Mustang Package Key to Victory
Strategy plays to LSU defense’s speed advantage
By Carter BryantPosted Oct 24, 2012
LSU Defensive Coordinator John Chavis let his prized thoroughbreds out of the stable versus Texas A&M.
Super freshman quarterback Johnny “Football” Manziel had driven the football down the Tigers’ throats. The Aggies had two drives of 12 plays to start the game. The first resulted in a touchdown, the second a field goal.
“His ability to stretch the play was amazing. You think you got a sack, then he starts scrambling,” safety Eric Reid said of Manziel. “He’s certainly one of the best [quarterbacks] I’ve seen.”
LSU Defensive Coordinator John Chavis had to make an adjustment.
“We wanted to pressure them more, and it’s easier to pressure them out of our Mustang package,” said The Chief.
The Mustang package is one of the best-kept secrets in college football. The key is simple: get as much speed on the field as possible.
The “Mustang” is a 3-2-6 formation and a variation of what is called a “Dime” package. The “3,” “2,” and “6” represent the number of defensive linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs that are on the field at one time.
In the first two series, LSU played 22 of 24 plays in non-Mustang formation on defense. Those drives were 75 and 66 yards, both resulting in points. After Chavis switched to the Mustang for most of the remainder of the game, the Aggies averaged less than 20 yards per drive.
“[Chavis] put the young guys in there, told them that we were going to depend on them,” Reid said. “They grew up tremendously for us today.”
The Tigers used three freshmen in the Mustang package. Jalen Collins, Micah Eugene, and Jalen Mills all played crucial roles in the system.
Mills had proven himself this season by playing in all formations. Eugene and Collins play exclusively in nickel and dime packages. Collins got his first interception of the season and Eugene was effective in chasing down Manziel on broken plays. The defense has also been nearly unstoppable this year for the Tigers because of the defensive line and linebackers.
LSU used the Mustang formation to create a crucial sack for Sam Montgomery versus South Carolina in the fourth quarter. The same goes for Barkevious Mingo last week. Linebackers Kevin Minter and Lamin Barrow combined for 20 tackles, with Minter winning Walter Camp defensive player of the week.
Taking out a defensive lineman and putting in a defensive back gave Manziel another defender to worry about in the secondary. It also made it more difficult for Manziel to run away from defenders because of the added speed in the secondary.
But this formation is nothing new for the Tigers. LSU has used this formation effectively the last two years, with no player benefitting more from it than Tyrann Mathieu. A high percentage of Mathieu’s takeaways came out of the Mustang. With Mathieu out, the Tigers had to rely on youth to fill in the gap.
This genius of Chavis has helped create an impenetrable defense. It is the defensive version of Chip Kelly’s innovative up-tempo spread offense in Oregon. Chavis, like Kelly, puts as much speed on the field as possible. It’s difficult for opponents to match.
This defense gets considerably less national recognition than it should. Of course, Chavis has the depth, speed, and strength to make it work. Still, nobody gets more out of his players than he does.
The defense matches up better against teams that run the spread, like Texas A&M and Oregon. A pro-style offense, such as Alabama, makes it difficult. Although, the Tigers played some Mustang and created some havoc versus the Crimson Tide last year.
If Chavis hadn’t made the switch to the Mustang at Kyle Field, the Aggies could easily have run up the score on the Tigers, and LSU could be heading into its bye week with two losses.