So maybe it’s time to admit it: defensive players have the coolest position names in college football. I mean, if you look at the SEC, which is arguably the best conferences in the nation, you can find names like “Ramses”, “Pitbull”, “Blackmail”, “Zeb”, “Bammer”, “Rook”, “Ziggy”, “Husky”, and “Piranha” to name a few. But in the Pac-12, the names are almost always lame: “Duck”, “Dawg”, “Bear”, “Rabbit”, “Bunny”, “Coyote”, “Lucky”, “Grizzly”, “Jaguar”, “Tiger”,
Defensive players have the coolest position names in college football. Unlike their offensive counterparts, who are typically named after birds, flowers, colors, or animals, defensive players are often named after things that are thought to be protective, or safe, like fireman (the position in which safety Julius Peppers played for the Green Bay Packers), or police (linebacker Danny Trevathan played for the Denver Broncos). The defensive position of safety is the only one that has never been named after a defensive player.
Like I said before, I’m not writing this blog for the purpose of boosting my own ego or ego-stroking my own ego. I’m writing this blog because I believe my research will prove interesting to people who like to know more about the college football scene. And that’s where you come in: I want to know what you think about the position names of defensive players. What do you think are the coolest position names in college football?. Read more about high school football positions and let us know what you think.When Tim DeRuyter arrived at Texas A&M in 2010 as the Aggies’ new defensive coordinator, he had an unusual idea. He wanted his quarterback, a hermaphrodite of a linebacker and defender, to have a slight edge on, well, the lead. He looked to Batman for inspiration.
I think it should be called Joker, but I don’t know, DeRuyter told his team. He’s just a guy with wild hair who can drive people crazy.
The problem was that he wasn’t sure how the midfielder would take being called a clown. Charles McMillian, a former defensive coach who knew a star player who was destined for the position, quickly assuaged those fears.
Oh, it’s Vaughn Miller, DeRuyter remembers saying. It must be the joker.
Of course Miller accepted, won the Butkus Award as the best halfback in the country and was picked second in the 2011 NFL Draft. After a decade in which he was one of the NFL’s best pass rushers and an eight-time Pro Bowler, Miller suffered an ankle injury last year that ended the season and necessitated surgery. He turned his scar into a Joker tattoo.
Vaughn Miller played the Joker at Texas A&M and later got a Joker tattoo when he played in the NFL. Patrick Greene/Icon SMI
Ten years later, there have never been so many strange position names in college football, due to the need to create many defensive complexes to counter pass-based offenses. According to Sports Info Solutions, there were over 75,000 defensive snaps in college football games last season. Of those, there were five or more defenders on the field 92% of the time. Gone are the days of three or four linebackers, three or four linebackers, two cornerbacks and two safeties. If you browse the depth maps these days, you’ll come across these basic elements, but also spikes and stars, vipers and bandits, or snipers, attackers and flares. Not even a bubo.
Terminology has always been subject to change or the whims of the coach. In the 1950s, Penn State coach Rip Engle used a 52-man monster defense, with five linebackers and a strong safety, called a monster back. But Engle thought it was a pejorative term, so he decided to rename it Back of a Hero, and the tradition continued for decades.
But for the more technical types, the terminology was pretty standard. In a 4-3 scheme, central midfielder Mike. Will is on the weak side, Sam is on the strong side. In a 3-4 scheme, there is another middle, often called Jack, who is used as an extreme pass rusher.
In the early 1990s, the addition of a fifth defender, or nickel back, opened up new names. Nick Saban, who was then Bill Belichick’s assistant in Cleveland, called him a star. Once a sixth defender (dime pack) was added to the team, they called his money back to stay on topic.
The star is really Sam, so he wanted the C-word for that position, Saban stated in 2012. If you put in six men, whether it’s a reserve midfielder or a sixth defender, we’ve had pennies, nickels and dimes. Different monetary terms. That’s why we call it the silver position.
The stars are everywhere now: If you look at all the FBS spring depth charts, you’ll see that 14 teams consider this position designated, which is most hybrid titles. A few others are often used: Bandit and Buck are the names of midfielders listed on 10 different teams, while Rover is more of a midfielder/defender combination that is equally common. But there is also a lot of mixing and matching. Navy calls Raider, Striker and Bandit. Florida State has a fox, a stallion and a female. BYU is playing with Cinco, Flash and Rover.
BYU defensive coordinator Elisa Tuiaki tried to explain how this happened.
So Flash, Nickel and Synco are actually in the same place on the field, but with different bodies, he explained, saying it’s a way to rank players based on different packages.
But here’s how it went: Dave Aranda, now head coach at Baylor, used Cinco at Wisconsin when he was defensive coordinator. Chad Kauha’aha’a, the Bajers’ defensive line coach, brought the title to Oregon State when Tuiaki worked there, and Tuiaki took it to BYU. Assistant head coach/safety Ed Lamb said one of his safeties was a flashback to his time at Southern Utah. So head coach Kalani Sitake and Tuiaki took the job known as Spike when they worked for Kyle Whittingham at Utah and renamed it Flush at BYU. Does it all make sense?
We sit here, working as coaches, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking. This seems to be the hardest part.
Graduate assistants often help with in-depth research.
If someone wrote a thesaurus with words beginning with S or W [for strong or weak] or R or L for right or left, you could make a billion dollars selling it to every football coach in the world, said Miami coach Manny Diaz. Sometimes you’ll be surprised how brainstorming can lead to something that starts with one of these letters.
In the case of BYU, there’s even an element of competition.
