Why Virginia Tech Football's Bud Foster Is College's Best Defensive Coordinator
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Virginia Tech football’s defensive coordinator, Bud Foster, has been on the job for 18 years now, but he keeps revealing new layers of brilliance to show why he’s the best defensive boss in the country.
The Hokies lost some defensive leaders from a year ago, like linebacker Bruce Taylor and defensive tackle Antoine Hopkins. However, Foster’s blend of excellent talent development and sublime scheme design has Tech’s defense in the top five in the country once more.
The unit is allowing only 256 yards per game, and allows the second fewest yards per play at just 3.97.
Tech leads the nation in both sacks and turnovers and much of this is due to Foster’s ability to perfectly prepare for any opponent.
While the coordinator has been excellent all year, he’s really shone in the way he’s prepared for the Hokies’ last three opponents.
Whether the team has faced the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets’ triple option attack, the North Carolina Tar Heels’ surprising personnel changes or the Pittsburgh Panthers’ explosive passing game, Foster has expertly adjusted to each new scheme.
Fuller Beats the Jackets
Paul Johnson’s offense might be complicated, but Foster has seen this movie before.
Even with just five days of preparation, Foster was able to tailor his defense to completely shut down the Jackets.
In years past, Foster has taken advantage of cornerback Kyle Fuller’s run-stopping abilities to combat Georgia Tech by moving him to whip linebacker, and this year was no different.
It worked like a charm this year, as the Hokies held the Jackets to just 129 yards on the ground, the third lowest total for the team under Johnson.
Fuller played a huge role in the team’s success, largely thanks to Foster’s aggressiveness.
The coordinator relentlessly brought Fuller on run blitzes, and it often paid off.
Just watch the way that the senior blows past the Jackets’ line to disrupt the quarterback-center exchange in this clip.
Fuller made several big plays in the game, but eventually his mere presence on the line instilled fear in the Jackets.
The offensive line racked up false start after false start, largely out of fear of Fuller.
That’s the kind of effect Foster can have on an offense; not only can he completely shut one down, but he can make it question its own strengths.
Adapting on the Fly
Going into the North Carolina game, most people assumed that the Hokies would be facing quarterback Bryn Renner.
But Heels coach Larry Fedora stayed quiet on the matter, leading to a bit of a surprise for Tech, as the Roanoke Times’ Andy Bitter explains.
North Carolina was coy all week about whether Renner would play after he suffered a foot injury last Saturday.
So when did Virginia Tech know that backup Marquise Williams would start in his place?
“We found out when he ran out on the field,” Hokies head coach Frank Beamer said.
Despite the surprise, Foster and his defense didn’t panic.
The coordinator stressed the importance of being prepared for both passers all week, so it was a simple adjustment when Williams entered the game.
Although the backup had never started before, Williams’ high school days indicated that he’d be a threat on the ground.
Williams did end up leading the Heels in rushing with 64 yards, but Foster prevented him from doing any real damage.
The defense committed to stopping the run for the whole game, largely by loading the box with defenders.
This video clip represents a perfect example of how the defense limited Williams.
Not only does Foster keep both linebackers in the box, but he also kept rover Kyoshen Jarrett close to the line.
When combined with the whip linebacker faking press coverage, the defense presents an imposing, confusing threat. Williams knows there will be pressure, but he has no way of knowing where it’s coming from.
But it was all a ruse; everyone but the front seven drops into coverage and the resulting confusion makes Williams hesitate. He takes off to run, but with Jack Tyler assigned to spy the quarterback, he doesn’t make it far.
Williams flashed some impressive skills on the day, but he was no match for Bud Foster.
The Panthers have a potent passing attack, but Foster’s strategies reduced it to ineptitude.
While Pitt quarterback Tom Savage can get the ball downfield, his offensive line hasn’t done a great job of protecting him.
Foster was acutely aware of this information, and adjusted his defense accordingly.
The Virginia Cavaliers were able to rack up seven sacks against the Panthers when they matched up, so Foster took a page out of Jon Tenuta’s playbook.
Everyone around the program knew that Dadi Nicolas had potential, yet he hasn’t had many chances to show what he can do on the field.
He first started to raise eyebrows in spring practice when he beat out redshirt senior J.R. Collins for the starting spot at defensive end. Although the move was largely designed to motivate Collins, it was a sure sign that Nicolas was on Foster’s radar.
So when the coordinator saw an opportunity to use Nicolas’ speed against the Panthers, he seized it.
The gambit paid off in a big way, as the Hokies recorded eight sacks for a loss of 49 yards on the day.
Just watch the way that Nicolas’ presence on the line completely confuses the Panthers’ offensive line in this clip.
No one even makes an attempt at blocking the redshirt sophomore. He simply uses his electric speed to make it to Savage before he can get rid of the ball.
Foster perfectly understood that the Panthers couldn’t take advantage of deep threat receivers Devin Street and Tyler Boyd if Savage didn’t have time to sit in the pocket, and that’s exactly what the defense achieved.
The bottom line is that, no matter the opponent, Foster can adjust his scheme to make even the best offenses look silly.
Although Tech has acquired some great players, they’re made even greater by Foster’s expertise.
As running backs coach Shane Beamer put it, what recruit wouldn’t want to play for him?
Our defense leads the NATION in sacks AND interceptions. If you were a big-time football recruit why would u NOT want 2 play in this system?— Shane Beamer (@CoachSBeamer) October 14, 2013
Foster has another tough opponent to prepare for in the Duke Blue Devils. David Cutcliffe’s offense uses a lot of spread techniques and multiple quarterbacks, so there’s plenty to worry about.
But Hokie fans should feel perfectly at ease because Foster will be ready for anything.
He’s the best defensive coordinator in the country, and he’ll continue to prove that this season.
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