Dealing with the Spread Epidemic

The Spread Offense/No Huddle offense epidemic must be stopped. It is running rampant in college and professional football and as much as fans love it, coaches like Nick Saban are in the papers kicking and screaming about safety concerns and unfairness. Well Coach Saban, as much as I hate disagreeing with you I am afraid I am going to have to on this one. While the Buckeyes offense has quickly fallen in love with the Spread/No-Huddle offense; the Silver Bullets probably do not share the same love for it. The Buckeyes defense struggled last year against spread offenses, especially the passing game. The Buckeyes against spread offenses last year (Neb,Cal,Ill,Ind,Miami) allowed an average of 252.6 yards per game through the air. The most infamous of those struggles against the spread was against Indiana when Ohio State allowed a ridiculous 352 yards through the air. This epidemic has caused Coach Everett Withers and Luke Fickell to implement a new defensive package, the 3-2-6.

So what is the purpose of the 3-2-6? Why would a defense only want to rush 3 lineman and have 6 defensive backs on the field? The package allows defenses to put more defensive backs on the field to deal with a multitude of athletes in passing situations. It also puts more speed on the field for the defense. There are multiple aspects to this defense in order for it to be efficient so let’s get started.

Let us begin up front. The lineman’s job in the 3-2-6 is to create some kind of pressure on the quarterback. It will be rare that a lineman gets a sack during a 3 man rush but creating pressure will at least get the quarterback off of his spot and force some discomfort. The Buckeyes worked on this package in the spring and when the first team rolled out it lined up Adolphus Washington on the strong side of the line, Michael Bennett in the middle, and Noah Spence on the weak side. Bennett is the one that stands out here to me. Last year he was a 2nd string strong side end at times but I’m not sure he had the burst to get around the edge. I do think though he has enough burst and bulk on him to split the guard and center and create some pressure up the middle. Now if Bennett does not work out I think that Washington would be able to move inside, seeing that he has bulked up to 292 pounds, and who ever occupies the second string spot could step in for Washington. I think that Joey Bosa would be a good fit here. It would give the freshman some playing time early in his career and a guy with his engine would be very useful in this scheme.

The linebacker corps is a little simpler to figure out. The linebackers will mostly be sitting in zone or blitzing so it would not surprise me to see Mike Mitchell get a shot here in camp as well. So who is going to join Ryan Shazier in the middle of the field? My guess is that Curtis Grant will not be lining up at the Mike here. The linebackers role here is to take away the middle of the field and I’m not sure that Grant is going to be disciplined or fluid enough to do that. I think Josh Perry is better in space and showed that some last year. I’m not saying Grant could not end up here towards the end of the year but I think Perry starts over him initially. Young linebackers like Mike Mitchell or Trey Johnson could make a case for them to play the Mike in the 3-2-6 this season. Both are very good in space and the assignment of blitzing or holding a zone over the middle of the field may not be too overwhelming for the freshman.

The defensive back group is in my opinion the most interesting and versatile group of athletes here. Let’s get the obvious ones out-of-the-way. Bryant will be the deep safety in this formation while Barnett will probably be allowed to roam free. Roby and Grant will man the boundaries and that leaves us with two defensive backs to figure out. The remaining two DB’s will be playing the important “Star” position. I believe Powell is a lock in one of these spots due to his ability to shift his hips like a corner and hit as hard as a safety. The coaches really like him and he has grown in to the role very quickly.

The second Star spot was filled by Corey Brown this spring but here comes my romance with Vonn Bell. While Corey Brown maybe the fifth year Senior who has dedicated all of his time and effort to the program being an upstanding Buckeye, we are competing for a national title and there is no room for sentimental favorites. The best most talented players have to play. As long as Bell dedicates himself to the Buckeyes he will become a great safety in a few years for Coach Meyer but for this year he can contribute by serving in this Star role.
Now where will Buckeye fans see the 3-2-6 implemented? Mostly on third and long, but they can also expect it being used against Indiana this year to prevent another 52-49. It will also be used at that night game against Northwestern and their recently implemented spread attack.

If Ohio State can use this package with efficiency they may have a successful answer to any spread and passing attack they will face. Oh and it may help with those “miscommunication” issues the secondary had last year that led to a few big plays.


  1. OSU has never done well defending the Spread especially on the biggest stages. Hopefully they have finally figured it out.

  2. I tell you what… I think Mike Mitchell and Vonn Bell have the opportunity to come in and have a HUGE impact on this defense in the 3-2-6 dollar package and the 4-2-5 nickel package. I think Mitchell is going to be a more disciplined version of Ryan Shazier I’m really excited about him.

  3. Jeremiah… care to elaborate? I disagree… I think OSU has done very well against the spread, especially on the “biggest stages.” Against the biggest spread teams of the “modern spread era,” OSU has consistently performed well. Holding Oregon and Michigan (numerous times!) to only fractions of their usual output; dispatching Arkansas, even Wisco and Nebraska, etc.

    Other than the 2011 season, which was bad for many reasons, the only unsuccess I can find goes back to the 2006 championship game; and that loss had nothing to do with being unable to handle a spread offense (in fact, that year, OSU ran a more consistent spread than Fla).

    • I think OSU did well against the spread when Heacock was the coordinator. Under Fickell they have struggled and I think that is what Jeremiah is hinting at. Fickell is growing as a coordinator and with the return of Heacock to mentor him, along with fast new athletes, I think FIckell will soon become more successful against the spread..

  4. Tyvis Powell has me intrigued during fall camp — I’m excited to see what he can do. And Von Bell looks like an upperclassmen already. This package will be exciting to see out on the field.


  1. […] that’s not all, folks! As Ronnie pointed out earlier, they may also show a 3-2-6 dime package. Offenses are evolving to present different looks and formations and defenses have to adapt […]

  2. […] to be in a lot of Dime package this weekend.  Specifically, expect the Buckeyes to roll out their 3-2-6 dollar package.  In the Buckeyes base Dime package, Ryan Shazier is the single linebacker, and Corey Brown comes […]

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