In a recent post, VTGuitarMan asked "What defines a nose tackle? In my naive view, I always equated NT with the middle guy in a 3-man front, lined up over center. I'm guessing that's not true, or otherwise Foster's scheme modifies that terminology." As always, I am more than happy to oblige with an answer.
First, it is important to understand the difference between the name of the position and technique. The Hokies have four defensive line positions in their system.
- The Stud Defensive End: Stud is the Virginia Tech term for the left side defensive end. The stud end will align across from the general area of the right offensive tackle.
- The Defensive Tackle: Defensive Tackle is the Virginia Tech term for the left side defensive tackle. The defensive tackle will align in the general vicinity of the right offensive guard.
- The Nose Tackle: Nose Tackle is the Virginia Tech term for the right defensive tackle. The nose tackle will align in the general vicinity of the left offensive guard.
- The Defensive End: The Defensive End is the Virginia Tech term for the right side defensive end. The defensive end will usually align in the vicinity of the left offensive tackle, and will most often be on the blind side of the quarterback.
Now, most fans associate the terms defensive tackle, defensive end, and nose tackle with alignments of a defense. We think of ends being out on the edge in a 4-3 and over the tackles in a 3-4. We think of nose tackles lining up over the center, while the defensive tackles line up over the guards. But, inside the locker room, the positions are just names for the side where each defensive lineman plays. The term "technique" actually describes where they align. And, while the Hokies do have some alignment tendencies, they vary wildly depending on the defensive call, the opponent's tendencies, and Bud Foster's ideas on how to best utilize the talent he has available.
The technique each defensive lineman plays on a particular play is labeled with the gap number they align in. Let's take a look at a typical Virginia Tech defensive front alignment with each gap labeled to explain.
Each gap is labeled. The Stud End is playing a six-technique; six meaning he aligns on the outside/right shoulder of right tackle. The Defensive Tackle is playing a three-technique; three meaning he aligns on the outside/right shoulder of the guard. The Nose Tackle is playing a one-technique; one meaning he aligns on the inside shoulder of the left guard. The defensive end is playing an angled seven-technique, meaning he is aligned well wide of the left tackle, and he is angled at 45 degrees with an aiming point at about a yard and a half behind the center.
Depending on the defensive call, players will move around. Against spread teams, the stud end (last season James Gayle and Tyrell Wilson) often moved outside to play a seven-technique; while the defensive tackle and nose tackle often both played one techniques. The defensive end also can play a six-technique. But the stud and defensive tackle are always the left side of the defensive line, and the end and nose are always on the right side of the defensive line (usually the quarterback's blind side).
General school of thought is that offenses tend to run more to the right, so the Stud and Defensive Tackle positions generally have to be a little better at the point of attack and disruptive going straight ahead. The Nose and End tend make most of their plays moving laterally, chasing down plays from the back side. Keep in mind, these tendencies can change game to game based on the opponent's tendencies, but usually Bud Foster plays his best all-around defensive end at the Stud position.
As I wrote in my "Breaking Bud" film review of the Pitt game, Foster will move guys around to break tendencies and surprise the offense. On rare occasions, Foster might flip his ends to get his best pass rusher on the blind side. But, it is very rare. For the most part, Stud and DT are left and Nose and DE are right all game long.
I welcome your questions and feedback. If you would like specific tutorials on terminology, alignments, and responsibilities for a particular position, please let me know!