I wrote a big piece on that is now up at SB Nation as part of our preseason preview.
Going into that piece I figured I more or less knew the subject matter like the back of my hand since the emergence of the nickel defense is something that has defined the game since I began watching it with adult eyes. However something I hadn’t really thought through and found fascinating was how defenses needed more than to adjust their personnel but to adjust their playbooks.
The 2006 Ohio State defense had a nickel package mostly built around the assumption that they were playing defense on a passing down and not a standard down. Both the Texas Longhorns and the Florida Gators did some real damage to them (I know, I know, Texas didn’t score much but they ran for over 200 yards). The Longhorns did it with a spread run game while the Gators ripped them up with a quick passing game from spread sets.
Nowadays the dime package is the new nickel package. If you don’t have a good, robust dime package that gets good players on the field and has multiple options for countering different offensive strategies, you can get into trouble. A nickel package can include options for stuffing a big, power offense as Gary Patterson has demonstrated for years. But you need a dime package for handling the more intense spread sets.
I think one thing that both Matt Rhule/Phil Snow and Todd Orlando will bring to the Big 12 that will be very valuable to their programs is such a dime package. Meanwhile, the future of football defense may even be base dime, which can look a few different ways, but more on that for another time.