From time to time I go back and reread what I consider the “classic” ultimate articles: Moonee’s Conceptual Ultimate Series and Parinella’s Tip of the Week Series. It’s amazing how much of that stuff is still relevant. In any event, I was recently reading the Conceptual Ultimate Series and came across this comment from Moonee, “Even force-middle seems like a gift to a good offensive team.” I remembered this comment from when I read this series the first time, and as a result I was always biased against force middle as I was a developing player. At this point, however, I’ve come to believe that man force middle by a defense that communicates well is the single most disruptive defensive strategy against a straight stack offense.The reason for this is that it eliminates the continuation cuts down the sidelines that are the lifeblood of most straight stack offenses. Furthermore, force middle is famously effective against DoG’s sideline isolation offense. As I look back at this article it makes me wonder what made Moonee make this comment. Was DoG’s offense different in 95/96? Is Moonee trying to pull some sort of slight of hand mind trick here, where he convinces everyone to stop foricing middle? Were teams just generally more proficient against force-middle in the old days because they were less reliant on continuation cuts due to the fact that most teams forced straight up?
In any event, I’d like to talk briefly about the force-middle switch defense – what it is, why it’s effective, and how to attack it.
What is it?
Essentially the defense is man force middle with a couple of wrinkles. First, the dump defender poaches into the open lane for the first five counts and then hustles back to play smothering dump defense at stalling five. Second the defenders in the front of the stack look to poach when the opportunity presents itself. Third the deepest defender looks to play center-fieldish really making sure that the bomb is difficult.
Why does it work?
Straight stack offenses work well when three things are happening: 1)they are getting good force side continuation cuts 2)they are effectively moving the frisbee to the breakside via the dump swing and 3)they are getting good deep looks. This defensive effectively restricts all three of these straight-stack strengths. Always forcing the disc to the middle of the field goes a long way to eliminating force-side continuation because the force-side is constantly changing. To put it in the terms of my cutting article, you’re always forcing the other teams’ cutters to make type 1 (primary) cuts, which are generally more difficult to get open on than type 2 (continuation) cuts. The dump, swing, continue is generally less effective against this style of defense because the offense gains no tactical advantage by moving the frisbee to the opposite side of the field. Additionally, the defense is basically given a free poacher because they aren’t concerned about the dump happening early in the count. The dump poacher clamps down at stalling five when most teams start looking for the dump. The bomb is made unappealing by the constant deep poacher. The defense has the additional advantage of being uncommonly played and many teams are not sure what to do against it.
How to attack it
1) The first thing you want to do is get your dump in a position where he can be dangerous. Move him over the break side of the mark. Make the dump poacher choose – do I want to give that dump a few seconds of open throw time and help out in the poach lane or do I want to abandon the poach lane and not allow the dump to get a free throw off. If they continue to leave the dump open have your cutters look to time their cuts more off the pass to the dump (who has moved into a threatening position) and less off the guy who actually has the disc. In my experience most defenses will abandoned the poach and just cover the dump if he moves into a scary place.
2) Don’t abandon the deep ball. The defense is definitely looking to shut down the deep game with this kind of defense. Don’t give it up without a fight. A lot of times I see teams just stop making deep cuts against this defense. That’s a bad idea, keep putting pressure on that deep defender. This is particularly true in college where half the time you just throw jump balls anyway. Keep sending your stud receivers to the house.
3) Move the disc quickly. Think about when you’re running a homey with quick short passes against force-middle. It’s so easy. The reason is that the defender has to run farther to set up on the mark than in traditional force flick or force middle. Use that to your advantage.
4) Don’t be afraid to cut off the front of the stack. I know this is sacrilege to a lot of people but it kind of goes hand in hand with number 3. If your making quick short, plinko style passes often times the best place to cut from is close to the disc. Additionally, don’t forget that the downfield defenders are having to constantly switch which side of their man to cover. The closer the cutter is to the frisbee, the less time a defender has to make up the distance.
5)Utilize the invert break, but don’t get cocky. The marker is going to be overrunning the thrower time and time again to stop the around pass. The invert break will be available often. However, don’t get too reliant on it because the poachers on the front of the stack will start looking for you to throw it.
Anyway, that’s about all I got on that. As usual please let me know what you think.