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Big Dawg, I was sitting there thinking, right? Thinking about the trenches as I always do. Got my mind on the trenches and the trenches on my mind. You know what I'm saying, and I started thinking about how much defensive line play has changed over the years. I started going all the way back to about maybe 15, 20, 25 years. I started saying to myself, man in some ways not much has changed at all, but in others, gosh it's changed quite a bid. Then, big dawg it hit me like Law and Order. Close enough. When is the last time I've seen a defensive lineman stem. No, not swim. Stem. Oh, so you've never heard of a defensive lineman stemming at the line of scrimmage? Some of my older coaches know what I'm talking about. Episode number 11.

Hello? Hello? Has anybody seen my friend stem? Anyone? Tell him Big Dawg's looking for him. Big dawg, I haven't seen a defensive lineman stem at the line of scrimmage for years. You know what, unc? Help me take it back, all the way back, down memory lane. Listen up here young buck. When I played back in the 80s, back when they had the afro, Big Dawg had one. I made sure mine was combed and picked. On the football field, see, we did something called stem. Now, let me school you here, young fellow. You know, I played nose tackle and my defensive line coach used to tell me, "Make sure you stem. You know, move. Don't just stand in one spot young blood. You gotta move around." My D line coach would say, "When you stem (or when you move around), you confuse the offensive linemen." We get in our stance and our D line coach Ray, coach Ray would stand over there with his big old stomach and his gold tooth and a Jerri curl talking about, "Stem! Hey, stem!" That was the cue. You know what I'm saying young blood? It meant move around.

If you were lined up on the right shade at the center, you moved to the left shade of the center and right when that ball snapped, you'd be sure to snap back full speed back to the right shade of the center, hitting that A gap. That offensive lineman was always confused. Worked every time. Every single time. Exactly, appreciate that, unc. You're welcome. Oh, man it's too much fun. Have you seen my friend stem? I haven't. I haven't seen a defensive line stem in the trenches for several years. The stem, for me, is a technique that is used to confuse the offensive lineman's blocking scheme. By shifting or stemming your alignment, it confuses that offensive lineman's assignment. Let's talk trenches. Let's say we're in the 43 defense. We've got four down defensive linemen in the trenches. What's that offensive lineman gonna call, "Even! Even! Even!" What does even mean for the most part? It means you have four down defensive linemen. Why is that offensive lineman making that call? Most of the time that indicates to the offensive linemen or to the offensive line what their assignment is for that particular run play.

Let's say I'm a defensive tackle and a wide three. Now, I know that my assignment as a defensive tackle is that B gap. That B gap is my responsibility. Most 4-3 defenses is gap defenses. They're our gap control defense. I know my assignment. My assignment is to make sure that nothing comes through that B gap. Lined up in my three technique or a wide three or wide B, and I know that anything that comes through there is mine. I know as a three technique that as soon as that ball snaps, I'm attacking that three and I got anything coming through the B. Let's say I want to stem. I want to confuse that offensive guard a little bit, so I'm gonna stem, shift or I'm going to move my alignment to head up over that guard. As long as I stem my alignment, it might alter the offensive lineman's assignment. Let's say it was a power and the play called for a double team. Being that I was in a three technique or the B gap, the guard and the tackle were gonna double team me and climb to the second level. The second level where the linebackers are.

That was the case when I was in my three technique or when I was in my YB, but do you think that changes when I shift or I stemmed my alignment to head up over that guard. Now, the guard is fully covered and that offensive tackle is uncovered. For lots of offensive linemen, when that happens that offensive tackle is just gonna climb to the second level. Yes, now obviously there are a lot of different variables that come into play, but most of the time if that guy's not in that gap, that guard's gonna take that defensive tackle on his own because he's covered and that tackle is gonna climb and try to seal that linebacker. You understand what I'm saying big dawg? Let's replay this real quick. I'm in a B gap. "Even! Even! Even!" That guard and that tackle's assignment is to double team me and clime to the second level. Hopefully, that tackle's gonna climb and that guard's gonna take over or they're just gonna double team me and whichever way the linebacker goes, one of those linemen will come off and pick up that linebacker. Either way, because of my alignment being in the B gap, the initial assignment is to double and climb.

