Breaking down film with Dickinson State defensive coordinator Jason Thier from their fall scrimmage.

With football season in full swing, Dickinson State defensive coordinator Jason Thier settled in to watch film with his unit and critique their performance from the previous nights fall scrimmage.

The defense is replacing several key figures from last season, so the film session is a chance to teach players and help them visually see where they need to improve.

“Whenever we are reviewing practice film, it is all about did they line up in the right place, are their eyes in the right place, and did they use the right technique,” Thier said. “That is the main thing. We want to see if they were able to execute what we asked them to do. It isn’t so much about the other team and what they are doing, it’s about if are we doing the right things.”

Thier stresses effort and conditioning to his players based off of what he sees on film. The defense played well to start the scrimmage, which included an interception, but as the plays piled up in the heat and sun, it was evident to him that the defense became tired.

One of the things that he stresses is for his players to communicate with each other.


Communication is key because the whole unit needs to understand the personnel that the offense is running on each play.

Thier makes the calls for his defense based on the information that he has before the ball is snapped. Personnel and down and distance are major contributing factors in the decision of the play call.

“We will always know the personnel. Are they in 11 personnel, 20 personnel or 10 personnel? 11 is one running back and one tight end; 10 is one running back and no tight ends; 20 is two running backs and no tight ends. The first number is the running back and the second is tight ends. Teams will have tendencies based on their personnel,” Thier said. “If they are 11 personnel, then they really like to run the ball. If they are 10 personnel, then they really like to throw the ball. That will help dictate what we call. The other things we take into account are down and distance. If it is first and 10, then it is probably 50-50 run pass. If it is 2nd and 1, then there is a good chance they may take as shot (at a long pass), because it is a free down. If it is third and 10, then there is a good chance they will throw.”

Halfway through the session, a play comes up on the video where the defense needed to “fit” the run better, and this is a chance for Thier to see if his squad understands what went wrong.

Players have gaps that they are assigned to fill on each play. The A gap is the gap that is between the center and guard. The B gap is between guard and tackle, and the C gap is between the tackle and tight end. To fit the run, players must attack the right gap and understand if they are a force player or a spill player. Force players force the runner inside of them, while spill players make the ball go outside.

“If we always have somebody coming from outside in and inside out, then they are forcing the ball to each other, and one of them can make the play,” said Thier.

A few plays later, the Dickinson State defense has the offense behind the chains in a third and long. Thier talks about how the rushers on the edge of the defensive line need to widen their alignment. The goal for the defense is to put the opposing offensive tackle in a vulnerable position. Since it is third and long, it is safe to say that the offense will drop back to throw the ball. The wider the edge rushers are, then the more that stresses the offensive tackle. The big offensive linemen don’t want to be in space, and when the defense widens, the tackles kick out to block the edge which can potentially open the interior lanes to rush the passer.

Being a defensive play caller is all about being unpredictable. Bringing five guys to rush the passer on every third and long isn’t ideal, because the offense can pick up on those tendencies and the defense will be susceptible to a halfback draw or screen pass.


In addition to being unpredictable, hiding coverages and blitzes pre-snap is key.

“When the (opposing offense) has to try and guess what we are going to do, now we have an advantage,” said Thier. “We may have four different calls on our play sheet for a certain situation. One could be four man rush, one could be five man rush and another may be a three man rush. They may all look exactly the same pre-snap, but post-snap they are different … I like to call (our defense) simply complicated. I like for it to be simple for us, but complicated for them. As soon as it becomes complicated for us, then that isn’t good .”

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