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Predicting Baylor’s Defensive Scheme

NCAA Football: Baylor at Texas Christian Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports


A few weeks ago I predicted Baylor’s defensive depth chart. To do so, I had to predict the scheme. I ended up settling for a basic tite front, as demonstrated here:

Folks, throw it out the window. This morning, Cameron Soran posted a terrific, succinct video predicting what he believes Aranda will do schematically in 2020.

As a bonus, he recaps why the tite front has become so popular but why it is being adapted even further. Eventually he settled on this look, a modification of the tite front which allows for a hybrid OLB (JACK).

I’m pretty much sold. I had one large question this off-season: was it possible for Aranda to marry his love for flexible, hybrid outside linebackers with Baylor’s 2019 revelatory 3 safety look. I didn’t think so, because it essentially impossible to have a 4 man front while also having 3 safeties.

Soran says whatever, in the Big 12 your 3 man front doesn’t need to be 3 beefcakes. Just substitute one of those beefy defensive ends with an outside linebacker and viola, the math works. You’re smaller up front but it allows you be more flexible in the pass rush, which just so happens to be one of Aranda’s core tenets.

Not only is this the optimal schematic answer vs Big 12 offenses, it also fits Baylor’s personnel perfectly. One of the struggles I had when I was predicting the depth chart was Baylor’s plethora of linebackers and linebacker/safety hybrids. I didn’t think guys like Christian Morgan and Will Williams were strong enough in man coverage to play safety, but wasn’t sure if they could supplant all of the other linebackers on the roster. Well, this formation essentially adds a position just for them at the expense of another beefy DL.

Ian Boyd wrote also wrote an article about Soran’s video and posted this helpful image,

Here’s the same image with my predictions for players:


Soran covered the schematic reasons in the video, which I’ll quickly summarize here:

  • The tite front (with two 4i’s, i.e., two guys lined up between the offensive guards and tackles) was primarily deployed to nullify offenses who primarily run zone schemes. Those three defensive lineman were able to occupy all the interior gaps, essentially occupying 5 offensive lineman with 3 defensive lineman. Offenses have countered by running more gap schemes. Zone schemes want to attack an area, gap schemes want to create new gaps by pulling offensive lineman. Here’s an example of Baylor running a gap scheme (guard-tackle counter) against Texas’ tite front last year. Notice how Baylor’s offense is creating new gaps on the left side by pulling the lineman.

The replacement of a 4i DE with a JACK LB makes the defense more stout against gap schemes.

  • The primary goal of a defense in 2020 is to stop the pass. Passing the ball is way more efficient than running the ball. In theory, this scheme would make Baylor more susceptible in the running game due to a diminished size, but it gives them many more options against the pass. This is a good trade.
  • Dave Aranda has make his name as a creative pass rusher. If you had to describe his defense in one sentence, a decent one to proffer would be, “Multiple defenses that utilize hybrid players to pressure the QB.” His defensive schemes have changed at each of his coaching stops, but they’ve always centered on attacking the QB. Listen to him talk about it here:


This is perfect schematic fit for Baylor’s personnel. I’ll quickly summarize each position.

  • William Bradley-King, the grad transfer DE/LB from Arkansas State, is 6-5 248 and a perfect fit as the Jack (labeled J in the schematic diagrams).
  • With the news that Iowa transfer Dillon Doyle is immediately eligible he perfectly slots in at MIKE linebacker. Here’s a great quote from Ian Boyd, “The big key in the Aranda flip front is the middle linebacker. At times he’s going to be facing O-linemen coming downhill at him that aren’t being held up by the D-line since there’s only two of them. You really need a sort of classic, thick, downhill linebacker that excels at reading blocks, firing downhill, and taking on guards in the hole. The sort of dude you would find in the Big 10. Maybe at a school like, I dunno, Iowa?”
  • When you push another defender off the line of scrimmage, you give more pass rushing responsibilities to your linebackers. Terrel Bernard was really good rushing the passer this past year, and Jalen Pitre has shown flashes as well. This sets both of them up ideally at WILL and SAM, respectively.
  • As discussed previously, the middle safety is a perfect spot for Christian Morgan and Will Williams. You want a guy at this position who has a very explosive first step, make simple reads and explode to the football (i.e., you want Chris Miller). Morgan and Williams fit those descriptions to a T.
  • Finally, the addition of a 3rd safety puts less stress on your corners. At LSU, Aranda had access to some of the best cornerbacks to play college football. As a result, he ran a lot of straight man coverage. Not only does Baylor not have the CB talent that LSU had, but it’s harder to consistently run that kind of coverage in the Big 12 where offenses will gladly attack you deep every play. Texada and Barnes are good corners and this will allow them to play more zone coverage.

This was an exciting football morning for me. Hit me up in the comments or on twitter @Travis_Roeder