Inside the Playbook - MSU Defense Primer

Michigan faces off against one of the nation's top defenses on Saturday, and moving the ball through the air will be no small task. Michigan State's defense is legit, so let's not mince words there. Still, every defense has weaknesses or tendencies that can be exploited. Now, the Spartans have minimized these weaknesses, and when they do make mistakes they are often fundamentally sound enough to keep gains relatively low, which is what makes them one of the better defenses in college football. The goal of this article will be to look at some of the ways that Michigan can attack some of MSU's tendencies from a schematic point of view to get relatively favorable match-ups on their end.

MSU Primer
Over the summer I wrote two preview pieces about Michigan State's defense. One was about their 4-3 Over front, the other was about their Cover 4. For the vast majority of the snaps they will be in this set up. They will run some man under, they will run cover 3 behind most of their blitz packages, they'll at times switch to a quasi-nickel package to get a hybrid player on the field, and on 3rd and long, they'll run their 3-3-5 nickel package with their Okie front, which is where much of their complex blitz package originates.
Because, for the most part, they'll stick in their 4-3 Over Cover 4, we're going to focus this article on beating that. As not all cover 4s are the same, Narduzzi will also adjust within the cover 4 to take away certain things. Let's look at three basic ways that Narduzzi will play his coverage.

Keep his LBs in the box and keep the safeties at 10 yards deep and 1 yard outside the EMOL


This will be adjusted slightly depending on the alignment on the #2 receiver or if there are more than two receivers to a certain side. The main idea here is that this basic alignment will be the stoutest against the run. It allows the LBs to play directly in run support, fast flowing and getting in position to play the ball, and it also allows the front side safety to play leverage in the alley as well as the backside safety to fill into the LB level and play backside leverage. The weakness of this set up will be the short to intermediate flats, which can be attacked in certain ways but not necessarily others, which we'll discuss in a bit.


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To continue reading this MSU primer, follow the link to Maize n Brew


  1. Keep up the good work here Space Coyote. 75% of the people over at the "other place" are a lost cause. Keep posting the great x & o material here and the people who actually want to engage in civil and intelligent conversations about scheme and strategy will migrate. Leave the ones who want to continue to spew uneducated crap and name call over there. Thats the last the I'll say about that because I know you don't want that drama here. Thanks for all time you put in, I look forward to your material.

  2. Thanks! Was hoping you'd write something like this this week.

  3. Appreciate the support. I think a little break from some places will get me back focused on doing more of this, which is what I enjoy doing. Glad to have a nice following and always enjoy discussing football schemes.


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