Wait a minute. I just stemmed my alignment to now head up over the guard, which is a two technique. Now, we have the offensive line thinking do they still double team or does the offensive tackle climb and that guard has to take me solo? For some offensive linemen, that's confusing, now because now the assignment changes, but that's exactly what the stem technique does. It brings confusion and we know the more any athlete thinks, the slower he plays and the higher probability of that lineman making the wrong choice. Now, remember. I know what my assignment is. I know that, that B gap is mine. I don't have to line up in the B gap to attack the B gap, to hold that B gap down. I know that, that's my gap, so I'm gonna stem my alignment, shift myself and line up head up over that guard, so now I know that, that offensive tackle is gonna climb to the second level and I also know; check me out big dawg, that as soon as that offensive tackle climbs to the second level, there's gonna be the biggest hole in that offensive line.

Why? Because the offensive tackle climbed to the second level, leaving a huge hole at the line of scrimmage. Now, as a smart defensive tackle that stemmed his alignment, head up over the guard, what am I gonna do at snap? I'm gonna slam right back in that B gap and right behind that offensive tackle. Tell me this big dawg, do you think that, that offensive guard can keep me from attacking that huge hole that, that offensive tackle just left by climbing to the second level? Go ahead. Think about it. Not a chance. Big dawg, it ain't happening. You know why? Because right when I moved head up over that offensive guard, I just presented to him three scenarios. One, I can hit that guard square on. Bull him in the backfield and create havoc. Two, I can slam inside into the A gap, which now him and that center have to make sure I don't penetrate that gap and make any plays backdoor or three, I possible can slam back into that B gap. The point is, is that he's thinking. He's not sure why I just stemmed my alignment from a three to head up.

Big dawg, that's exactly what I want because, now even though he's the offensive player, he's playing defensively. I have just now transitioned to the offensive player. I'm the one that is attacking because I know what I'm gonna do, but he doesn't. As soon as that ball snaps and he's trying to figure out where I'm gonna go, I slant right behind that offensive tackle and then, boom. TFL. Tackle for loss, baby. Was I stronger than him? Not necessarily. Was I quicker than him? Maybe I am, but one thing's for sure, I outsmarted him. I made him think more than he wanted to. While he was thinking, I was playing. The stem technique. Let's look at it a different way. Let's say, again, I line back up in a three technique and again, I know my responsibility on this play is the B gap. We're in a 4-3 defense. I'm to the strongest side, tight end side, strong right and I'm lined up in the B gap as a three technique. Prior to the snap, let's say I stem my alignment. I move or I shift myself. Now, I head up over the tackle. Again, that's gonna confuse the offensive linemen.

The offensive tackle was anticipating climbing to the second level. Now, that offensive lineman has to make a quicker judgment and that offensive guard has to be the one to climb to the second level because now, that guard is uncovered and I at least make it appear that the tackle is covered. One again, just because I shifted my alignment or stemmed my alignment, doesn't mean my responsibility changes. My responsibility does not change. I just changed my formation or at least, I changed my location. As soon as that ball snaps, I snap right back into my B gap. I can punch a rip in my gap or I can quickly drop my shoulder and [inaudible 00:14:06] in my gap. Once again, I've caused a huge hole to occur at the line of scrimmage. The stem technique. Now, some coaches may not like the stem because they want the linemen off of the linebackers and if that's your style of defense and you have the big dawgs for that, where you just want them to clog the gaps and not necessarily play that attacking, penetrating style of D line play, then I totally get that.

Stemming is not for everybody. You have to have a certain kind of dawg in the trenches to stem. You have to have a dawg that's quick, smart, agile and versatile. He's explosive and he's gonna attack that gap right at snap. Now, this is perfect a lot of times for my undersized linemen. When I have undersized linemen that had trouble facing offensive linemen square on, we'll use the stem technique. He was smart enough and new his responsibility. He knew where he had to be where the ball snapped and I show him the proper technique as to how to get there, depending on the play and at this point, now my smaller defensive lineman use the stem to his advantage to outsmart and to out leverage that offensive lineman to the point of attack. Listen, there are several benefits to the stem technique. Number one, in most cases, it confuses the offensive linemen or it gets them thinking that sometimes that's good enough.

Two, it can create one on one match ups at the line of scrimmage and if you know you have that type of dog at the trenches that's more agile and versatile and you know he can beat any offensive lineman to the spot, then applying the stem technique might be the perfect style of play for him. You might be able to get him to be more aggressive at the line of scrimmage. Three, it makes it very difficult to track or trace where that defensive lineman is gonna be. When an offense or an offensive coordinator knows exactly where that defensive lineman is going to be, then obviously it makes it very easy to choose the right offensive play. That defensive lineman is just standing there like a guinea pig waiting to be slaughtered. Why? Because he keeps lining up exactly where that offensive coordinator wants him to line up. That offense knows exactly where you're going to line up by their formation. They got you exactly where they want you and a lot of times, I've seen this over and over again, that you have a strong kid and a great athlete be outsmarted by the offensive coordinator or be outsmarted by the offensive scheme.

