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January 10, 2011

BCS: What opposing coaches are saying

MORE: BCS Title Game Central

So how do you stop Auburn and Oregon? And how do you attack their defenses?

We asked assistant coaches in the SEC and Pac-10 and promised them anonymity for their unfiltered thoughts.

Here they are.


"We saw [Cameron Newton] more as a JaMarcus Russell-type guy. We wanted to make him make throws. And weren't as worried about the run game as we should have been. They ended up running for a bunch of yards."

"We had a pretty good plan. We were selling out and were going to stop the run. But he made some throws. Give him credit. I don't think we did a great job covering in some situations, and he had some easy throws to make."

"I still think that's the way to go: sell out to stop the run and make him throw and get off the field on third down. We did a lot of that. They didn't run that well on first and second downs. But he made his plays when he was scrambling around and we couldn't tackle him. He's a talent."

"Newton as a passer is underrated. I don't know if I would have said that before we played them. I would have said he was just an OK passer. But he made some good throws against us. A few of them were when our guy got beat and all he had to do was get the ball out there. But he made some throws. He made a heck of a throw on a third-down curl route, and he put the ball on the money. They threw some crossing routes where he hit the guy in stride."

"He's dangerous when he's running the ball, he's dangerous when he's scrambling around. It's hard to tackle him. But the one thing you want to do against him is keep him in the pocket and make throws. That's what you want. You don't want him out in space creating plays. You want him in the pocket having to sit in there and make throws. I think that's where he potentially can struggle."

"The offensive line doesn't get enough credit. They are really, really good. Tough, solid, good players."

"I think the receivers are very average. I think Darvin Adams is a good, tough, solid player. But I don't think he's a great player by any stretch of the imagination. I think that's a weakness. They have good backs, the scheme is tough to defend. But if you had to point to one thing and say, 'It's a weakness,' they don't have any receiver that scares you. That allows teams to try to stack the box, put your defensive backs on an island in man coverage and you have to hold up. We didn't do that. But if you play a team with some guys in the secondary who can cover, that can give a defense the chance to do some things."

"They ran right through the SEC and scored a bunch of points on a lot of good defenses. And I don't see that stopping."


"The d-line is solid. They have some kids who can run. Nick Fairley is a dominant guy in the middle. They have athletic linebackers. They are playing hard. I don't think they present a lot of issues scheme-wise. They are good, they are solid, they are tough, they fly around. And they are playing with a lot of confidence."

"The speed of an SEC defense will pose problems for Oregon. I am not knocking any Pac-10 defenses, but I know they don't have the number of defensive linemen that they will see from an SEC team like Auburn. And it makes a difference."

"I didn't watch the Rose Bowl last year, but I know Oregon was lighting up everyone until they played Ohio State. I think the best defensive players are in this league. Everyone has skill guys on offense, but when you talk about linebackers and defensive linemen and the number of them, the best ones are going to be in this league. I think it will be a challenge for Oregon."

"[Oregon] will score their points, don't get me wrong. But as far as guys who can rush the passer and get after the quarterback, I think Auburn is a little different opponent than they have faced this year on a week-in and week-out basis."

"I like [Auburn coach] Gene Chizik. He hasn't forgotten where he came from. He's still the same guy as he was when he was defensive coordinator at Auburn. I have been impressed with how he has kept the team together with the distractions. They have been getting everyone's best shot week in and week out. He has kept them grounded and focused on their goal. Even after that huge win over Alabama, they were sky-high, I don't think anyone would have been shocked if there had been a little bit of a letdown in the SEC title game. But they came out firing. That gets back to leadership."


"It all starts with their run game. It is unique. They have all of the good runs, they spread you out and run the stretch play, the outside zone. LaMichael James is fast enough to get on the edge and run by people. Along with that, they have the inside power game, gap schemes to run it up in there and be physical and use time on the clock, which doesn't happen much because they play so fast."

"They have the double-option, the triple-option, all the different inside zone options with mid-line schemes. They have all the runs to stretch you on defense, and they do all of the different plays out of different formations. And they do it all so fast. It's no-huddle and such an up-tempo. They don't really do a lot, but they do it so well. They end up repeating plays."

"They do the spread option, can throw it. The quarterback is like having another running back out there. I don't know if he's as good as Cam Newton, but he's pretty dang good now."

"Usually by the first quarter, you'll know exactly what they're going to be doing, but you still have to get lined up and stop it and you have to deploy your personnel in a manner where you won't give up big plays. It's really stressful in that sense because they are wide open, they have good running backs, a good line, good-enough skill at receiver to get behind you, and their quarterback is a heck of an athlete. They have it all. And then they go up-tempo."

"It's hard to substitute against them on defense. But there are times on third downs when they go a little slower and you may be able to get in some substitutions. It just depends on who you talk to. Some schools played nickel all the time because they are in three wides quite a bit. For us, our best personnel was our base package because that's what we were best at. Other than third down, we were in base defense because that's what we execute the best."

"What you have to do, and I know it sounds simple, but you have to tackle in space really well because they are going to get in space. And you have to bring this running back down. He isn't big, but he's extremely strong in the lower half and you have to wrap him up or he's going to break some tackles. He's not very big and it's hard to find him. He gets through the smallest nooks and crannies. It's pretty amazing to watch, to see this guy squirt through little holes. He's similar to Jacquizz Rodgers of Oregon State."

"The defensive linemen start to peek in the backfield to try to find the guy and you get out of your gaps -- and he hits you for a long run. They have so many explosive plays. He gets in the secondary and he's gone."

"How was California effective vs. Oregon? They pressured, did some five-man rush. Cal was good on defense physically. Their front was really good. And if you are really, really good up front, you can pose some problems for these guys. I would assume Auburn has some good defensive linemen. They always do. Cal played them aggressively and their front got after Oregon. And they also were all fired up."

"Our talent level isn't nearly what Oregon's is. And we aren't close to Cal on defense. We played well for three quarters and it got out of hand. What hurt us was special teams."


"On defense, what they did best was they got a lot of turnovers. They get in great situations because their offense gets in front of everyone and the defense can take some chances and dial up some blitzes. They play hard, but they will give up some big plays. It's a pressure defense that also can create some big plays. That goes unnoticed."

"I think [linebacker Casey Matthews is a great player. He's their leader on defense. The front is solid and good. They play hard."

"[Defensive coordinator] Nick Aliotti has a reputation of pressure and five-man rush. They do a good job scheming in the secondary, aggressive corners. They are similar to Washington in their pressure schemes, but Oregon does a little bit more of it."

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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