Everyone is fighting for the right to name something, Tuiaki said. I studied English, Coach Lamb studied English, and Kalani studied English, so we sat there and discussed what things should be called and why. I think it takes the way we made things to another level.
Some choose the more direct route and rely on school spirit. Since 1998, when he was head coach of New Mexico, Rocky Long played with Brian Urlacher at a position called Lobo back, and the Lobos (Long returned last year as defensive coordinator) still use that name. One of Long’s former players and assistants, Zach Arnett, who is now Mississippi State’s defensive coordinator, used this technique and called his version Bulldog.
Across the country, depth maps show males, dogs, spurs, bulls and poppies. Georgia Southern has an anchor, Iowa has money. Indiana has a husky and a bull. USF a Leo.
These names do not even necessarily refer to the same place on the field. Even at the same school. West Virginia bandits in the early 2000s were security guards. Under current coach Neil Brown, the Bandits look more like a combination of midfielder and defender.
There’s also Temple, who has a midfielder known as Bubo. To explain, the Owls published this star note in a recent media guide: BUBO is a species of owl that is considered the largest, strongest and most ferocious.
Who wouldn’t want to be the smartest of all owls?
Or maybe you want to be named after a deadly snake. Under former defensive coordinator Don Brown, Michigan used a Viper, especially embodied by Jabrill Peppers, who became a Heisman finalist. When defensive line coach Greg Mattison left Ohio State to become defensive coordinator, he introduced a similar position known as the Bullet, a reference to the Silver Bullet nickname the Bucs use to refer to their defense. Finally, it would be inappropriate to have the same names in both schools.
These are two examples of the more aggressive terminology that seems to be the trend in developments. Troy and West Virginia have a position called Lance. Under Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia occasionally hit someone with the sword (named after the swords on the logo). Former USC defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast called his defender a predator.
Kayvon Thibodeau will be Oregon’s wild card this season. Jordon Kelly/Icon Sportswire
We’re going to hear a lot of interesting things about the Joker this year. In his first season at Oregon, DeRuyter has once again found the perfect candidate for the job in Keiwon Thibodeau, the country’s No. 1 recruit in 2019 who says he wants to win the Heisman this season. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s considered a dedicated defender in Miller’s former role.
And why pick a rookie as a midfielder when you can pick him as a striker?
You want to pretend you have a cool job, Diaz says. Nobody wants to be a poodle.
That’s why he chose Striker for his center field/safety hybrid a few years ago, right?
It was actually pretty funny: [in the spring of 2018] we were discussing a lot of names, and at one point a striker came up. They interviewed one of the guys who played that position. And him: Yeah, now I’m their scorer.
So we said: Well, I think we should call him a striker now. Once he saw the light of day, there was no turning back.
Tom Bradley, who played hero back at Penn State and then coached him as a regular assistant, called Tuckarist McKinley, who later became a first-round pick, a Razorback when he was defensive coordinator at UCLA. Must be a cool story.
I don’t remember why, Bradley said. It was just a title that someone came up with, and I said: Okay, that’s good.
No matter what names came up, all coaches agreed they would stay, maybe with more adjustments. But that’s a credit to the defensive coaches. The offense still has wide receivers, running backs and tight ends. The only place the lineup is starting to permeate the game is at the H-back position, a hybrid of tight end and fullback. Pat Fitzgerald of Northwestern University called his superbacks. In the state of Oklahoma, they are known as cowboy backs.
Lincoln Riley points out that Oklahoma is probably the most normal team in America that plays by pretty normal rules, calling their best midfielder a best midfielder. But he has heard the calls from his players and said he might one day use that name for his H-backs, a position he uses often.
You know what, they offered it, he said. This happens from time to time. And maybe we’ll get a cooler name than H-backs. If we had to change one thing about the offense, that would be it. If they’ve read this, I’ll have to think of something.
Mississippi State coach Mike Leach, who certainly used the name a lot in his Air Raid offense at Iowa Wesleyan, understands the value of a catchy name.
We want to inspire everyone, Leach said. My God, we have a Twarmajig here, how do they survive? That’s what makes it exciting.
But that doesn’t mean he’s ready to rethink the names of his inside and outside receivers.
Mike Leach has named his entire offense, but isn’t ready to deal with position names just yet. Sean Gardner/Getty Images
We either have to come up with a cool name or accept that these defenders have more time on their hands and certainly like to do something useful like change names, he said.
Tuiaki laughed when asked what the difference was between nickel and shinko, when both were simply synonymous with the number five.
I never thought about playing nickel and shinko until you brought it up now. Maybe we should be a little more aggressive in what you say: Hey, look, you’re gonna be the Terminator!
At Coastal Carolina, defensive coordinator Chad Staggs understands why creative names can attract recruits, but he’s not sure it’s worth it.
I think people will start labeling it to get people to start the recruitment process, he said. But if you sit here and say I’m going to change it to what it’s called, and we’re going to rewrite every letter in the playbook, redo everything, and learn to call it that….. It will probably help us, but it’s a lot of work for the sake of it.
But perhaps it would be willing to revise its current terminology.
We need something on the M side, he said, thinking about how to set up his central midfield with an old-school Teddy Gallagher flow. Mike’s can be described as a mullet. Our Mike has a hair band.
Muse Staggs is already on board.
That would be great, says Gallagher. All Mikeys on the team have to go with a haircut. Because you can’t go there with a donkey and not have a donkey, you know?College football is a fun game. It’s a game of chance, and you have the opportunity to make your mark. But it doesn’t always pay your bills, and sometimes you just get stuck. That’s when you’ll need to perform.. Read more about college football 100 days and let us know what you think.
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