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Art Kaufman and the Cincinnati BearcatsHave Gone Back To Blitzing

When Tommy Tuberville brought Art Kaufman with him from Texas Tech it wasn't that hard to figure out what kind of defense the Bearcats would be playing. Kaufman, like Tuberville, comes from the Jimmy Johnson coaching tree where blitzing is for sissy's and real men get pressure with with the four. And so the Bearcats played, but then something changed.

Rob Leifheit-USA TODAY Sports

Through the first month of the season the Bearcats generally adhered to the philosophy that Art Kaufman used to turn around the previously moribund Texas Tech defense. Get pressure with four and play coverage in the back seven. Other than the Illinois game the plan worked, more or less. But after the bye week following the Miami game the approach changed pretty dramatically. The Bearcats got back to doing what they did so well under John Jancek, blitzing the linebackers wreaking havoc on opposing offensive lines.


Note: The black line is the number of blitzes in a given game, the red line is the total of the defenses sacks and tackles for loss in the same game.

Really, it wouldn't be that illogical to draw a line down the middle of that chart after the Miami game. Since then the Bearcats approach has changed that dramatically. Through the first bye week the Bearcats blitzed on 9 percent of their plays, in the last three games the same figure is 22 percent.

I have no idea what prompted the adjustment from Kaufman. To my untrained eyes it looked like the Bearcats really struggled in the first month of the season to get pressure with just the front four. Not having the rush get home can put the secondary in a bad spot. If the defense can't get pressure in the face of the quarterback it really doesn't matter how many guys drop into coverage, someone will always eventually find their way open, there is simply too much field to cover.

This summer I signed up for the Football Study Hall charting project. Now re watching games with pen in hand is old hat for me, but that was nothing compared to the mountain of data churned out and charted for Bill's project. Nothing can replace watching a game, but the data generated makes supporting or dismissing claims much easier.

Which brings me to the second point. The Bearcats aren't just blitzing more, they are blitzing better and their success rate* is much, much higher. Through the Miami game UC had successful outcomes on 37 per cent of the plays where they sent pressure. In the three games since then the Cats have had a success rate of 53 per cent on blitzes, which is a huge jump.

*Success Rate is exactly what it sounds like. The rate at which a defense gets a successful outcome from a play, with a "successful" play being one that ends with zero yards gained for the offense, be it a stuffed run, or an incomplete pass or yards lost for the offense via sack or rush.

In time I am sure that Art Kaufman would love to get back to his roots by simply rushing four and letting his backs and linebackers cover. But the Bearcats don't really have the personnel to play that style right now. Next year, when Silverberry Mouhon is a year older and wiser, and drawing double teams from everyone under the sun and moon they can get back to Kaufman's roots. But now, with this team, and these linebackers it doesn't make any sense not to use them off the edge, not when they play as disruptively as they have in the last three weeks.

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