On the eve of the unveiling of Todd Grantham's new 3-4 scheme, I wanted to give a couple of links and ask a couple of questions about our new defense. First, although these are old articles, our own Mark Schlabaugh has a couple of good pieces on the proliferation of the 3-4 and the personnel required to run it effectively. Saban and Grantham figure prominently, but the articles notes that a bunch of teams are making the same switch this season.
I have tried to avoid my general ambivalence and pessimism of last year or the co-existing duality of optimism and pessimism shown by Doug or Kyle. But, the more I think about our returning personnel and the general state of the defense, the more uncertain I am about our defensive outlook. I didn't say pessimistic, just uncertain.
Here are the things I like. Most importantly, I feel much more confident that our players will be fundamentally sound. From what I've heard regarding our new defensive assistants, they are stressing sure tackling and technique. Those two things were the most noticeable drop offs from VanGorder's death explosions to Willie's nudging, armless projectiles. Second, we have a scheme that will require some additional prep work from week to week. Although the 3-4 is spreading, it's still an exception from the 4-3 that most other teams in the SEC run. That requires a different practice scheme for our opponents to simulate. Third, I have faith in the Grantham brain. He'll well thought of by people who know the 3-4 and has coached with some 3-4 masters. He knows what he's doing, right?
But, I also have some misgivings. First, how well can the Grantham mind-meld work on our linebackers? While I want the scheme to confuse opposing QBs, sometimes the first year of a scheme change also confuses the people who are running that scheme. Grantham has been optimistic in the preseason press, but it still has to face some very clever offensive coordinators this year. Second, do we have the DL personnel to eat space and keep our LBs free enough to implement the stunts necessary to confuse and pulverize those opposing QBs? Demarcus Dobbs is credible, but everyone else playing nose or end is a big, fat question mark. They can stay fat, but they can't stay question marks. Those guys have to step in and perform for the scheme to function properly. (See for example Alabama's 3-4 without Mt. Cody, #31 in total defense, opposed to with him, #2 and #3 in total defense.)
So, what do you think? Is Grantham the guy who returns us to the Russell/VanGorder "if we score more than 20 we'll win" defensive safety? Or, will Grantham turn out to be someone about whom you say "how can that guy make that much money by producing that crappy of a defense?" We need the former, because we've already seen enough of the latter.