When Charlie McBride talks defense, you listen. On Wednesday the former Nebraska defensive coordinator visited with hosts Chris Schmidt and Nick Handley on Hail Varsity Radio to talk about Nebraska’s defense against UCLA, practice reps, the importance of speed, and nurturing young players. Check it out below:
HV: Nebraska’s defense gave up the second most yards ever, how do you react to this from a coaching standpoint?
McBride: The second game isn’t time to start being negative for sure.You have some inexperienced players, you have a new system and you have a new defensive line coach that’s working with them and there are some things they probably have to iron out.
I’ve been through this before. We had games where we couldn’t tackle and couldn’t get much of a pass rush. It was one of those games. UCLA just moved the ball methodically down the field and took possession most of the game. Our punting, at first, was kind of sour. We had a couple of bad kicks that put them in good field position and that hurt us.
If you look at any of the things, you probably take the tackling, the pass rush, the punting and the third down conversions aren’t real good. Even though offensively it looked pretty good, when you get to third down and can’t make it then you’re putting that defense right back on the field.
HV: How frustrating is it as a defensive coordinator when you have players in position, but they just don’t make the play?
McBride: A lot of it is concentration and focus. A lot of those kids that are just starting out at Nebraska are trying so hard that they just lose concentration on what is really going on.
A lot of people will say that the linebackers and secondary guys need to learn to tackle in the open field, but we were worked on open field tackling as defensive linemen a lot.
HV: With your defense, how often did you go live in practice?
McBride: Let’s put it this way. We had pro people come in and ask us why we were scrimmaging on Wednesday and even on Thursday when we were without pads. We were pretty live, but we talked every day. Some days where we had a bad week like Nebraska had this week, we would go ahead and start practice out with tackling. We would have coaches working together with their players and had different drills that would take in the whole team, really.
You just have to emphasize those things and players will respond to it. One-on-one situations are not good any time you’re facing a good back. But one-on-11 is good. It does come down to second effort and people really wanting to get to the football. You’ve got to get after it to get to the football. You can’t be messing around.
HV: There have been rumors of Nebraska switching to a 3-4 defense. What would be the reason for making the switch?
McBride: Maybe they feel the personnel fits that better. I really don’t know. I do know for a fact that every time you move a player to another position you’re teaching new blocking schemes and he has to rep those schemes. I had kids where we’d teach them all the different blocking schemes and, when it got right down to it, maybe our nose (tackle) would play two different positions in our scheme and our tackles and ends would too. Each one of those positions you get different blocking schemes for different plays. When you can rep those a lot, then things become second nature after a while.
HV: Nebraska struggled with UCLA’s motion last week, is it easier to combat that in a 3-4?
McBride: I don’t know if they’re using it to get another guy with speed on the field. We played a lot of man-under, two-deep, meaning that our linebackers and corners were playing pretty much man-to-man coverage and our safeties were playing a zone. One safety we played in the hole, about 12-15 yards off the line, and that would take care of some of the crossing routes and things like that.
When you’re playing zone, if you give them enough time, they’re going to find a hole in it. You have your pinning points that each linebacker has according to what the set is. If you give them time, they’ll find the hole between the linebackers or between the linebacker and the corner. It comes down to pressure, to those guys up front carrying the load.
HV: What do you emphasize when facing an athletic spread team like Arkansas State?
McBride: We were a defense that lived by the sword and died by the sword. We were going to knock that guy around a little bit and try to get him to throw the ball off-balance. A lot of teams are dropping guys and playing a lot of zone. We were more of a pressure team. We had speed so we could do that.
We recruited runners and hitters and the third thing was size. If the kid couldn’t run, we didn’t recruit him. I think that showed up. One year one of our linebackers ran a 10.4 100 meters and the other one ran a 10.6. Those guys could play defensive back in the NFL, and they did. Our only big linebacker was our middle linebacker, and we had some good ones, but the speed factor was really the thing.
A lot of people are afraid to pressure the spread with all these schemes and things, but if you really handle your business you have a chance to make some big plays.
HV: Nebraska may look to use some younger players this week. What was your philosophy on putting a guy out there who might not know it all but has a nose for the football?
McBride: It’s a tough thing. Each kid is different. Some kids are more mature and can just go out there and play and some can’t. You have to know that as a coach. Sometimes it takes a year or two to know where that kid’s coming from. It’s a roll of the dice. You expect them to make a few mistakes. We make them on the sideline all the time. If anybody came down and said how many mistakes I made during the game, I wouldn’t want to count them up.
You can listen to the full interview with McBride, and all of the Hail Varsity Radio guests, in iTunes.
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