June 24, 2018

Tilted Nose Perfect for Hogs, Johnson

Taiwan Johnson (Photo by Michael Woods)The news we heard last week that sophomore Taiwan Johnson had displaced DeMarcus Hodge at first team nose tackle didn’t make complete sense until we saw the Hogs scrimmage on Saturday.

Under the direction of new defensive coordinator Robb Smith, who was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season, the Razorbacks 4-3 defense showed a ‘tilted nose look’ with their nose tackle – a technique that is employed by many NFL defensive fronts today.

The tilted nose goes back to the mid-1970s when Chuck Knoll was first assembling his ‘Steel Curtain’ defense that eventually won four Super Bowl titles.  Mean Joe Greene was one of the Steelers defensive tackles, and sometime during the 1974 season drew tired of the constant double teams he would receive when playing the guard ‘straight up’.

By attacking the center from an angle, Green found that he could use his speed and quickness off the ball to knife in between the guard-center gap, and create havoc in the backfield more easily.

Blocking schemes were greatly impacted by the change as well, and ironically the technique drew even more double teams as a result.  That ended up working out ok though as a rangy, undersized linebacker named Jack Lambert was able to roam free in the middle of that stifling defense, and ended up being a Hall of Famer as a result.

Tony Dungy, from his playing days with the Steelers, implemented that twist to his Tampa Bay defenses as a head coach in the late 1990s, and Greg Schiano brought the technique back to Tampa in 2012-13 when Robb Smith was his linebackers coach in 2013.

Tilted Nose

When we saw Taiwan Johnson (6-3, 255) playing the tilted nose technique Saturday, we realized immediately that Smith is on to something here.  Johnson is much quicker and faster than the powerful DeMarcus Hodge (6-1, 330).  The tilted look is not about holding blocks and/or holding ground.  It’s an aggressive move that attempts to be disruptive and free linebackers to make plays.

Don’t get us wrong…there will be many times this season where the Hogs desperately need Hodge and his 700-pound squat to hold the line.  But if the goal is to increase the aggressiveness and speed of this defense, then this is a golden move.