Strategy Guide
Defensive Playcalling in NCAA Football 09: Part Two

This is the second part of my look at defensive playcalling in NCAA Football 09 (first part here). This week, some of the "stack" defenses are in the spotlight. Specifically, I’ll be looking at the 5-2 Normal, the 46 Bear and the 4-4 Split. There are a few more "stack" defenses I’ll get to in next week’s article.

These defenses counter the heavy running game of your opponent by stacking the box with eight defenders. The majority of these defenses rely heavily on solid linebackers and defensive linemen. If your team is loaded at these positions, then it may be worthwhile to implement some of these formations throughout the course of your game.

5-2 Normal

The 5-2 Normal gives you five down linemen, two linebackers, and four defensive backs. The defense is very effective against runs up the middle, but if your ends are slow, this defense can be beat with tosses and pitches to the outside. I love the "Smash Blitz" in this formation since I generally know a run is coming when I use this play. The SS, CB, and both LBs blitz while the defensive line drops back into zone coverage. If the pressure comes fast enough, the quarterback almost always makes a bad throw into the zone coverage (especially when playing a human). The weakness in the play is on the blitzing cornerback’s side, so I recommend either controlling a DT and getting out to the flats or using the FS to rotate over to the hole in the coverage.

The zone plays in this formation are decent but I wouldn’t recommend trying to stop the pass on a consistent basis with them. In other words, I primarily use this formation when I want to stop my opponent from going up the middle. Another facet to this (and other defensive formations) is to know your personnel. Use the right stick to switch up your packages and place your players where you want them on the field. If you know your opponent is pounding the right side, swap your best linebacker to that side. The same thing can be said when it comes to your cornerbacks and safeties -- put them where you need them.

46 Bear

The 46 Bear is a formation that pulls your outside linebackers and places them on the line of scrimmage. You have the ability to move these players around a bit with the right stick as well. The formation is designed for the run, and having six players on the line makes it a little tougher for the offense to get outside with a running play. I like controlling the LB in this formation and "flowing" with the backfield. I like "Hero Slant" out of this formation as it gives you flat coverage and deep coverage, but leaves outs open. "Engage Eight" can be effective here as well when you are expecting the run or a deep pass.

4-4 Split

The 4-4 puts four linebackers and four down linemen in the box with three defensive backs on the field. "Monster Green" is a good blitz package that sends the OLB and a MLB around a DE that is dropping into a zone. This play is most effective when you blitz on the strong side of the field and read what is happening at the line. I’ve also actually made a few interceptions with the wide LBs and the safety over the top via "2 Deep." I believe this is because their zones are deceptive enough to bait a throw from the quarterback. The 4-4 is also sound against the running game. In one of my online dynasties I’ve been completely stonewalled by a human opponent who used this formation as his primary defense. It can pose problems for players who don’t adapt quick enough.

The biggest thing you can do with these defenses is mix them up. Blitzing, zoning up, and even manning up all have their advantages and disadvantages in these formations, so keep your opponents off balance by putting the pressure on them to figure out what is happening on defense. Sitting back in a zone may not give up the big play, but good players will be able to pick you apart all day long even if their strength is running the ball. So go out and stop the run with these defenses and get ready for your opponent to pass.

Next week, I’ll take a look at the 3-3-5, 4-2-5, and the pass defenses in NCAA Football 09.

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