Nickel Package Should Help Tech’s Defense in 2009

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Year after year, Bud Foster and his staff field one of the best defenses in
college football. The scheme and structure stay the same with certain wrinkles
added each year to take advantage of certain strengths in personnel. This
season, one of those wrinkles is a new look nickel package.

The nickel has been around the game for many years and every team has some
version of it in its arsenal. It’s a personnel package that substitutes a
fifth defensive back for one of the defensive linemen or linebackers. Over the
years, we have seen it utilized by the Hokies at various times, some years more
than others. And some years not at all.

For 2009, look for the nickel package to be a big part of the defense’s
identity. Again, personnel is the major reason for that. With young linebackers
still figuring out the finer points of pass coverage and with three experienced
safeties, the nickel makes a lot of sense in obvious passing situations.

So what is the 2009 version of the Hokie nickel and how will it be used?
First, let’s review the regular defense and then we will take a look at the
personnel adjustments to convert the regular defense to the nickel defense. The
defensive line is the same for both – Jason Worilds, Cordarrow Thompson, John
Graves and Nekos Brown (from left to right).

The changes apply to the linebacker and defensive back positions.

For each play, the regular defense is structured according to the position of
the ball. The boundary side (or short side) is manned by the Backer (Jake
Johnson), the Boundary Corner (Stephan Virgil) and the Rover (Dorian Porch). The
field side (or wide side) is manned by the Mike LB (Barquell Rivers), the Whip
LB (Cody Grimm), the Field Corner (Rashad Carmichael) and the Free Safety (Kam
Chancellor). A simple illustration of the regular defense is shown here.

Pass coverage is generally the toughest challenge for young linebackers to
master. Jake Johnson is a very strong run defender, but he is still learning the
finer points of pass coverage. At the same time, Davon Morgan is a