Your Best 11 Mailbag: Wall Punt Returns, Defensive Adjustments and More!

Michael Felder@InTheBleachersNational CFB Lead WriterNovember 1, 2012

CHAPEL HILL, NC - OCTOBER 27:  Giovani Bernard #26 of the North Carolina Tar Heels breaks away from Juston Burris #11 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack to score a game-winning touchdown against the North Carolina State Wolfpack at Kenan Stadium on October 27, 2012 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. North Carolina won 43-35.  (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

It's Thursday and we've got your mailbag needs covered here. You've got questions, I've got answers. I'm like your college football Ann Landers people. 

@inthebleachers is the return wall a lost art in CFB - was great to see it on Gio's return vs. NCSU - why dont we see more of it? YB11

— Wayne Hunt (@ncsportsguy) November 1, 2012

I don't think it is. The thing about a wall return is you have to surprise teams, sort of catch them off guard with it and make sure their not anticipating it. Other wise they'll just kick away from it and then have their players get behind the wall and shut it down.

So while NC State did a terrible job of defending against the wall return, part of that is due to them expecting UNC to run either a middle return or whatever they'd shown in the few weeks prior to the game.

Jared Abbrederis of Wisconsin scored on a wall return or two a year ago. Obviously Bernard this year. Miami was notorious for their timely usage of the wall return, including Melvin Williams and Ryan Taylor of UNC getting hammered on one such return.

Part of the effectiveness is timing based, and if you time it right, get a good punt that allows you to get to the wall and have the other team hellbent on running right at the ball, then it can be successful.

That said, if your punt team has any sort of self discipline, wall should never work on them. It's a player's fault if he thinks no resistance on a run to a guy fielding a punt is not out of character. If he just keeps running to the ball instead of staying in his lane, that's on him.

@inthebleachers Why have Toledo not hired Bob Toledo? It seems like such a natural fit. #YB11

— J. Schnauzer (@Jschnauzer) November 1, 2012

Toledo did make UCLA ball; two Pac-10 championships if I'm not mistaken. Unfortunately, he just got fired from Tulane and that, even if the name works perfectly, makes hiring him almost impossible anywhere. 

@inthebleachers who are your favorite defensive coordinators? #YB11

— Matt P (@UMwolfpack87) November 1, 2012

I've always been a big Vic Koenning fan. Not the UNC edition where they run this terrible system, but the Illinois and Clemson VK. He knows how to get after the quarterback, coaches up his defensive linemen really well and helps those guys grow as players.

I'm also a sucker for great defensive back play, so Mike Stoops and Nick Saban are two guys that I'm all about. Their secondary players tend to be very aggressive and when they get a player they know it.

John Chavis is a monster. His ability to adapt what he has to what he does is just awesome. I love Pat Narduzzi too. He's maximizing his players talent, he cuts down on how they can be hurt while still bringing pressure, and his defense is so multiple it confuses people.

I really could go on for days. Dick Bumpas is a G. When Ellis Johnson was at South Carolina I was a huge fan of his. I'm a fan of Mike Archer and Jon Tenuta, when they have the players. Their game plans against Clemson and UNC last season were brilliant, and I think this season they miss having capable linebackers.

I'm going to stop now and keep it moving to the next question. 

Craziest Vegas bet/line I just heard. The jags have been favored by 25 against Bama. Would you take the tide to cover? @inthebleachers

— Jordan Ash (@jordash_325) November 1, 2012

This has been on everyone's mind, and to be quite honest, I do not like it. I also do not care. So, my answer to this is I will wait until they play to really take it seriously. So basically never.

@inthebleachers #YB11 Will the ACC ever be worth a damn as a football conference?

— Born Bermudican (@BornBermudican) November 1, 2012

Honestly, I don't think the league is terrible right now. They've got a Top-10 team in FSU and another Top-15 team in Clemson. The only thing that sucks is that the Coastal Division is terrible. Blame Virginia Tech for that. Also Paul Johnson.

If Florida State wasn't stupid in Raleigh they'd have a Top-Five team staring at a date with Florida to try and push them into a BCS title game. But it is what it is. The perception of the league won't change until they win some non-conference games and get into legit contention. Check the computer numbers for FSU and Clemson, they are terrible.

@inthebleachers Not sure if you did in your D, but how hard was it for you to re-align LB/Secondary on a check if you had a hard-headed LB?

— Rich Fann II (@Fanntastic81) November 1, 2012

YES! Talking football!

In high school we called it "spinning" and in college it was the "kick and mix." Both meant the same thing—adjusting your defensive alignment, responsibilities and the call when teams motion, trade or shift.

For some pre-snap moves it was an automatic flip of the defense, which is why I love slide fronts: zone to X becomes zone to Y and the strong safety trades responsibility with the free safety, line and linebackers slide down and your golden. Other adjustments by the offense would lead to a full-blown reset of the defense with an auto-check. Linebackers trading sides, safeties buzzing down into the box, so on and so forth.

Perhaps I'm biased as a defensive back, but the only thing worse than a linebacker who doesn't want to communicate is a defensive tackle who only stares at the football once he breaks the huddle. If you don't communicate shifts, motions or trades then you end up in terrible situations because you're out of position. Communication, via hand signals, words or physical patting, is key for things to work properly.

As a safety, if the tight end trades and it goes from strong right to strong left, I need to see my Will linebacker pat himself on the butt after I call "buzz down left" so I know that he knows I'm coming down into the flats. The same goes for the linebacker. He needs to see the linemen shift and pat themselves on the butt to signify they know what they're doing.

If you don't get those confirmations the safety has to get down into the box and tell the linebacker. Or the linebacker has to physically move the defensive tackle over a gap. Otherwise the defense is compromised. That communication is why I love defenses doing meetings together a few times a week so that they can all agree on how they want to alert one another.

Hope that helps.


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