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Film Study: FIU’s Struggles Against The Run

Run defense has been an issue for FIU since the middle of last season. Let’s take a look at a few plays.

Memphis v Tulane Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Defending the run is one of the most important tasks for a defensive unit. If the opposition is able to have success on the ground, they’re able to chew up the clock and tire out a defense quickly.

For FIU, they’ve had their struggles in this department for the better part of their past 14 games.

Notice the word they.

It’s not a one-player or coach task, which is the reason why I didn’t use a Panther for the picture in this article.

The unit as a whole will have to improve, especially coming off of game where Tulane was able to run at-will.

Let’s take a look at issues from last week.

Against an athletic quarterback such as Tulane’s Justin McMillian, being disciplined is of the utmost importance.

Typically, the defensive line wants to force a quarterback to step forward in the pocket, so that the QB can’t break contain on the outside of the defensive line.

In the play below, the FIU defensive ends rush so far up the field, that McMillan has huge rushing lanes that allow him to take a step up and then a slide step outside of the pocket, while the defensive tackles are occupied.

In this picture, the ends appear as they may be able to close in on McMillan.

However, as you see in the picture and accompanying video below which is two seconds later in the same play, the ends are past the QB as he takes his step up and slide step out.

McMillan would gain six yards on to make it 2nd and 4 on the drive that would end with a Green Wave touchdown.

The next two plays are runs by Tulane backs that all were successful for different reasons.

A commonly used phrase in the run game is having “a hat on a hat” when referring to blocking.

What that is referring to is for each defensive player on the play side, having an offensive player accounting for them. Tulane does a great job of picking up the FIU defenders.

The tight end (80) secures the outside, while the wide receiver (1) picks-up the outside linebacker (40), and the pulling right guard (79) sticks his block at the second level.

This allows Darius Bradwell to race into the second level untouched and he makes a defender miss.

On the next play, Corey Dauphine scores from 14 yards out with the help of both the right guard and right tackle executing blocks pulling from their side of the line.

As you see below, the receiver on the play side sticks his block, while the guard is occupying the nearest FIU defender to the ball. In the video below, you’ll see the pulling tackle block the untouched FIU linebacker to allow Dauphine to score untouched.

The final play we’ll look at shows how the linebackers are affected when the offensive line gets a solid push on the front four of the defense.

Sage Lewis has been a tackling machine for FIU.

However, on the play below, there’s no room for him to read and react to the play as by the time he makes his initial move to the running back, there’s already a ton of traffic in his face.

As you see on the picture, Lewis (center of the screen) is fighting off traffic coming from the defensive tackle being blocked into the second level.

Here’s the video below.

The positive for FIU fans is that these issues are fixable, especially with talented players on the line and Butch Davis' background in defense.

In the Panthers’ wins against competition that matched their talent, FIU didn’t have to suddenly hold opponents to under 100 yards rushing.

Versus Toledo, Middle Tennessee State and Charlotte, FIU gave up over 130 yards.

However, they didn’t allow the big chunks for major gains and over 250+. If they can replicate that success, the run defense will be in good shape.

What should be concerning for Panther fans are the talented backs left on FIU’s schedule.

Jaqwis Dancy of La Tech, Tyler King/Brenden Knox of Marshall, and Charlotte’s Benny Lemay who has had his highest career average in yards per game against FIU, are all left on the conference schedule.