This is part 2 to the introduction to Will Muschamp's defense. Here, we're going to look at how Muschamp uses the corner blitz on passing downs. This may be familiar to Auburn fans who remember the 2006 and 2007 seasons. I had forgotten about it until I started watching Florida film from last year. This is my favorite blitz scheme in all of college football.
Vanderbilt is in 2nd and 10. Florida is thinking pass. They line up like this:
Florida is showing a form of hybrid coverage Muschamp likes. The boundary corner is locked in man coverage. The safeties and field corner are showing a three deep zone where the field is divided unevenly into quarter/quarter/half coverage. The defensive line is overloading the offensive line to the weak/boundary side in a fairly standard Muschamp pressure look.
That's when stuff gets weird. The coverage (as you likely guessed) was disguised. It's cover 3 zone and looks like this:
This diagram doesn't do it justice. To see what makes this blitz so special, you have to look at it in real time.
Here's the clip of the play for those who prefer it that way.
First let's look at the line's action. Here's how they line up (excuse the grainy picture):
The nose is barely shaded to the strong/field side of the center in a 1 technique. The weak defensive tackle looks like he's head up over the guard in a 2 technique. The Buck (I think that's the Buck, it's hard to make out the number) is outside of the tackle in what we'll call a 7 Technique. The offensive line knows that Muschamp might bring an extra man and the will linebacker over the tackle looks like a likely suspect. Here's what the Florida front actually does:
The nose and tackle slant to the strong side of the field. The nose occupies the right guard. The DT attracts the block of the guard and center. The Buck takes two steps upfield then crashes inside, causing the offensive tackle to engage him and follow him down the rabbit hole.
It looks like the line successfully picked up the blitz. But all of this (as WarRoomEagle would put it) is window dressing. It would be great if these defenders could get to the quarterback on this play but their real job is to occupy blockers so they can't pick up the real threat. Danger lies just outside the frame and there's no one to pick it up.
Let's look at the third part of this act, the delayed blitz by the cornerback:
The corner starts the play showing man coverage. His shoulders are turned to the receiver. This is a look the QB saw on the first play of the game. He knows that Muschamp likes to run hybrid man/zone coverages and this looks like it.
It's important to note that we have a right-handed quarterback which means he turns his back completely to the boundary once he starts his drop. He never sees Hargreaves coming.
What makes this blitz so special is the delay. A lot of teams blitz cornerbacks either on passing downs or to put pressure on the running game. Muschamp is the only DC I know of gutsy enough to send the corner with this much of a delay. He doesn't tip off the blitz by walking the corner in to shorten the distance to the QB and walking the safety up to get him in position to cover the WR faster. The corner waits for the snap (when the QBs back is turned) to go.
Coming from the boundary, like here, if he's unblocked, a corner can reach the quarterback in 2.0-2.3 seconds. In 2012, no quarterback averaged getting the ball out of their hands on passing downs quicker than 2.4 seconds. Unless the offense has called a three-step-drop, timing-based play, the corner has a real chance of getting a sack.
Obviously, there's risk here. What if the offense calls a draw and the running back gets past the first level? The middle of the field is spread really thin and there's not much help for the safety. What if the offense gets the ball to the boundary receiver before the safety can get to the sideline to cover? It might look something like this:
But the potential benefits outweigh the risks. First, even though he rarely calls this blitz, the threat of it has to be in the quarterback's head. This limits the offense's playbook on passing downs where the ball is on the boundary to the quarterback's blindside. The offense knows it needs to stick with quick passes, draws, or runs to minimize the risk. Second, even though the corner may only get to the quarterback 35-40% of the time, there's a real chance that the quarterback will be surprised by the contact and cough up the ball when he gets hit. Third, the delay means it's almost impossible to pick up. As Miyagi says, "if do right, no can defense."
This blitz is an example of why Muschamp is at or near the top of the world of defensive coordinators. Look for it Saturday.