Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Dude, Where's My Defense?

When Addazio started filling out his staff, I thought Don Brown was his best hire. Brown represented so many pluses in one coach: a veteran of the region, a known commodity to local high schools, a former head coach and best of all, an aggressive Defensive Coordinator who would change BC's whole mentality. Goodbye to 16 years of "bend but don't break." Hello to blitz anytime from anywhere. I also thought Don would be key to the inevitably rocky transition from Spaz to Addazio. With a relatively untested Offensive Coordinator in Ryan Day, I thought Brown would be able to "make lemonade" out of Spaz's leftovers and keep us in games this year. Like many of my predictions and expectations for this season, the opposite occurred.

While there was plenty to be excited about with the new BC Defense, the results in the first year weren't great: Here are the prime statistics:

  • 86th Nationally in Total Defense
  • 72nd Nationally in Scoring Defense
  • 81st Nationally in 3rd Down Conversion Defense
  • 103rd Nationally in Team Passing Efficiency Defense
  • 51st Nationally in Rushing Defense 
  • 14th in the ACC in Total Defense
  • 12th in the ACC Scoring Defense
  • 9th in the ACC in Rushing Defense
  • 14th in the ACC in Team Passing Efficiency Defense
  • 14th in the ACC in Team Passing Defense
  • 3rd in the ACC in Red Zone Defense

When you are last in the conference in Total Defense something is wrong. But I haven't lost hope in Brown. There are some explanations as to why BC struggled this year and some history that things will get better.

What happened?

In my opinion, at the most basic level, BC didn't have the talent or depth to run the defense Brown implemented. There wasn't a lot of speed up front and the DBs weren't recruited or coached to play aggressive single coverage under Spaz. The best part of the defensive roster -- the linebackers -- carried the team and created the most big plays.

I also think the group lacked an institutional knowledge to play the defense. One of the huge positives about running the same scheme year after year, is that it becomes second nature to everyone. Every DE knows where every Safety should be on each play and in each coverage. If a blitz is called off presnap, instinctively everyone knows his assignment. That is hard to create in just one year. Think of how lost even our smartest players looked against Villanova. If you look at a lot of the mistakes from Syracuse it is because guys are not where they are supposed to be. As the players get used to the system every year, we will rebuild the institutional knowledge.

Finally the tackling toward the end of the season was not great. That is not just a Don Brown issue. With something like tackling blame goes from Addazio to the position coaches to the S&C staff to the players themselves. I don't expect that to be an issue in the bowl game or next year.


Aside from the usual issues faced during a transition like confusion or the wrong type of players, I did have concerns about the results of our defense. We saw a welcome spike in sacks. But there weren't as many turnovers as you would expect. Why weren't opposing teams more confused? When you present that many different looks, a QB should end up making mistakes (think Logan Thomas). But too often we allowed QBs to complete a majority of their passes.

I also don't know or understand how Brown calls a game yet. I am sure things will become more familiar as we watch them more, but I could never see a pattern or consistent logic to the blitzes. That randomness may be intentional as to confuse the other team, but the results were iffy. And frustratingly there were plenty of games -- like Syracuse -- when constant pressure would work yet we stopped. I know it is old school, but I love the philosophy of keep doing something until the opponent proves they can stop it.

The Good News

Things will get better. Or at least they should if Brown's squads follow his pattern at previous FBS stops. While at UConn, his Defense went from 6th in the Big East in Total Defense in 2011 to 3rd in 2012. At Maryland Brown implemented this same scheme. In 2009 the Terps were 12th in the ACC in Total Defense. The next season they improved to 7th.

The other thing that gives me hope for the future was the dramatic improvement from a few select players. Edabali became a different player in this scheme. He made plays and wasn't just waiting for the action to come to him. Sylvia always had a good Football IQ but would often get exposed by the opposing offense. This year, before he got hurt, he was making big plays yet not allowing the killer deep passes as he did under Spaz.

Finally I think the overall talent will get better. When Spaz's defenses were at their best, it wasn't solely because of him. They were filled with all conference players and future NFLers. If BC brings in the right guys and coaches them up, Don Brown's defense won't be last in the conference.

I think keeping your coordinators is very important in college sports. Spaz showed that a revolving door only makes things worse. I still believe in Brown and hope that we eventually have the most aggressive and successful defense in the ACC.


Hoib said...

I think it's mainly a talent issue. This shows up in the tackling problem. Our athlete's didn't match up physically w/ the better opponents we faced. It was even worse last year when we'd be in position to tackle and still wif. It's most blatent on 3rd and long when the field is spread. More guys like KPL will mean more than any scheme can.

Lenny Sienko said...

No BC defense in my memory (49 years of attending and watching BC football) has ever adequately dealt with a mobile quarterback. BC, under whatever scheme, cannot set up a "spy" who can stop a quarterback who can run and pass. Ford from SU was merely the latest version of these problem.

