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Rutgers Football: Introducing the Quarters Defense

Chris Ash brought the 'quarters' defense to Columbus in 2014, and the Buckeyes saw immediate improvement upon his arrival. Since Ash's arrival there in 2014, the Buckeyes have improved from being ranked 47th, to 19th, and 10th respectively under his tutelage on defense. One can only hope his defensive scheme has the same success in Piscataway.

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Chris Ash has brought excitement, potential, and hope to a program that has suffered through some extremely difficult times both on and off the field most recently. Ash provides the birth of a new era for Rutgers football, and it's something that, from what I've seen so far, has everyone fired up and ready to see the Scarlet Knights get back on the field.

Ash was hired mainly for the success he brought to Columbus with the Buckeyes during his two-year tenure under Urban Meyer. Ash is known as a defensive-minded coach with a specific scheme that he feels works best against some of the nation's top offenses; and has proven so. Ash works primarily out of the 4-3, and (successfully) utilizes what is called the "quarters" coverage scheme. We've decided to go 'coach' here at On The Banks, and give the readers an in-depth x's and o's view of what they'll likely be seeing next fall at High Point Solutions on Saturdays.

Coach Ash will primarily run the 4-3 "over" defense as his base, and utilize different blitz and coverage packages around that. The 'quarters' verbiage is related to a specific coverage, which has been a staple of the successful defenses that Ash has utilized to reap rewards for his defensive units at Wisconsin, Arkansas, and most recently Ohio State.

You'll see below what the 4-3 over base defense looks like:

The 4-3 over front is designed to defensively match the speed of the offense. The outside alignment of the ends in this front prevent them from double-teams, which allow them a more sure-fire path to the ball carrier. With your pass rushers free from double teams, it allows the SAM and WILL backers to play outside on the edge, and dominate outside the hashes. This defense is designed and utilized best when your EDGE presence is dominant.

You can also see here, the 'quarters' coverage, and what strengths and weaknesses it brings to a defense:


Once you read through the base fundamentals of the 'quarters' coverage assignments, you'll notice that it's very much a reactionary coverage scheme. The front four is tasked with maintaining the line of scrimmage through gap responsibility, while the WILL and SAM are responsible for basically any are outside of the tackle box, primarily the "flat" coverage.

The corners play off the receiver, unlike a press coverage assignment, where they'll normally line up directly in front of the receiver. The benefit with this coverage is to prevent success in the downfield passing game, but it does provide for successful check downs, draws, and screen usage from the offense. With off-the-ball corners, you leave your offense open to a successful short passing game. One of the primary benefits of this coverage, is the help from the two-high safeties. The safeties and corners work in unison together in this scheme, so there's essentially double the support in the run game or short passing game.

The success of the 'quarters' coverage is based more around fundamentals and assignment fulfillment more so than it is technique and player skill. If you're able to "lock down" your assignment area, more often than not, you'll eradicate any chance of penetration from the offense.

The quarters coverage allows the defense to adjust to any offensive formation through checks coming from the safeties. One essential rule of thumb in the quarters coverage is that either side (free and strong safeties) are independent of each other within the scheme. The base check from the safeties will be what's called the "read check" which you can see below:

The "read" check gives the defense the ability to put anywhere from eight to nine men in the box, for maximum run support.

You'll see the free safety's responsibility in the "read" coverage is to 'read' the end man on the line of scrimmage, or in football verbiage the EMOLS. The free safety will read from the EMOLS inside to the quarterback to check for run, in which case he will come down into the box for run support. The free safety's first step is forward, for run support, and then will back pedal into protection coverage where he plays high over the LC, or left cornerback.

Here you can see other coverage responsibilities out of the 'read' check:

Here you'll see coverage responsibilities out of the "alert" check:

Out of the 'alert' check, you'll see a more wide-base alignment from the back seven defenders, giving the defense more protection from the deep and outside passing game, but leaving themselves vulnerable inside. The strong safety, or in this diagram the 'S' player, is playing a deep assignment, lined up anywhere from 12-14 yards of the LOS, and is responsible for protection over the top of the right cornerback, protecting the vertical route, but does have to maintain an eye check on any inside slant or in routes.

Again, here's more coverage responsibilities out of the 'alert' read:

Andy Benoit of Football Outsiders describes in his piece here exactly what responsibilities the secondary has. Andy does a great job of breaking down and deciphering the nuances of the quarters coverage and just how intricate of a scheme it really is:

We're still learning about just how exactly Ash will utilize the quarters defense specifically with Rutgers, but with what we have here so far, we've at the very least gained a foundational understanding of how the Scarlet Knights defense could look in 2016 and forward after that. It's exciting to think what players like Kiy Hester Darius Hamilton, and Anthony Cioffi could do in this defense, and we hope to see more players on the roster rise up and become intricate parts of this new defensive scheme. We look forward to bringing our On The Banks readers more in-depth analysis of what they'll be seeing in the new Ash era. We're looking forward to improving our coverage of the Scarlet Knights, and look forward to educating both ourselves and the readers with everything new that's coming to #RFootball.

For the latest Rutgers football and recruiting news, follow Chris on twitter @DoughertyCFB. Chris is also a Crystal Ball analyst for 247Sports.

(Note: Thanks to Joe Daniel, and Andy Benoit for making select images and notes available for this piece)