You've seen it before, big dawg. The fold blocks, offensive linemen taking that guy at an angle. If that defensive lineman wins one on one match ups, then a smart offensive coordinator will make sure that defensive lineman is attacked at an angle. Old blocks, scoot blocks. Anything that will keep that defensive lineman from punching that offensive lineman and squaring him up in the gap, causing traffic. Ain't no fools in the conference. I don't know of any offense that's gonna allow a defensive lineman to just sit there and destroy that offensive line. Eventually, at some point, they're gonna make adjustments in their blocking scheme, right? That's the whole concept of the wing T offense, the counters, the buck sweeps, the traps, the stretches, the elephants on parade, the zone plays. All of those offenses that will force and cause a defensive lineman to work laterally instead of vertically, but what if we could adjust our defensive lineman and not allow them to be so predictable? What if we could teach our defensive lineman, like we used to back in the day, that you know what your assignment is, you shift or stem your alignment, so that we can recreate those one on one match ups and at the snap of the ball, beat that offensive lineman to the point of attack.

Beat that offensive lineman to the gap. Cause havoc in the backfield because you cause confusion and win at the line of scrimmage. What I'm trying to say big dawg is that there's so many ways you can win at the line of scrimmage. You don't always have to necessarily square up in your match ups. A lot of time you can teach a defensive line to outsmart the opposition. Remember, the name of the game is to get the guy with the ball down. There are lots of different ways you can do that and I don't think that there's anything wrong with every now and again, stemming your defensive line. Speaking from personal experience, when I played at University of Florida, I could play the five spot, the defensive end spot. I could play the three technique. I could play the one technique. I could play anywhere on that defensive line. Now, my favorite was between the one and the three. I loved me some one and three. I didn't mind playing the five to help my team, but I loved playing the one technique and the three technique.

A lot of times, I would deal with guys bigger than me. I would deal with guys that were definitely stronger than I was, but I knew one thing big dawg. I was gonna be smarter, I was gonna be quicker and I was going to out will my opposition. Coach John Thompson. Coach, I love you. If you ever hear this, man, you're my hero and you know that. Coach came in my senior year at University of Florida. We had a new head coach, coach Ron [00:20:04] and coach John Thompson came in and he brought in coach Red Anderson. Fiery Red Anderson. As red as you could get him, that was him. My man had the mustache. He had the bald head and he had the attitude. That was my guy. He was something else. One thing I loved about that defense was the freedom. Say it with me, freedom! Coaches, that's not a bad word. Sometimes, we don't give our dawgs enough freedom. Well, let me tell you something. Coach John Thompson, boy he gave us some freedom.

Now, I don't mean that we were undisciplined. We were very discipline. Coach made sure of that, but when I say freedom, he allowed us to do our assignment the best way we knew how, as long as we did our assignment. He sent us on stunts. He allowed us to stem, but we better be where we're supposed to be when that ball snaps. See, this is one of the reasons why we were one of the top defenses in the country. When I say top defenses in the country, I'm talking about top five or top three in some categories. It wasn't just the fact that we were big and strong. A lot of colleges had guys that were big and strong. It wasn't just that we were quick. A lot of schools had guys that were quick, but we had freedom and we were taught and trained how to do our assignment in a different way, so you better believe I took full advantage of that freedom. Every now and again, I would stem my alignment. I would shift or move my location and I knew that as soon as that ball snapped, I was club ripping. I was chop dipping. I was sweep ripping. I was bull pulling right where I was supposed to be.

Big dawg, I can't tell you how many plays I made because my defensive coordinator, coach John Thompson and my awesome D line coach, coach Red Anderson (love both of you guys), gave us that freedom to go out there and play football. That way, offenses couldn't just sit there and pick us apart at the line of scrimmage. We didn't line up in the same place over and over again. Like the great John Thompson said, he said, "Rolle, every defense has a weakness, but see the offenses have to find it and if I keep moving my weakness around, they'll never find it." That got me to thinking big dawg. It got me to thinking about myself. Do I have weaknesses? Sure as I'm human. I have lots of weaknesses. Every man has a weakness. Am I right about it? You have to find my weakness, but watch this. Like coach said, if I keep moving or every now and again stemming, what's the chances of you finding my weakness? By the time you find my weakness, it's the fourth quarter and we're up by three touchdowns. Game over already, but I out willed you, I out quicked you, I out leveraged you, I out powered you and I outsmarted you.


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