The relationship between offense and defense is well documented. Few defenses are able to play at a high level if they are constantly on the field because of an unproductive offense. At the same time defenses are often at the mercy of their offense where field position is concern. If an offense put their defense in bad spots by turning the ball over or failing to convert on 4th down, the defense is at a distinct disadvantage. Over the last year, Brady Hoke has introduced a new line of thinking where the relationship between offense and defense is concerned. Two comments made by Hoke highlight his line of thinking and the philosophy as a whole. The first was made by Hoke while the coach of San Diego State and was directed towards Oregon. In an interview with San Diego columnist Tim Sullivan Hoke declared:
“Right, wrong or indifferent, when you’re zone blocking all the time — when you’re playing basketball on grass — you practice against that all spring, you practice against it all fall and then you’re going to play a two-back team that wants to knock you off the football. I don’t think you’re prepared.”
Hoke made similar comments during Big 10 Media Days 2 weeks ago:
“I can tell you, and I’m a defensive coach, that when your defense plays against a pro-style offense all spring long, and they play against a pro-style offense all fall camp, you build a toughness and an edge because the schemes themselves are different … And this is a physical football league. It’s a physical offense, with people who run the football. We think we can play better defense by the fact of how we do things on the offensive side of the ball because they feed off each other.”
Hoke’s point is simple yet intriguing. The offensive scheme that a team uses helps dictate the level of preparation for the defense. Two aspects of Hoke’s comments are worthy of further examination. The first concerns the result of a defense practicing against an offense that utilizes zone blocking a majority of the time. The second concerns defenses who play against basketball on grass i.e the spread being unprepared to handle downhill running teams. These comments have led many members of the Michigan faithful who have watched Michigan struggle mightily on defense over the last 3 years to nod their head in agreement. After all Michigan has been gashed by downhill running teams for most of the last 3 years. Is there validity to Hoke’ comment is the question. Are teams that primarily use zone blocking and play “basketball on grass” less prepared defensively? Is the reverse also valid? Are defenses that practice against a pro-style scheme and primarily drive block less prepared to deal with spread teams?