I suppose it comes down to team speed. Lets hope we get smarter and faster.

Legal Eagle said...

I think this new aggressive scheme will make recruiting easier as well. Players want to come in and get after it, not toil in a "bend but don't break" scheme.

Anybody have any good recruiting news? Anybody we are still in the hunt for?

Big Jack Krack said...

The problem at Syracuse was that Brown forgot to wear his hat. :-)

Hoib said...


I've only been watching 41, but I agree w/ u completely

mod34b said...

Although our rank in the ACC for defensive matters generally declined this year compared to last, many of our actual numbers improved. For example, in total D in 2012, we gave up 455, but in 2013 we gave up avg of 420 yards. Our Rush D was also better.

But our pass D regressed in almost every way.

improvement is posible. For example, Duke really improved its secondary in 2013 from 2012 in part by getting an Ohio State transfer. Kinda of like how we really improved the OL by bringing in Patchan.

One thing that really bugged me this year was how our secondary seemed to keep falling down. WTF?? How do ACC player consistently fall down???

Big Jack Krack said...

I agree - the fall downs were really perplexing.

But we will get better, and I was excited and tuned into every play all season - unlike the past couple of brutally atrocious years under horrible coaches and Napoleon Athletic Directippo.

Big Jack Krack said...
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JBQ said...

As Ronnie Reagan said quite well, Atlanta, "there you go again". You have been looking at the same half filled glass as BJK and the lights from the fizz are blinding you. Hopefully, you are right and BLK will pass around that same glass with hopes that the elixir will generate a visit from Santa Claus who will bring his passion back to the Heights. In response to "Lenny Sienko", you can't teach "smart or speed" just like in basketball, you can't teach height. It is obvious where the speed has to come from. I believe that BC needs to expand its recruiting to a national one. For gosh sakes, Retting was a surfer from Cali. Every so often, BC would come up with a gem from KC Rockhurst. I know that they recruit well in Cincinnati. There are also kids from Florida. They just have to scrape a little harder. While in the Navy in Charleston, Bishop England High School had a big and fast running back who went to Michigan State. The point is that BC tends to be provincial. They need to pull a page out of NDs recruiting book and copy it. I took the railroad from NYC to Boston and then took the Green Line. In case one has forgotten, the train runs both ways. Fordham is now 12-1 in D-1A. Some of their players could have gone to BC with a little encouragement. That is why it makes no sense at all to cancel the Army game at Yankee Stadium for next year. BC needs to think big as in Frank Leahy and to remember that Doug Flutie is not the enemy just because he provoked jealousy from some elements on campus. Ara Parsegian is still welcome on NDs campus and it wouldn't hurt for BC to consider bringing him in as an advisor. As RFK said, "some men see things as they are and ask why. Others look at the same thing and say 'why not'". After all, isn't that what your own BJK says week after week?

mod34b said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mod34b said...

THE ATL circle of criticism -- what a group!

Mod34b will cite (perhaps maybe once misleadingly) some stats. El Miz will disagree with Mod34. El Miz responds harshly with name calling and acts like a BC apologist, yet remains unaware of his patsy nature.

Joseph then goes off on M34b. CT takes swipes as well, but usually with some vagueness. Walter will express dissatisfaction at any perceived fault finding.

BravesBill then takes shots at Joseph, which are often devastating critiques about flawed logic and word usage.

JBQ then "chimes" in and meanders past some interesting and some "off the reservation points," but many like to read a "JBQ" post for both its good and "other than good" points, as well as his blind devotion to some QB from St. Louis.

That is except CT, who stays in snark mode and tries to go after anything and everything about "JBQ"

EagleBoston will wander by with some remarks, often very good remarks, but at times stating the obvious or the deeply pessimistic. CT will take some gentle swipes, but then sort of make nice, which surprises all and reminds many of the way little Cindy Lou Who could rein in the Grinch.

BJK will, as always, be a gentleman, and stay above the fray, often with enthusiatic and kind words. Some were so moved by BJK that a petition was started to name the new BC Eagle "Krack" (not really)

Lenny Sienko will makes some insightful (not inciteful) remarks and never takes any of the bait. Some wonder if he may be CollegeObserver

But JBQ will have none of this "happy talk" by BJK and will take shots BJK's "delusions."

Mod34 will them cite some statictics and take shots at all.

the circle then continues..

and so it goes . . . . .

Legal Eagle said...


According to ESPN, Andre is still on pace for an invite which is a huge coup for BC

Bravesbill said...

Ha, that might be the post of the year Mod....glad to do my part.

CatabEagle said...

Wait, was BravesBill being positive?

This needs to be fixed. This blog needs a negative BravesBill.

Bill, I'm curious your thoughts on the 2004 BC-Cuse game as a metaphor for the entire TOB experience. If you could tie in Spaz' role as DC in that game as well it'd be appreciated.

