April 2, 2010

Grantham breaks down the 1-gap 3-4

OK class, pay attention. Professor (Todd) Grantham is about to take the podium.

Today's subject - The difference between the 2-gap 3-4 and 1-gap 3-4 defensive scheme, a lesson that includes the advantages of Grantham's preferred 1-gap style and how he expects this style will benefit the Bulldogs this fall.

"Basically, when you're in a 2-gap, you're going to play the gap based upon the release of the blocker. So, if you lineup, say heavy on a guy slightly outside shade, you may have the inside half of the guy or the outside half of the guy based upon which way he goes. If he goes out, you play the outside half, if he goes in, you want to squeeze but you've got the inside half," Grantham explained. "Theoretically, when you play 1-gap, you end up playing very similar; it's just you work on pressing guys down the line."

Sound complicated? Grantham said it can be, but when executed correctly, he believes the 1-gap 3-4 offers more opportunity for a defense like the one he inherits at Georgia to be successful.

"Even though you're playing, say the outside shade always, the outside gap, if the guy goes inside you're going to squeeze the guy down to make the inside gap small. So even though you don't theoretically have that gap, you're going to press a guy to make that inside gap small and play the outside half of the guy," Grantham said. "So, you honestly start splitting hairs on the way you play, but by doing this it allows players to be more aggressive in their approach when the ball is snapped."

But it's not as simple as it might sound.

One of the biggest problems young players learning the 1-gap 3-4 have is how to quickly convert from run defense to rushing the passer.

Grantham could not agree more.

"That's why I say you've got to have discipline to play that way because you've got to constantly think about striking your guy and knocking him back. To be good in this defense you've got to play physical at the line of scrimmage, you've got to attack blockers, you've got to get your hands on them, you've got to be able to press those guys," Grantham said. "When it comes time to pass, you've got to be able to convert to pass and rush the passer.
"That's probably the hardest thing for young players to learn how to do is to go from thinking it's run to a pass, where all of a sudden it's like 'Man, I've got to get my hands swinging. That's the biggest thing I see that we've got to continue to work on is 'Hey, it's now a pass situation, or 'Hey, they're going pass we've got to change what we're doing with our hands and our hips' and that whole process because that happens in a matter of seconds."

A disciple of the 1-gap style, Grantham attempted to employ a 2-gap scheme during his stint as defensive coordinator with the Cleveland Browns.

But not for long:

"When I was there we were going to try and do the two-gap stuff," he said. "But we didn't have the ability to do that, so we become more of a 1-gap team later on because we didn't have the personnel."

Grantham added that he doesn't anticipate using any 2-gap principles and applying them to the 1-gap he's teaching his defense, especially as it pertains to the nose.

"Any more though, people that 2-gap they still play the gap based on the release of the block, so you're still only playing one gap, they're just squeezing the other gap. Truthfully, when you play a 1-gap, you're doing the same thing, it's just you're playing this gap," Grantham said. "Personally, the way we play it, I think it's better suited for today's game because No. 1 you play the run physical but it also allows you to rush the passer when that occurs. I actually think you've got to be more disciplined to play this way because you can always attack a guy, knock a guy back, come out of our hips, and deliver blows and strike guys when they're looking to convert. I think the way we play now is the way we want to play."

Although there's plenty of work to be done, Grantham did praise a couple of Bulldog linemen who seem to be picking up the scheme quicker than others.

According to Grantham, junior DeAngelo Tyson "has shown flashes of being a good player for us" while Demarcus Dobbs "has shown quickness at end."

Both players are focusing more at defensive end, but Grantham made it clear he's not going to pigeon-hole players into specific roles - at least not yet.

"We've got to continue working those guys at different combinations to get our best guys on the field all the time, meaning a guy may be a dual player. He may have to play nose and end so when we start ranking our guys 1-thorugh-6, if 1-through-3 is out, the fourth guy we've got to get into the game," Grantham said. "That's what we're going through now, mixing and matching guys to find out the best combinations because ultimately you've got to have guys up there who are physical, will knock guys back and challenge the line of scrimmage the way we want to play. That's been an ongoing challenge right now."

There are other issues that Grantham said still have to be worked through.

Among them: getting rid of some of the bad habits some players are still finding difficult to overcome.

"To me it's all about habit. You are the way you practice. Players have developed habits and when you come into a situation like this, we're working to define our habits, what we want, the way we want you to play and sometimes there's an adjusting of a person's habitual traits," Grantham said. "That's kind of what we're going through with some people. But the players have responded, they're trying, but it's like anything else when you've been doing something a certain way for a while, it takes time to change. There has been change, there has been improvement but we still have to improve our consistency and what we're doing."

As busy as he's been getting the Bulldog defense whipped into shape, Grantham has neglected taking an early look at some of the unique offenses Georgia will face next fall, including Urban Meyer's spread option at Florida and the triple-option of Georgia Tech.

"I've looked at the concepts of all the things you're talking about. We've done all those concepts in practice, and we've worked on those so they understand how we need to defend that," Grantham said. "But once we get into the off-season and summer I'm going to start the preparation of exactly what we're going to do to guard against these certain teams."

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