Hoo Preview 2010: A 4-3 Primer


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The defensive coaches want their players to play fast and attack the ball.

A big buzz around Cavalier training camp this fall is the move away from the failed experiment called the spread offense to a more conventional pro-style set. The bigger story, however, and the most dramatic change in Virginia football this season is the defense making the switch from Al Groh’s base 3-4 to a 4-3 stack alignment.

Many fans have been calling for this change for some time, some virtually since the day Coach Groh arrived in town. As The Sabre.com takes a look at the new alignment, I am not going to rehash the right/wrong debate but I will spend some time comparing and contrasting the two defensive styles and explaining why this move makes sense.

There are three main reasons I will analyze that support why the move back to the 4-3 defense used by Hall of Fame coach George Welsh makes sense:

  • Less complex defense – reduces assimilation time for the college players while making better use of available talent.
  • Plays more to college players’ and defensive players’ natural instincts and talents.
  • Fewer in-game reads and corresponding calls – forces offenses to react instead of the defense reacting to the offense.

3-4 Review

In its basic form, the 3-4 is a defensive alignment that utilizes three down linemen and four linebackers. Usually, it is a defense that relies on brute force, excellent hand work and big, athletic linebackers. The 3-4 is designed to make blitzing more creative, easier to disguise and difficult to contain. With four linebackers, there are more choices for which players get assigned to coverage and which players can attack the line of scrimmage. Furthermore, it spreads out the offensive line’s protection schemes to hopefully generate greater pressure on the pocket. At its best, the 3-4 is designed to create pressure from different and unexpected places, hopefully forcing more miscues from the offense in the process.

The focal point of the 3-4 is the middle triangle of the nose tackle, the two inside linebackers and the safeties. As UVa fans saw two years ago against

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