For many, Jim Leonard is more synonymous with Wisconsin than his boss.
While Paul Chryst was a member of the Badger football team, he failed to make the same impact on the field as his current defensive coordinator. Leonard, of course, went from walking to three-time All-American during his playing days at Madison, matching this school’s career record with 21 interceptions and setting a huge yardage return record for a boot.
But while many top OSU fans may remember him as the football version of Aaron Craft, it was his time in the NFL that helped define who he is today as a coach. His time with the Ravens and Jets allowed him to work closely with Rex Ryan, one of the most outstanding defensive minds of his era and the man whose fingerprints can be seen on Badger’s defense today.
Ryan, of course, implemented a grueling 3-4 scheme that relied heavily on blitzing linebackers, wreaking havoc on blocking schemes unaccustomed to facing such pressure. But what distinguished Ryan’s defenses was The way he borrowed concepts from 46 The defense that made his father, Friends, famous.
The ’85 Bears have produced one of the most legendary defenses in the history of the sport before Block the middle of the line of melee with large bodies directly across from the center and both guards, which allowed quarterback Mike Singletary and solid safety (and former Buckeye) Doug Blank – who happened to wear the No. 46 – to run without blocking and make tackle after tackle. Ryan’s defenses did not fully emulate this system in terms of compatibility and personnel but did attempt to replicate the overarching philosophy.
Leonard saw this approach up close from his safe position while playing, but suspended his cleats after the 2014 season and went home to Madison. There, Badger’s defense was led by a young and up-and-coming coach named Dave Aranda (now the head coach at Baylor), who helped Leonard develop the finer points of his own philosophy.
A native of little Toni, Wisconsin officially joined the UW team in 2016 and will take over as defensive coordinator the following season, despite being only 34 at the time. Chryst’s decision to promote such a relatively inexperienced coach proved to be the right one, however, and Badger’s defenses have been among the country’s best since Leonhard’s promotion, ranking first in total yards allowed (284.8 yards per game), first in passing defense Efficiency (110.5), first in opponent conversions down third (30.5%), third in lunge defense (103.4 ypg), and third in defense scoring (17.3 points per game) from 2017 to 2021.
While Leonard is 0-3 against Ohio State during this time, his contemporaries are well aware of his success.
“You always pay attention to who is doing well on defense, and they have always been very good,” OSU defensive coordinator Jim Knowles said before the game between the Buckeyes and Badgers this weekend. “They have a system and they run it and they know what they’re doing. All the things that I think you want to be a defensive coordinator, I think they’ve been showing – having a system you can rely on and get answers.”
Today, Leonard’s approach is still very similar to Ryan’s while also borrowing from some of the game’s best minds (like Nick Saban). In fact, the Badgers act strikingly like Crimson Tide in their early downs.
The Badgers like to bring safety in the box to support runs on the wide side of the field, giving them 8 defenders close to the line of scrimmage. With three big-bodied defensive navigators eating an inner baffle and a safety blocking one of the holes, the inner quarterback is often left free to run and make tackles.
Against a pass, the system can often look like a straight man cover with a free midfield safety (known as cover 1). But actually, it’s a file Cover 3 An area with pattern matching principles, which means that defenders play receivers tightly once in their area.
With the back of the defense using traditional coverage with seven defenders dangling back, it means one midfielder can join the three bottom line men in the passing dash. In almost every shot, one of the four supporters will be sent in a blitz, but the offense is forced to guess which one.
When Leonard began studying the college game with Aranda in 2015, it quickly became apparent that this rigorous approach did not translate directly into stopping the spread of crime that had become so prevalent at this level. As such, Leonard incorporated the simulated compression packages that Aranda is best known for. Within training circles, however, it is Ryan who is often credited with their development.
With opponents often working in 11 packs (1 RB, 1 TE) at the college level, the Badgers respond by removing one of their bottom linemen in place of a fifth defensive linebacker, creating a four-man front with two outside linebackers. Stand ends. Combined with the inner supporters, the defense then has six potential passes that have slipped close to the line on any shot.
Despite displaying a blitzkrieg from all these six players, The defense rarely sends only four lunges, dropping two linebackers back into coverage. This allows the back end to maintain its integrity while still confusing the attacking and midfield line.
That adaptability was amplified in the linebacker’s position – both for rushing and reduced coverage – against Washington State two weeks ago. With the visiting Cougars jogging 10 people (1 RB, 0 TE) most of the day, Leonard matched him by removing two offensive line instead of two defensive backs and lining up at 1-4-6 which put Ryan back into a more solid third-place look while Leonard had With the Jets a decade ago.
But even though Badger’s defense applied pressure from all angles, he only lunged for four.
Behind the pressure of the four men, Leonard mixed his coverage, especially in passing situations. play badger Tampa 2 On multiple passes against WASU, but only after initially lining up with a deep look before picking up.
That’s not to say Leonard only used NFL concepts a decade ago. It also includes talking, Complex coverages to match found in Quarters familyespecially when faced with more advanced passing fouls like those used by Ryan Day and the Buckeyes.
“[They’re] Multiple up front, in terms of the different fronts we see, and the different coverages you get. “This week he said about what he’s seen from the Badgers preparing for Saturday night’s ‘Boot’ game. They have to be prepared because they’re very smart, they can handle high levels of information, and they’re a good team.”
Ohio State won’t be the first contender to take the Badgers seriously this season, as the Cougars emerged with a surprise victory during their recent visit to Camp Randall by attacking the leanings of Leonard’s regime. In an attempt to match the speed set on the playing field by the Cougars’ base attack of 4 receivers, the Badgers found themselves defending the goal line with a single line down, allowing the Cougars to easily enter the end zone on the grounds.
The Cougars found themselves in the red thanks to their efforts to put the extra defender into conflict via RPOs. By packing the WR monitors with an indoor run, Washington State forced field safety to be in two places at once, creating an awkward rush to do a tackle in space after falling into no man’s land.
Despite finishing at the top of the nation in all-around defense last season, Leonard and his team struggled in their late-season showdown with Scott Frost and the Nebraska Cornhuskers, who averaged 6.5 yards per game in what became an unexpected shootout. It was obvious that Frost and his staff were expecting Cover 3 matches A concept favored by Leonard in his early descents and he requested a variety of play calls to attack him.
First, the Huskers used 12 people (1 RB, 2 TE), knowing that the Badgers would respond with their 3-4 rule that ensured there were only four defenses on the field at a time. From there, Frost often splits one of its narrow ends outward to simulate further propagation formation, with both broad receivers aligned to the boundary.
Second, the Huskers assumed the defense would only play with one deep safety and named concepts like double poles that pull the free safety away from the outside corner assist.
While the Badgers cover philosophy is to provide balance to both sides of the field with a free safety that sits in the middle, Huskers constantly overburden one side with receivers to create an open field for an open leg.
Given that Day and the Buckeyes have crossed 400 yards in their previous three encounters with Leonhard’s defense, one can expect them to attack the same weaknesses in his system. Despite this, Day doesn’t expect the Badgers to deviate much from what they were.
“They definitely have an identity… they won’t deviate from their plan. And they’ve been so successful, why would they do it?”