New FAU defensive coordinator Glenn Spencer experienced first hand the sleepless nights those high-powered offenses can induce and intends to take those lessons learned to stiffen an Owls’ defense that’s coming off an uninspired season.
“It started out there, went through some growing pains with it, so a package had to be developed to try to help some of the quarterback run game – the RPOs,” Spencer said.
A couple of those schemes were on display during Saturday’s spring game.
Throughout the spring FAU’s defense operated out of a four-man base front, with two linebackers and a nickel behind them. In certain situations, however, a defensive end will drop from the line of scrimmage to occupy the spot traditionally held by the middle linebacker.
It’s a package Spencer employed successfully last season in his lone year coordinating Charlotte’s defense. FAU coach Lane Kiffin got a good look at it in the season’s final game, when the 49ers allowed FAU to compile 492 yards but only 24 points, handing the Owls a loss that prevented them from becoming bowl eligible.
On Saturday starting defensive end Leighton McCarthy and his backup. David Belvin, filled the hybrid DE/LB role.
“Those guys have caught onto that pretty good,” Spencer said.
FAU’s defensive line generated plenty of pressure on Saturday, but Spencer also threw in some blitzes from the secondary – another package he employed in as Oklahoma St.’s defensive coordinator from 2013-2017.
“It’s kind of, whatever’s working,” Spencer said. “I think there’s enough things in our package that, based on what the skills set of what our kids can do, you do.”
The Cowboys won 10 games in four of the five years Spencer coordinated their defense, including in 2017. Oklahoma St. ranked No. 73 out of 129 teams in total defense and No. 86 in scoring defense that year, and coach Mike Gundy let Spencer go following the season.
Oklahoma St. allowed 21.6 points per game in 2013, Spencer’s first season coordinating, which ranked No. 19 nationally. In the years that followed those rankings dropped to No. 100, No. 86 and No. 65 while trying to stop high octane offenses at Baylor, Texas Tech, West Virginia and Oklahoma.
“You don’t have the sexy numbers when you’re going against those things.” Spencer said. “When your offense goes fast, you don’t. A thing we did do out there, we learned how to win games. Bottom line, last time I checked, that’s what it was all about. So hopefully I can help us do that.”
Spencer coached the Gray team on Saturday, losing 17-16 to the Red team coached by former NFL defensive guru and current FAU defensive analyst Monte Kiffin.
Entering his 31st season in coaching Spencer will get to apply a new tool to stopping the uptempo spread offenses that have infiltrated Conference USA – the mind of Monte.
Lane Kiffin is allowing Spencer the freedom to create an Owls’ defense based on principles collected during those Big 12 growing pains.
“He’s letting us as a defensive staff build this package together,” Spencer said. “Part of that is Monte – a man I respect tremendously. I did not know him before I came down here. I leaned on him, He’s got a lot of knowledge. He’s great for me. He’s going to be great for us. He’s going to be a huge part of our success this year.”