hate pressure, down Main street.

Of note, defensive end Mike Sota is having a sneaky good year for the Miners. He pummeled the tackle on Saturday at Louisiana Tech, more importantly, he’s a real two-way defender. He’s able to deal with the run and also get after the passer.

The Roundup…