NWADG College Football


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NWA Democrat-Gazette/MICHAEL WOODS University of Arkansas defensive coordinator Paul Rhoads was the defensive backs coach last season. As Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen phrased it, "the 'might' parts are extremely crucial in a three-man front. "They might bring a safety down from somewhere on the field or some- thing like that," Allen said. "There's a lot of moving parts with it. They can drop guys [into coverage]. That's kind of what the teams we play against do. Alabama and LSU run that defense." Rhoads, who instituted a change to a 3-4 front late in his head coaching tenure at Iowa State, told Bielema he wished he'd done it sooner to combat Spread offenses. The Spread, often fueled by an up-tempo pace that puts a strain on de- fensive substitutions, works by getting the ball to playmakers in all areas of the field and exploiting matchups. It was prevalent in the Big 12 during Rhoads' tenure at Iowa State (2009-15), and now a large swath of the SEC is using it in some fashion. Rhoads, asked about the fundamen- tal necessities of running a successful 3-4 defense, launched into a point-by- point explanation in his booming voice early in camp. "I can tell you exactly," Rhoads said. "The nose guard has to have his hands on the center and take care of his A-gap. The ends have to have their hands on the tackle and take care of the B-gap. "Our outside linebackers have to set the edge on anything that comes at them and be involved in the quick passing game. Our linebackers have to go where the backs go. "And our secondary can't let people go behind them. If 11 guys are doing those things on a play-by-play basis, regardless of the call, we have chance to play good, competitive defense." Bielema noted that three-man fronts are a growing trend in college football. South Carolina Coach Will Mus- champ, also a defensive specialist, agreed. "It's a lack of being able to find qual- ity defensive linemen," Muschamp said. "It's easier to find a flexible 240-pound hybrid defensive end-linebacker who can play in space. And it creates some problems for offenses. Some run plays work well against a four-man front, but they're not so good against a three-man front." Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn, whose defense enjoyed a revival under coor- dinator Kevin Steele while employing 3-4 and 4-3 looks last year, talked up the former at SEC media days. "Kevin likes to mix it up," Malzahn said. "The thing about a three-down front, obviously they can do some dif- ferent things with athletes on the edge. "It puts a little more pressure on your [offensive] tackles. The thing about an odd-front team, you better have some pretty strong offensive tack- les, especially in the run game if they have some good anchors. And it puts the center on the island a little more than it would a four-down front." Malzahn said the SEC used to be pretty evenly split between three-man and four-man fronts, but now he ex- pects the balance to be tipped more toward the base 3-4. EIGHT MEN UP Bielema said the move to the 3-4 has other advantages. "You've got eight guys on two feet being able to change and run," he said. "You naturally become more athletic with the 3-4 scheme with athletes on the field. "There will be a lot of the same schemes, a lot of the same coverages, but coming at it with the ability to bring different pressure. More importantly, I think in today's world, too, the 3-4 aligns quicker and a little bit more sim- plistic to multiple offenses in a shorter amount of time, and that should help us." Arkansas' top defenders have pro- fessed their eagerness to play in the 3-4 alignment, another element that could play in their favor. Sophomore end McTelvin "Sosa" Agim, the team's most experienced pass rusher, says he loves it. "The 3-4, when you're playing it, the offense really doesn't really know where the next rusher is coming from," Agim said. 1003 McClain Rd. Bentonville, AR. 479-271-4141 Go Hawgs! rivergrillesteakhouse.com YOUR TOTAL FITNESS SHOP We match competitor's prices! SUPPLEMENTS • FITNESS EQUIPMENT ACCESSORIES • APPAREL RESIDENTIAL & COMMERCIAL FAYETTEVILLE | 479.521.3481 ROGERS | 479.633.9837 LITTLE ROCK | 501.954.9837 www.ytfs.com f 10 NWA Democrat-Gazette College Football Preview Sunday, August 27, 2017 Rhoads v Continued from Page 6 v Continued on next page

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