CT said...

Mod, is that you or an imposter? CT is very excited about the possibility of Mod34 talking about himself in the third person. CT thinks this would be a good move for his online profile, what with Mod calling him snarky and all. It would help the delivery and as we all know Mod34b was the Critic's Choice Award Winner for Most Contrarian For The Sake of It back in 1972, with a successful title defense in 1973 and subsequent belts in years with four numbers in them. Wait. Did you know our defense was below average statistically? CT would offer that yards against is not important these days, what with the fancy forward pass and gadget plays like speed and stuff. And plays. Lots of plays. Points concern CT. Our beloved alma mater may want to make this trait, alacrity within the field of play that is, a point of emphasis. But he has been saying that since The Big Move and he hasn't seen results. CT thinks DudeDazz might be able to help, for he walked hand in hand with Jesus Christ himself, the indomitable Timmy Tebow, or so the Angels named him here on Earth. CT hopes this not to be snarky. CT is concerned that with the loss of, wait, he needs Eagleboston for help, our best running back, quarterback, receiver, AND kicker, that there will not be anyone to line up next season on the hallowed grounds inside daunting Alumni Stadium, home of the real 12th man because, you know, that's about the attendance figure each week. CT thinks college football is wasted on Boston for a variety of reasons, none of which concern this snarky post. He longs for the days of cyber margaritaville with mmason. Let us not demoralize the brave troops who dare post in long paragraphs on here. Let us be cherubic in this holiday season, because as Churchill once said, "if you can't recruit the south, you can't soar with the Eagles or roll with the Tide." It's true. Look it up. Or was that John Paul II? Barry Goldwater?Furthermore, CT actually likes reading the often times semi-incoherent ramblings about St. Louis and the good ol' days when only whitey played football and baseball and Eisenhower warned of the dangers of the SEC-ESPN media industrial complex and we loved our leather helmets and Knute had it goin on. CT, however, is often perplexed, flummoxed, and occasionally exasperated by the all too familiar misunderstanding about the fact that people actually think provincials from the northeast rightly grasp the nuances and intricacies of college pigskin. He is working on this, and has asked the spirit of the great John Heisman for patience. Woody Hayes just laughed when I asked once on bended knee. Where was CT? Ah yes, when CT's patience quotient feels satiated after a seance with the aforementioned Trophy namesake, he logs on, only to read the wisdom, stop, too snarky, of a few regulars on here, who type quite bewildering things about their emotions as it relates to that oblong ball with laces. In the end, CT is reminded about one of life's greatest teaching points, a lesson for the digital ages. The Snark Factor is aided by two things in our online universe.


And you.

CT can control one. Please help him by being better at two.

There CT goes again...

EL MIZ said...

34B - Bravo. i laughed hard on the subway. excellent stuff. if i have to be called a patsy, let it be with BC sports.

i do think you overplay the stats with regards to the defense. this post is the first i've seen you concede any positives at all about the performance. the whole season it was "this D isn't as good as last year; Day needs to change it up." also, the SI article on Andre was a great rebuttal to your constant griping about the offense - it showed that BC/Day had made a concerted effort to feature Williams, and that all of the runs up the middle were set up to wear the D down, we had one of the best offenses in the country in the 4th Q, etc.

ATL - the tackling was "not great" LOL it was woeful. i also agree the schemes were sort of bizarre compared to the offense. the Offense's MO was "we will do this, you'll know its coming, try to stop it." with the D, it was "you won't know whats coming, and even if something works, we're gonna keep changing it up." as ATL said, if we had kept the pressure up the whole game in Cuse i think we win.

perhaps the blitzing was on and off because the secondary was so bad? thats what i'm hoping, and we see a much more aggressive defense next year.

Walter said...

Happy to be of service. I can't help my blind optimism when it comes to BC Sports and won't try to. I did get to enjoy the best four sports years at the heights. (06-10)

Walter said...

Speaking of stats we've improved on, though, don't know if anyone has mentioned the incredible red zone efficiency we have. I remember seeing on TV that we had among the best in the nation at one point.

That's a far cry from when Shinskie is running the ball almost out of bounds in a desperate effort to score.

We also got better in the TD/FG ratio once we were in the endzone, which was also pretty excruciating to watch in past seasons.

EL MIZ said...

Walter - I believe the announcers during the Syracuse game mentioned that we had scored every time we were in red zone, or something along those lines (in the 90%). maybe our resident stat expert Mod 34B could help us and find that stat, in a post where he simultaneously criticizes OC Day and demands a different playcalling strategy.

Matt said...

We probably start the worst safeties in FBS. This is certainly a problem and is why recruiting is so incredibly important.

mod34b said...

El Miz, yes. I have stats!

