Do they coach the defensive backs to look back for the ball or play the receiver?
“The truth is it’s like anything that we do in life that we don’t quite understand,” Disch said. “If you ask a cook how much paprika or how much of this spice or that spice to put in, he or she will say, ‘Well, you know, just a pinch.’ It’s the same thing with a tile guy or a painter – when a guy knows his craft, those things come with repetition; it comes with working or getting a feel for those things.”
As it turns out, there are different rules and guidelines for varying situations, but the bottom line more often than not is that it is a “feel” the defensive back develops.
“Obviously, if you’re playing zone, you’re eyeballing the quarterback and the ball; you’re breaking on the ball,” Disch explained. “If you’re locked in man (coverage) and you’re running down the field in phase with a receiver, that’s got to be a feel thing.”
But even in that situation, there are still coaching points the staff can instill.
“The receiver will usually tell you when to look with his eyes, his body motion, his hands, and you’ve got to play off those things,” Disch said. “We have certain rules and guidelines you try to give them, but the great ones, they have a great feel for it through thousands of reps. They have a knack for getting their head around or eyes around and making plays on the ball.”
The method Disch and the defensive coaches are teaching seems to be effective. As noted yesterday, Southern Miss had 19 picks last season. They also set an NCAA record in interceptions returned for touchdowns.
“That’s one thing we’ll pride ourselves on,” Disch said. “From Southern Miss last year, we set an NCAA record with pick sixes. We had a bunch more picks we didn’t score on, but we’re going to let them be aggressive and play the ball. A lot of that comes from having the confidence to do those things and know you’re not going to get ripped because you’re making mistakes.
“I don’t think there’s an exact answer to that, just like there’s not in any other field. It takes a little bit of skill. I think it is mostly, you recruit that and you rep it and you work at it and try to get them some things that will help them. But, in the long run, it’s a feel thing.”
The North Carolina offense will instill a system that utilizes a fast-tempo to maximize plays and keep the pressure on the opposing defense. But what about UNC’s defense? Doesn’t the “no-huddle” and its goal of running 80 offensive plays a game also mean the defense is on the field more, thereby negating its advantages?
Yes and no, according to Disch.
“If you look at the stats, we’re probably on the field about 150 or 200 times more in a season than the other team that was one of the top defenses,” he said. “If you look at our number of snaps, for example, compared to Alabama or LSU that are controlled offenses, we’re going to be out on the field a whole lot more.
“I’ll give you an analogy – if you coach your kids to understand that it’s like playing fast-break basketball, that we don’t get upset about play, we don’t get upset about running back out on the field because our offense scored too quick or turned it over because that’s just part of our mindset – it’s always attacking. To answer your question -- yes, we’re going to be on the field more because the other offense is going to have more possessions and more snaps.”
To counter the increased plays and possessions created by its offense, the defense must rely on preparation and depth.
“You have to roll in more kids, which we do,” Disch said. “You have to practice a certain way to get them ready for it, which we do. But if you look at yards per snap last year, or yards per play, we were third in the nation – behind Alabama and LSU, or LSU and Alabama, which suggests that although our total defense was 20th, or whatever it was, what we’re doing play by play was better and our kids understood that.
“The biggest stat is scoring more points than the other team, getting the ball back for your offense, being great in the red zone, and keeping people out of the end zone. We will be on the field more, but our kids will actually be excited about that challenge.”
And from a fan’s standpoint, Disch concluded, this will produce an exciting game.
“It will be a brand of football I think people will enjoy watching.”