UNLV’s Defense Makes the Transition to a 3-3-5 Stack for 2020



Even though COVID-19 has kept many in their homes and away from work, UNLV’s head football coach Marcus Arroyo has been hard at work putting the finishing touches on his coaching staff.


Coach Arroyo focused mainly on defense and made a solid move naming Peter Hansen as his new defensive coordinator. The ex-Stanford Cardinal linebackers’ coach now has the daunting task of taking over a defense that has been in the bottom half of the Mountain West Conference for many seasons.

The jump from linebackers coach to a DC position seems like a massive step for some skeptics who have felt burned by promising coaching changes in the past; like when former head coach Tony Sanchez chose to part ways with defensive coordinator Kent Baer in favor of a Tim Skipper coming over from Florida and the SEC. Coach Hansen’s resume more than speaks for itself with over 15 years of coaching experience that spans from major Power-5 conferences to the NFL.


Photo Credit: UNLV

For seven years coach Hansen spent time under Vic Fangio, who is now the Broncos head coach. Vic Fangio and Peter Hansen first came into contact at Stanford under head coach Jim Harbaugh. At that time, Stanford went 25-13, going from a 5-7 team with no direction to the 4th ranked team in the nation. They were able to put together the PAC-12’s number 1 ranked defense. They also compiled the best record in school history going 11-1 with a victory in the Orange Bowl against an 11-1 Virginia Tech team that won the ACC.

From there, coach Hansen followed both coaches Fangio and Harbaugh to San Francisco, where they were part of the 2012 Super Bowl team that featured players like future NFL Hall of Famer Patrick Willis, Navarro Bowman, Frank Gore, and Vernon Davis. There they sported one of the most exceptional defensive units of the early 2010s, a group that found itself in the top five in the defensive category every year, giving up as little as 14.3 points per game for an entire season and never missing the playoffs.

After that, Hansen returned to Stanford to again assist with the defense and help the Cardinal win a Pac-12 championship.


With such a pedigree of coaches to have served under, coach Arroyo hit the jackpot bringing in a veteran to run the defense. Next year UNLV will make the switch from a predominately four-man front to a three-man front, similar to the defense at Stanford, formally known as a 3-3-5 stack. 


In this writer’s opinion, this new scheme is going to help UNLV bring itself together defensively—the reason being the type of kid UNLV can and has been recruiting. Unlike Stanford, the academic requirements for admission are substantially less strict. This means Hansen can bring in more athletic and talented kids that are looking for a home. The players at UNLV have already been introduced to the three-man front in small doses, thanks to coach Skipper who implemented a dime package that required three down linemen. Skipper used this set in passing and long yardage situations against passing teams.


Photo Credit: UNLV

Coach Hansen will be coming in with experienced players who understand the base concept of his defense. More importantly, coach Hansen comes to UNLV with a core of very athletic linebackers. In a three-man, other than the nose tackle, the linebackers are the most crucial piece of the scheme. At Stanford, Vic Fangio had players like Shayne Skov and Chase Thomas. Those 2 were linebackers that could move, track the ball, and tackle in the open field. In San Francisco, All-Pro linebackers like Aldon Smith, Navarro Bowman, and the great Patrick Willis made plays all over the field.

At UNLV they have a player like veteran mike linebacker, Farrell Hester II. He is an extremely talented middle linebacker. Hester II can make plays sideline to sideline and gives the defense a starting point. When you add players like Vic Viramontes, another high motor player at the linebacker position, and redshirt freshman Malakai Salu (who was high on Tony Sanchez’s list of promising young players), it only makes the defensive change more promising.


With the three-man front, versatility, and many packages to choose from, coach Hansen will have his pick of the litter going into his first season as a play-caller.


Hopes and expectations are high for the 40-year-old coach even though this will be his first year as a defensive coordinator. Hansen has experienced the highest of highs in the sport and has seen firsthand what it takes to create and maintain a dominant defense that performs at a high level. With Hansen in charge, the future is bright for the struggling Rebel defense.

3-3-5 stack   3-3-5 stack   3-3-5 stack   3-3-5 stack   3-3-5 stack   3-3-5 stack   3-3-5 stack 3-3-5 stack  

-JaRon Turner – Franchise Sports Media

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