FSU Football X&O Simplification: Wake Forest's Defensive Front

Winston Salem, NC, USA Wake Forest Demon Deacons nose tackle Nikita Whitlock (50) gets carted off the field after an injury in the third quarter against the North Carolina Tar Heels at BB&T field. He did not practice Monday and was still in a boot and on crutches.

From time to time I like to share bits and pieces from our contributors that occur behind the scenes in our editorial planning. Today, that means a look at Wake's defensive line and linebackers, specifically as a follow up to Eric Fisher's excellent piece on Florida State's offensive line from late Monday evening.

This comes to us from Alan Mundy:

The first thing to understand is that Wake is a 1-gap front. People think 3-4 defenses are all 2 gap types where you have massive DL who each are responsible for 2 gaps and the LBs are free to clean up the play. A 1-gap 3-4 is basically the same concept as a 4-3 defense where each defender is responsible for filling one gap along the front, so he's looking to attack that gap and penetrate it if he can without losing gap discipline.

They play an "Okie" front which has a heads up nose (not shaded to either side) so 6'0, 260-pound nose guard Nikita Whitlock can go to either side on any given play depending on which way the defense is called. Combine that with his quickness and it's very difficult for a center to snap it, get back into his stance, figure out which way he's going and block him.

Remember at the beginning of camp when we were getting some footage of OL/DL drills and everyone was pointing out that 1 on 1 drills are slanted to the DL because they can go either way and the OL has no help? That's basically the challenge a heads up nose presents to the center every play. In theory the center should have help on some plays, but often the guards don't recognize it quick enough and he's already by them.

The downside is that it's a boom or bust proposition, especially at Whitlock's size. He's either going to penetrate and create havoc, or get sealed and taken completely out of the play.

To which another of our writers chimed in. And as an offensive line coach, he offered a take from a slightly different angle:

The problem that centers have had in past is not being strong enough to handle a nose crossing their face playside. I tend to believe Stork has enough bulk to handle it. Barron would worry me some and I think this scheme could slow the running game down. I don't anticipate any assistance from the playside guard being necessary. Any backside stunts will get owned by sophomore guards Josue Matias or Tre Jackson just because they are animals.

Coach Rick Trickett has always been able to get guys to grasp the concept of stepping to their gap and if it's there then its yours, not chasing men around the field.

If there's good communication this front-7 should not present any real issues.

And we present all this with the note that as of yesterday, All-ACC nose guard Nikita Whitlock did not practice and was still in a boot and on crutches. The line in Vegas moved from 24.5 to 26.5, probably on that news.

And be sure to check out excellent Wake coverage at Blogger So Dear

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