This year, we rarely got to the RedZone (#117 nationally in red zone appearances), but once we got there we score at the tune of 96%. Why? Nate Freese is a great kicker.

In the ACC, we were second to last in TDs from Redzone

Ryan Day does know how to get to the RedZone and does not know how to get TDs in red zone, but he is brilliant is setting up FGs!

BCDisco said...

What is this? Refer to oneself in the third-person week?

Hoib said...

Don't u think we ran the offense we did because Daz was aware of how weak the defense was? Something to consider when getting on Day. I'm sure they were keyed in on low turnover, ball control to help the defense. Bottom line is 7 wins vs 2 w/ pretty much the same players. Then look at how NC ST., Purdue, Cal., Ken. Ark., did w/ their new hires. In most cases w/ allot more to offer than BC. I'd say the result was the biggest miracle since Hail Flutie!

BCDisco said...

I know the least about football than anyone here, but I really don't get the slams on Day. Considering that the Florida and Temple fans were all telling us that Daz would run and run even if it wasn't working (which for us, it DID work), I think Day threw enough wrinkles in there most of the time to keep most defenses honest. I hope next year we'll have more talent at WR so that throwing and running can be more balanced.

mod34b said...

Hoib, we all can conjure up excuses for Day. But if you simply look at the last game when Andre was out, you can see that there was much more variety of executable plays available to Day -- which he generally ignored in most of the other games (think VT game). Day had good moments and good games, for sure, but overall I think Day is a mediocre (at best) OC. Note to all: That is not a SLAM! (now is it?)

Back to stats. I am looking at BC total offense against ACC opponents.

2013 BC was #12/14 with 344 yards per game.
2012 BC was #10/12 with 346 yards per game.

pretty much same offensive results in 2012 as 2013.

Yes, we improved by winning 7 games. That is great. But that is not becuase of Day or Brown. I think 80% of that improvement can be traced to Dazz -- he injected new energy, new confidence and a new sense of team. All that turned into more wins. Yay.

However, do not let me stop you from applauding Day. But if you do so, please let me know why you think he is so special.

Tim said...

Regarding Ryan Day:

BC last year:
points per game: 19.8
wins: 2

BC this year:
points per game: 28.4
wins: 7

Drops mike, walks off stage.

mod34b said...

Tim . More points is a plus! More wins a plus too. Better (much) running game is a plus. Dramatically improved OL is a plus (but unlikely the work of Day)

But what about these clunker stats:

1st downs #14/14
3RD DOWNS 12/14
Red Zone attempts: 13/14
Red Zone TDs 13/14
passing offense 13/14

BC can and should do better than having an Offensive Coordinator named Ryan Day

Hoib said...

Mod 34b

So it seems to me you are saying we have a good HC w/ bad assistants. It's the head coaches job to put the staff together, Idiot Gene D intrusions excepted, so it seems contradictory to me. Just like the reverse was w/ Skinner. "Al's lazy assistants do all the work". Shouldn't the head coach get the credit or fault for putting together the staff?

mod34b said...

Hoib - I think Dazz should upgrade to a new OC. DC has a long track record of success after the first year. I'd keep him.

I think Ryan Day would be well suited to be a Special teams coach or better yet, a special assistant for recruiting

Bravesbill said...

That was probably one of the dumbest arguments I've ever seen Tim. I think it deserves the Billy Madison treatment: "[Tim], what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul."

Hoib said...


Makes sense to me.

eagleboston said...

Brown will be fine. He inherited the same players that got destroyed by Army in 2012 and really amped up their sacks. The only defensive stat I care about is points allowed and I was encouraged to see they were 3rd in the ACC in redzone defense. The talent level really dropped under Spaz, which is surprising as he led some really good defenses in the mid-2000's. Weren't we ranked #1 against the rush one year?

Mod's analysis is spot on in my case. I'm deeply pessimistic as a defense mechanism. Then, my expectations are almost always being met, and in many cases exceeded. I am also a realist and know that in today's college football, which is all about money, BC does not have the coin to be national champions. Thus, I often write to calm down the crazy expectations of some fans, particularly the younger ones that don't have the historical perspective of being a BC fan. Lenny, I've only been watching for 29 years, so you have me beat.

eagleboston said...


I'm not sure Day should be run, but I was very, very disappointed in the QB play this year and even more so with the conversions on 3rd down. They struggled all season with converting 3rd downs.

Hoib said...


I hate to rain on your parade, but probably the reason for the good play in the red zone was due to the fact they gave up so many long scores from outside the red zone. When u run a blitz happy D w/o the cover guys to handle it u get burned allot. Which we did.

mod34b said...

hoib...huh? When opponents did not score on us via long plays but instead made it to the redzone our defense was good because it. . . "gave up so many long scores from outside the red zone."


Hoib said...

our defense was bad, period. 3rd in red zone defense is meaningless when u constantly give up long tds.