20 Questions: Run the 4-3 or 3-4?

Posted August 12th, 2014


Practice has begun. The season opener is on the horizon. Football is back.

To preview Texas’ season, we’re continuing to spend part of August by asking 20 burning questions in 20 days.

Today’s question, which will be handled by columnists Kirk Bohls and Cedric Golden:


No. 12: Is Texas better suited to run the 4-3 or 3-4?

In reality, the Longhorns will run both at different times this season.

It comes down to personnel. Along the defensive front, you’ve got the two pass-rushing ends in Cedric Reed and Shiro Davis. You’ve got a solid middle in Malcom Brown, a big body who can plug up running lanes. How comfortable are you with Desmond Jackson? That could be the difference between a 4-3 and a 3-4.

Linebacker, as we addressed last Friday, is the biggest worry spot unit on this team. And that includes the quarterbacks (with a starter coming off season- and spring-ending concussion and foot fracture injures, and two unproven backups), the running backs (a solid starter, a backup coming off Achilles surgery, and two freshmen), and the receivers (two have been kicked off, another suspended for the opener, and a starter battling a hamstring injury).

Running a 3-4 lets you put Steve Edmond and Dalton Santos on the field at the same time. They were productive last year, when Edmond slid over to the outside (weakside) spot and Santos took his place in the middle. Jordan Hicks appears to be back, on the outside. But what after that? The other outside linebacker would have to be found among Demarco Cobbs, Tevin Jackson, Peter Jinkens or Timothy Cole.

Again, it comes down to personnel.

So, the 4-3 or the 3-4?


From Kirk:

“Texas is better suited for a 3-4 front because it has little depth in defensive linemen and has many more linebackers available. Malcom Brown, at 6-4, 320, could make an excellent nose guard to plug up the run, with Cedric Reed and Shiro Davis flanking him. Of course, Texas is going to be in the nickel 80 percent of the time, defensive coordinator Vance Bedford said last Friday, so who needs many linebackers?”


From Cedric:

“Give me the 4-3 all day long. The Horns aren’t exactly overflowing with linebackers. Strong’s defenses have been multiple during his previous coaching stops, so it won’t surprise me to see a little bit of both alignments, along with some nickel, which was a formation we saw in abundance during Sunday’s open practice. I would go with four down linemen, with Hicks, Edmond and Santos at ‘backer. None are as good as Reed in the pass rushing department, so I would prefer the 4-3 to keep Reed’s hand on the ground. It would maximize his ability to pressure quarterbacks if he’s going up against bigger tackles and smaller tight ends.”

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