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So what in the name of former SEC defensive guru Joe Lee Dunn can be done to shift the balance of power back the guys on the other side of ball?

Three areas need to be addressed: player development, recruiting/personnel and schemes.


The rise of seven-on-seven football, a scaled down version of the game played by high schoolers during the offseason without linemen, full pads or tackling to the ground has coincided with improvements in the passing game.

“It’s all about the development of quarterbacks,” said Cincinnati coach Tommy Tuberville, who rose through the ranks as a defensive assistant at Miami and Texas A&M.

When they get to college campuses, they’re ready to play. Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman last year, but it came just a few years after Tim Tebow was the first sophomore to win it and Sam Bradford became the second.

While quarterbacks are working on their games year-round, defensive players are tackling less and less because of injury concerns.

“The thing I really see in college football is the missed tackles,” said Dunn, who was one of the most successful defensive coordinators in college football in the 1990s and early 2000s. “So many missed tackles.”

The missed tackles stand out more than ever before because offenses are forcing defenses to defend so much more of the field, stretching them out both vertically and horizontally.

“You have to make a lot more open field tackles,” said Brown, of the Smart Football blog.

Dunn said the answer is stressing the need to run to the ball. But defenders have so far to go, only teams with lineups loaded with elite athletes such as Alabama and LSU have the sheer speed and quickness to close the gaps.

For those teams that can’t pack a roster with blue chip talent, there’s a lot of one-on-one football being played, with the defenses at a disadvantage.

“All the better athletes are going to play wide receiver in high school and they’re not playing defense,” Tuberville said.

Or they’re playing quarterback. Back in the day, for the most part, there were running quarterbacks (think Nebraska great such as Turner Gill, Tommie Frazier and Eric Crouch) and there were throwing quarterbacks. And the guys with the good arms who could run well (John Elway, Steve Young, Randall Cunningham) were more scramblers than ball carriers.

Now players such as Manziel, Oregon’s Marcus Mariota, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller and Northern Illinois’ Jordan Lynch are just as comfortable running the option as they are reading coverage.

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