Hot Reads: Where Are All the Sacks?
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Hot Reads: Where Are All the Sacks?

September 15, 2017

Something to consider on Saturday: Northern Illinois has allowed one sack through two games. Now, just one of those games was against an FBS opponent, but the Huskies are still one of just 15 teams to have allowed one or fewer in 120 minutes of football in 2017.

Among the many concerns for Nebraska’s defense early this season, it’s apparent that the Huskers pass rush – most easily, though not accurately, measured by sacks – is one of those pain points for fans. Nebraska only has one this season, what gives?

There are two parts to that explanation. One, this isn’t a defense that puts a premium on negative plays. Some do. Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz loves to see his teams in the opponent’s backfield. Bob Diaco’s defenses are more concerned with eliminating creases. From 2010, Diaco’s first year as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator, to 2016, his last as Connecticut’s head coach, these are the national rankings for Diaco teams in sacks: 56, 56, 25, 83, 121, 94 and 111. Considering how good some of those defenses were in terms of points allowed, it’s a pretty clear statement of intent.

The one year Notre Dame did have a top-25 sack total, 2012, was probably more about individual talent. That’s the second part: Good players are going to get more sacks just on their own, even in a scheme that doesn’t place a premium on those plays. That 2012 Irish defense sent its top six sackers to the NFL eventually. Guys that good are just going to make plays.

Take Clemson as a more recent example. Chris Low of ESPN wrote that the Tigers might be the new D-line U, and it’s tough to argue based on their results:

 

Only LSU (14) has had more defensive linemen taken in the last 10 NFL drafts than Clemson (13). In the last three NFL drafts alone, Clemson has had six defensive linemen selected. Last season, 11 former Clemson defensive linemen had jobs on NFL teams. This year, there were eight former Clemson defensive linemen on NFL opening-day rosters, albeit two have transitioned to outside linebacker in the pros.

 

That’s not a bad way to start competing for and winning national titles. But that’s not Nebraska right now. The Huskers appear to have some talent on the defensive front, but it’s not done developing yet. And that talent is playing in a scheme that doesn’t appear to place a premium on the flashiest defensive stat. Nebraska’s not sacking a team 11 times in a game, as Clemson did to Auburn last week.

But don’t be too concerned about that yet. Given those two factors plus the teams the Huskers have faced, more than one sack through two games would be nice but it’s not totally unexpected to see that total.

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