Enough talking about the Wildcat. It's time for Mark Mangino and the Jayhawks to get down to defending it.
Fortunately for the Jayhawks, I believe the 4-2-5 alignment will be as good as any at containing Damion Fletcher when he lines up behind center for the Golden Eagles. We'll see plenty of looks from the defense to keep Fletcher thinking, but there are a few things I expect to see every time he is lined up to take a snap.
The key to defending the Wildcat will lie in KU's defensive front. Unfortunately for the team's defensive line, it does not involve penetration. Penetration frees up blockers to move to the second level of the defense, and I doubt that Jake Laptad and Maxwell Onyegbule will have much success catching a crafty-fast veteran like Fletcher in an empty backfield.
Rather, the job of the defensive line on Saturday (against the Wildcat, at least) will be centered on occupying blockers.
Because the Wildcat is football in its purest form, allowing your best playmaker to run where his blockers are, Laptad and company should focus on taking numbers away from Southern Miss. Our four-man front consistently keeping five offensive linemen busy is a simple but very important step in the right direction.
Doing so allows the D to man up on everyone (Fletcher as the quarterback included) and leaves an extra defender to work with.
Generally, the Golden Eagles will also have running back Tory Harrison on the field. However, he is bigger but slower than Fletcher, so I'm assuming that Drew Dudley will watch him while Arist Wright (if healthy) or Huldon Tharp will draw the Fletcher assignment.
The extra man, whether it is Dudley, Thornton, Stuckey, or Strozier, could play a safety zone, a QB spy, blitz to the play-side like a monster back, or simply double up on Fletcher from the opposite side of Tharp of Wright.
Speaking of safeties, the role of the entire secondary is crucial. They will be spread out and forced to keep gadgetry in the back of their minds. They must stay disciplined and play their man/stay at home until the play moves past the line of scrimmage.
However, Fletcher is a running back and not a quarterback for a reason. Simply have the secondary play tighter to the line of scrimmage and line up inside of their man. This puts the corners and safeties in a better position to help the run defense.
Plus, any wide receiver or running back who "surprises" KU with a pass will have to make the difficult throw over and outside of the coverage.
This brings me to my final point, which is the actual quarterback. Many times, the Eagles will line him up at receiver as a gadget gimmick or a decoy. Equally as many times, defenders forget that he is no longer safeguarded by silly pocket rules.
I'm not a fan of playing dirty, but that quarterback is now fair game. Instead of slacking off of him because he's no threat or worrying about a lateral, corners should actually use the five yards they're given. Maxwell and Jake would kill for that type of opportunity.
Push him, pop him, and get into his head. I'd have my corners hit the quarterback behind the line of scrimmage any time he dared to step away from his protection by the O-line and officials. Unless Austin Davis is secretly a shifty and gifted route runner, getting to him before he can be a part of some trickery play won't be too difficult or risky.
I'm no defensive genius and probably won't be mistaken for one anytime soon, but a lot of things in football are common sense.
These just seem like things that KU and every team defending the Wildcat would be prudent to try, and I expect to see them executed this Saturday.