The job title is Wolf.
The job description seems better suited for a superhero.
Georgia State’s new 4-2-5 defensive scheme features a hybrid position that’s a cross between a cornerback, a safety and linebacker. The position, known as Wolf, must be able to cover the small and fast slot receivers in the three and four wide receivers sets that are en vogue, or step up and take on a 220-pound running back rampaging through a hole.
That’s not all.
The decision to go with the receiver or move up in run support or even blitz off the edge must be made in the same time it takes you to read a tweet.
“It’s the best position on the field,” Akeen Felder said.
Felder is one of the players, along with D’Mario Gunn, Bryan Williams and Mitchell Vinson, who will be playing the challenging position for the Panthers this season.
“You’re involved in the run game and the pass game,” Felder said. “You have a lot of freedom to make plays.”
Defensive coordinator Anthony Midget didn’t invent the 4-2-5 or the “Wolf.” Like most everything else in football, it’s a recycled system that’s becoming more popular as offenses try to spread the field to create gaps in defenses. The position is also known as Bandit, Stinger or Rover.
Midget played in the system when he was an All-American defensive back at Virginia Tech in the late 1990s.
Texas Christian, Virginia Tech and South Carolina have used versions in recent years to great success. The Horned Frogs led the nation in total defense in 2008 (217.77 yards per game), ’09 (239.69) and ’10 (228.46).
The defense was going to be installed by former coordinator John Thompson. But he resigned to accept a similar position at Arkansas State. Midget was promoted and decided to stick with the scheme, saying it could take advantage of the team’s speed.
Midget twice went to Blacksburg in the offseason to visit defensive coordinator Bud Foster, and also travelled to Columbia, S.C., where Lorenzo Ward, his former position coach at Virginia Tech, now runs the Gamecocks’ defense, to re-acquaint himself with the principles.
“Coach Ward told me was if I can get them lined up and running to the ball that’s half the battle,” Midget said.
Offensive and defensive situations will dictate where the Wolf lines up. He will usually start on the wide side of the field. His first read will be the slot receiver, but he will line up so that he can also watch the player lined up on the end of the line of scrimmage, either a tight end or tackle, and the quarterback.
The Wolf isn’t supposed to let the slot receiver get outside of him, unless he sees that the play is going to be a run. If it’s a run, he has to beat the receiver’s block and pursue the ball-carrier.
Assistant coach Jason French, who oversees the linebackers and the Wolf, said the players are picking up the reads well through the first two weeks of August’s practices.
Though there are read responsibilities, it’s a more aggressive system than the 3-4 the team ran most of the previous two years. The Panthers have a lot of room to improve after giving up 403.3 yards per game, including 222.7 passing yards and 180.5 rushing yards, last season.
“[It] gives you more freedom,” Felder said. “You can play faster. You can make more plays rather than me sitting in the box and reading things and letting a 300-pounder get up on me.”
Gunn and Felder bring different strengths.
Gunn played in the secondary last year, so he’s used to covering receivers.
“It’s blitzing and playing man, pretty much all the stuff I love to do,” Gunn said.
Curry said it will be evident that Wolf is effective if opponents are having a hard time on the perimeter, where he said the “Wes Welker’s and Harry Douglas’s” are thriving.
“It’s a guy that can make plays in the open field, make plays in a big pile, that’s not intimidated by a big offensive lineman, he can take them on stuff because he’s a better athlete and can get underneath and yet he can line up in the slot and cover No. 3,” Curry said. “It demands a lot.”
– Doug Roberson, AJC. Pleasae follow me on twitter @ajcgsu