sure I reacted the same as most Hokie fans. When the schedule came out earlier
this year, I looked at the Monday night game to start the season against Boise
St and then I looked at the four game stretch in November to close the season.
First up on that four game closing stretch was Georgia Tech. I’m sure I speak
for all Hokie fans when I say that I am relieved to get past GT with a victory
in hand. The Jackets played one of their best games of the season, but it wasn’t
enough to steal a Thursday night win in Lane Stadium. It was Virginia Tech that
pulled out the 28-21 win to further secure the top spot in the ACC’s Coastal
The main questions going into the game was how would Bud Foster game plan
against Paul Johnson’s flex option offense, and how would the Tech offense
prepare for another look at an Al Groh 3-4 defense?
Let’s take a look …
VT Defense vs. GT Offense
Foster’s group has now faced Paul Johnson’s version of the option offense three
times. The first two times, Foster went with a game plan that was heavily
oriented to 8-man fronts in order to get more players near the line of
scrimmage. Made sense right? Johnson’s offense is heavily run-oriented, and
getting more defenders up close is a proven way to defend the run.
Getting that many defenders near the line of scrimmage is particularly
effective in defending the dive option. The first two years, GT had a real
weapon at the B-back spot in Jonathan Dwyer. Foster’s first priority was to
contain Dwyer and force QB Josh Nesbitt to go away from the dive option. It
worked the first year, but overplaying the dive creates a weakness on the
perimeter and GT was able to exploit that weakness last year in Atlanta.
Let’s dig a little deeper into that before we discuss how Foster game-planned
the Jackets last Thursday night. With an 8-man front, the defense had to play
with a single safety in the middle of the field. That safety was Kam Chancellor.
Depending on the defensive call, Chancellor was responsible for the force on
some plays (assigned to the QB) and he was assigned to the pitch option on the
other plays. With the Whip and Rover up at the line of scrimmage, the theory was
that Foster could use his DT’s and a LB on the A-gap dive and his DE’s and a LB
on the B-gap dive.
Johnson was able to exploit that approach last season by releasing his
A-backs down the field to block the safety out of the pitch option. Their angle
outside then back inside (arc release) made if very difficult for Chancellor to
defend the pitch given his starting position in the middle of the field.
The 8-man front also meant man coverage on the outside by the two corners, so
it was easy for the GT receivers to run the corners down the field and prevent
them from providing consistent help defending the pitch option or the rocket
sweeps. The net was that Johnson found options that gave his offense numbers
advantages on the outside. The DT’s were inside defending the A-gap dive, the DE’s
were angling inside to defend the B-gap dive and the QB midline. Because the DE’s
were defending a dive option, the GT OT’s were able to get to the 2nd level and
block the two inside LB’s (Mike and Backer), preventing them from getting to the
edge to be an extra defender against the QB/pitch on the standard triple option.
With the corners run off, that left the Whip and FS on one side and the Rover
and FS on the other side against the QB, pitch/rocket option and the A-back arc
releasing to block that FS.
Very tough situation for sure. Going into the game Thursday night, Foster had
to alter his plan to provide more balance in order to better defend the
perimeter options. It helped that Jonathan Dwyer had moved on. Anthony Allen is
a good player, but he isn’t at the level as Dwyer at that key B-back spot.
Meaning what? Foster did not overplay the dive option this time; instead, he
used an alignment that focused equally on each of the options — the dives
inside, the QB force and the pitch/rocket sweep options on the perimeter.
How did he do that? Let’s dig into this year’s plan in more detail.
First, the plan was completely different from what Foster had used the last
two years. The most obvious difference was the
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