The Horned Frogs have a Heisman candidate at quarterback and a shiny no. 2 preseason ranking, but the main attraction in Fort Worth remains the innovative 4-2-5 defense that’s proven uniquely capable of slowing the no-huddle and spread
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The no-huddle has proliferated across the NFL and college football primarily because it limits what defenses can do. At media days, Saban explained the challenges these offenses present: “Being an old NFL guy, the way you play defense in the NFL is you play a lot of specialty defense because everything is based on situations. What pace of play has done to the college game does not allow you to do that. So you have to basically play the same players in every situation because, if you do play situation defense and you’re allowed to sub in that particular situation, you can’t get the players out of the game. And you have to be able to match up in all circumstances and situations with teams that actually play that way, which is more difficult.”1
Patterson’s 4-2-5, however, was designed with those challenges in mind. By playing five defensive backs, Patterson almost never needs to substitute to match up with the offense. But the system’s genius runs even deeper: Patterson has cleaved the very structure of his defense into pieces, simultaneously making everything simpler for his players and more complicated for opponents.
“We divide our defense into attack groups,” Patterson explained at a coaching clinic in 2011. Those attack groups are: (1) the four defensive linemen and two linebackers, referred to as the front, (2) one cornerback, the free safety, and the strong safety, and (3) the weak safety and other corner. For most teams, the calls for the front and secondary only work if appropriately paired, but that’s not the case for TCU. “Our fronts and coverages have nothing to do with each other,” Patterson said at the clinic. “The coverage part is separate from the front.