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GETTIN' KNOWLEDGE: THE 3-3-5 DEFENSE

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We try to serve a few public interests here at EDSBS. Since we're mostly ignorant, we try valiantly to help other idiots get an idea of what football people are talking about as we're struggling through the same things. For example, erudite Mike from the esteemed Blue-Gray Sky has been sending us these kickass articles on football coaching and strategy-many of them scanned by hand by Mike himself, a testament to his noble and slightly lunatic devotion to the sport. Thanks a bundle, Mike-we'll somehow return the favor.

The highlight of the articles thus far-besides Rich Rodriguez's confession that all blocking schemes should be taught to the level of an 11 score on the ACT!-would be Ralph Friedgen's primer on grooming young qbs. Friedgen must be a phenomenal teacher in person, because he's pretty enthralling on paper: his methodology starts very simply, and builds to a boggling level of complexity. Facing him as a DC must drive people to drink in the middle of games. It's endlessly fascinating, and a great counter to anyone who thinks football is a neanderthal's game. (To her credit, one surprise football fan is critic Camille Paglia, who's paid respect to the strategic complexities of football a couple of times in her writing. Just a literary note-we have to use that degree every now and then.)

From C-SPAN to football fan: Paglia knows football's no dumb boy's game.
The greatest thing about Friedgen's approach to qb training is the drilling-in of defensive understanding. The entire article concentrates on understanding the flow and assignments of individual defenses and reading them pre-snap. One golden rule-the rule that Friedgen says is the only thing you have to remember from the article-is watch the free safety. He'll tell you everything, Friedgen says; the complex deductions Friedgen makes about base defenses from the moves of a single player make William of Baskerville look like a simpleton.

The Fridge would smoke William of Baskerville in chess.
Why are we devoting pixels to this? Two reasons. First, those aspiring NCAA 2006 players pay attention: most of you have no idea what you're doing on defense. None. We happily admit to this ourselves. Sometimes we'll call punt block on 2nd down just to try and stop a ruthless option player's attack. Sometimes we'll call full zone with two rush ends in an attempt to stop the bleeding through the air. Sometimes we just pray, pick a defense, and hope to hell the opponent makes a mistake. Reading this gives you a good idea of how to read defenses, and also see the same things on the field in fall, whether you're watching high school or college. The computer might still fuck you over with one of those random, lightning bolt turnovers-Jimmy K, you're familiar with these-but at least you can sit back, pop open a refreshing Fresca, and console yourself with the fact you saw the safety coming into flat coverage, made a great throw, and had a sure first down before your receiver fumbled on your own 25 yard line.

Of course he's going to fumble. But it was nice read, buddy.
Second, the most pesky defense according to Friedgen? The 3-3-5, or 30 Nickel:

I tell our staff any time we see a 30-nickel defense sirens should go off because that is a real problem.

What the hell is it? It's a scheme favored by former Arkansas/Florida DC John Thompson, alternately labeled gimmicky and maddening. Phil Fulmer calls it the "bucket of minnows" defense, since it's assignments and blitzes are unpredictable and can come from many, many different angles. It's a little exotic, and makes for very, very interesting reading. Check this article from American Football Monthly for a good rundown on the possible torture inflicted by DCs using the scheme.