There will be a lot of work for the Oregon State defensive backs on Saturday.
The Beavers are headed to Washington State and the Cougars throw the ball a lot out of their spread offense.
WSU quarterback Connor Halliday threw for 521 yards in a 44-22 win at California and the Cougars average 359.7 yards a game.
Look for OSU defensive coordinator Mark Banker to throw a few formations at the Cougars.
The Beavers have already gone to the nickel and dime formations on defense to slow the spread.
The nickel involves bringing in a fifth defensive back, a nickleback, usually giving up one linebacker and keeping four down linemen. That enables the defense to handle extra receivers while staying stout up front against the run.
The Cougars, however, often use four receivers. The Beavers will probably counter with the dime. That means six defensive backs with three linemen and two linebackers.
The dime allows the defense to pit speed against speed.
“It just allows us to be more versatile in our coverage and more speed on the field to cover those guys,” OSU linebackers coach Trent Bray said. “They go four wides a lot and different looks like that, so we match athletes with athletes.”
The Beavers are not limited to just covering the extra receivers, however. The idea is to dictate play out of the dime.
That means disguising pass rushers and swarming to the ball carrier on run plays.
“It adds some flexibility to us with the spread formations from the standpoint of who the fourth rusher is, number one, and the variations in coverage,” Banker said.
“One of the big things is to have more speed on the field and at the same time to change up who the fourth rusher is, maybe the fifth or not even have the fourth or the fifth. Maybe have only a three-man rush. So it gives us some variables from the standpoint of how many people are attacking the line of scrimmage and how many people are covering.”
The Beavers often keep defensive ends Dylan Wynn and Scott Crichton in with those defensive formations for rushing the passer.
Outside linebackers D.J. Alexander and Jabral Johnson stay on the field.
“Mostly our outside ’backers are the guys that play in those things because the speed and athleticism in space,” Bray said. “Not so much happens in the middle and the tackle box, it’s on the perimeter and down the field. So we need guys that can run and make tackles in space.”
Teams such as WSU have several fast receivers and try to take advantage of defenses by bringing them underneath on shallow routes.
In the dime, defensive backs are positioned inside so they can disrupt those routes as well as come up on run plays.
At OSU, that could be the job of safeties Ty Zimmerman and Ryan Murphy.
“So they have to fit the run like linebackers and also they have the pass underneath,” OSU secondary coach Rod Perry said. “And they’re using those type of guys who have some toughness but they have cover ability and they have more speed to them.”