Air Force defensive coordinator/secondary coach Steve Russ chats with The Gazette's Brent Briggeman in a look back at Week 1 vs. Nicholls State and a look ahead at Wyoming.
The aggressive style and frequent blitzing was interesting to see, is that what we’ll grow accustomed to this year?
Each game is going to be different. You never want to pigeon-hole yourself, so I don’t know, we’ll wait and see. If certain things are working you’ve got to stay the same. That’s just the way I feel. Some games will be different than others, there are no cookie cutters. No games are exactly the same. We want to have a foundation of what we do so we don’t have to change a ton of things from week to week, but the truth of the matter is that things do change week to week because of the different styles of offenses that you play, especially in college football where offenses are anything but cookie cutter.
When you’re bringing guys on blitzes like that, is it one way to fix the coverage issues we’ve seen the past? You’re obviously not going to see a Peyton Manning on your schedule, someone who can react quickly to what you might leave exposed. So by bringing pressure and forcing teams to act quickly are you able to take some pressure off the corners?
Part of it, yeah. The other part is you don’t want to be vanilla all the time. You do want to feel like you can have some bullets in your gun when you need to go to them. At the same time, whatever we do we want our kids to be able to play fast and feel confident in what they’re doing. Be able go give a quarterback multiple looks, give a running game or an offensive line multiple looks, and try to keep it as minimal technique-wise for your guys as possible. The more defense you tend to put in, the slower your guys play. The key for ourselves success-wise if we’ve got to play really fast and really confident in what we do. That’s what we’re trying to do more than anything.
Looking at film, did anybody in particular jump out at you from the opening victory?
I think out d-line played really well as a whole. I think our inside linebackers played really well as a whole. I think Weston Steelhammer was put in some positions where he could make some big plays. He was unblocked and he made them. That’s what you want to have happen. Dexter Walker did some real good things for us and was disruptive. So, you know, between the starting d-line and the inside backing corps and Dexter Walker and Weston Steelhammer, I think those kids played really darn good.
Is it good to catch Wyoming this early while they’re working in a new offense?
I don’t think it’s good, I don’t think it’s bad, I just think this is who we’ve got to play. They’re impressive when you watch them run the offense. They’re extremely well-coached, they know exactly what they want to do system-wise, they have an identity, they’re tough, they’re physical, they’re nasty and they’re experienced. They’ve got a lot of guys back who have played a lot of football and they’re going to test you in a lot of different ways and it’s going to be a heck of a challenge. I don’t care if we play them in week 2 or week 10, they look pretty darn good to me.
You say they have an identity, what is it?
They’re going to smash you in the mouth and they’re going to run around you. So you can’t just pack your defense in and say, ‘OK, we’re not going to let you run up the middle,’ because they’ll run around you just as easily. They’ll naked you, they’ll boot you, they’ll screen you, they’ll play-action pass you and they’re efficient when they need to get into spread-you-out sets and the quarterback can run the ball well enough that you have to account to. They’re diverse, but they have an identity.
Just watching here as you're running against a scout team, I see a lot of double-tight, some power back, it certainly looks like strong packages.
It’s throwback football in a lot of ways with some new-wave stuff blended in to that throwback era. It’s a heck of a system. I personally, I’m old-school, so power football is cool. It tests you as a defense. It tests you each and every guy as a man to be able to go out there, get your pads down and there’s going to be 11 one-on-ones going out there each play and there ain’t a lot of trickeration going on. It’s football in its purest form and there’s something real beautiful about that.