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Why Bud Foster's Virginia Tech defense will give Ohio State trouble

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Virginia Tech defensive coordinator, Bud Foster will bring pressure from all angles on Saturday night, which could present troubles for redshirt freshman QB J.T. Barrett and the inexperienced offensive line.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Since Bud Foster took over the Virginia Tech defense in 1995, they have been recognized for their aggressive and attacking style of play, especially against the run. They create chaos against opposing offenses with multiple fronts, stunts, blitzes and coverages that they deploy.

Foster's first objective is always to stop the run, by limiting the offense's play selection and blocking scheme. He wants to attack the opposing offense by outnumbering defenders to blockers and also by bringing pressure from all over the field. Especially against an inexperienced quarterback, Foster wants to pressure the quarterback mentally, forcing him to make a quick decision while under duress.

The Hokie defense will mostly present two fronts, the "G" front and the "Bear" front:

The "G" front

G front

The "G" front is a 4-4 alignment that shows eight-men in the box. It includes four down linemen, two inside linebackers and two outside linebackers known as the "whip" and the "rover". In the base "G" front, it has a free safety playing centerfield, with two-deep cornerbacks. They can play Cover 1, Cover 3, or bring the free safety down closer to the line of scrimmage, creating a nine-man front and play an inverted Cover 2, with the outside corners playing the deep halves.

When the spread offense started to become a trend, Foster had to adapt, he did this by turning the "rover" into a hybrid safety/ linebacker with coverage skills and run more of a Quarters Coverage (Cover 4) to counter the spread offense.

The majority of Foster's stunts and pressures come from the "G" front.

The "Bear" front

Bear

The "Bear" front is a part of the "46" defense, which is a 4-4 front. It gives an odd front for the opposing offensive line by covering the guards and center. Notice the difference in the front from the "Bear" to the "G" front.

When Georgia Tech hired Paul Johnson in 2008 and brought his modernized flexbone offense with him, Foster became obsessed with stopping Johnson's running game. Since 2008, Foster has been one of the few coaches in the country to figure out Johnson's offense, as the Hokies have gone 5-1 versus the Yellow Jackets. They have also kept Georgia Tech to 21 points or less in four out of the six games.

A wrinkle that Foster used in the past against the flexbone has been the use of cornerback Kyle Fuller as a "whip" or the weakside linebacker. Fuller's (#17) athleticism and aggressiveness in the run game made him the perfect candidate to blitz from the weakside and disrupt the Georgia Tech offense.

Just to be clear, I am not saying that Ohio State runs Johnson's flexbone but it resembles it in a spread formation with the amount of motion, misdirection and counter plays that the Buckeyes run. As everyone knows, the run sets up the pass in Meyer's offense, especially with redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett making his second career start on Saturday. Not to mention the offensive line issues that plagued the Buckeyes versus Navy, Foster will surely have an aggressive plan; showing multiple fronts, stunts and pressures from all directions, along with a variety of coverages to confuse the young signal caller into making critical mistakes.

Foster's main focus will be to stop the run first, with seven to eight players in the box, trusting his corners on islands in man-coverage. He will force the redshirt freshman quarterback and his array of playmakers on the outside to beat his talented defensive backs one-on-one, while Barrett and the inexperienced offensive line face extreme pressure up-front.

The guys at thekeyplay.com noticed something about the Virginia Tech defense in their first game versus FCS opponent William & Mary and in their scrimmage:

In Tech's final scrimmage before its spring game (where the quarterbacks were live for the first time), Bud Foster debuted a hyper-aggressive version of his gap defense that featured quick defensive tackles Corey Marshall and Luther Maddy shooting through the interior gaps, backed up by a variety of eight-man fronts and unique blitz packages. It plays to the strengths of Foster's personnel; his tackles can create chaos inside, and by blitzing his quick but inexperienced linebackers, it alleviates some of the tough responsibilities like interior gap fits and pass coverage. Foster also used a 30-stack look with three down linemen and three linebackers to create more movement and confusion on passing downs. Foster used both against the Tribe, perhaps as the dress rehearsal for Ohio State.

Rather than play a vanilla defense as one might expect against a I-AA team, against William & Mary, Foster used 8-man fronts and aggressive stunts and blitzes early and often. Most likely this was to get timing and execution down against a live opponent. It was devastatingly effective. From the 8-man front look, Foster sent numerous pressures built around two core concepts: the zone blitz with defensive linemen dropping into coverage, and full blitzes featuring tight man coverage and no safety help.

With Foster running primarily man-to-man and quarters coverage on the outside, with a seven-plus yard cushion, I would expect Coach Herman and Coach Meyer to limit Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall's motioning into the backfield and keep them in the slot, throwing bubble screens and quick passes on the perimeter. Thus, the first two downs will be key for the Buckeye offense, gaining good yardage early and keeping them out of third-and-long situations will limit how creative Foster can be on third down. If they are faced with multiple third-and-long situations, expect Foster to throw the kitchen sink at Barrett.

Overall, Foster's defense will be a major test for Barrett and the inexperienced offensive line, both whom will need to be mentally sharp from the first snap, to the final whistle, to walk off the field with a big win.