Practice observations: Offense starting spring at a higher level

The media was allowed to watch practice for the first four sessions on Thursday afternoon.  That comes out to around 30 minutes.  Honestly, there’s not a lot you can take from such little viewing time, particularly when the players aren’t even practicing in pads.

All that being typed, is it worth writing an article about?  Absolutely!  One main thing stood out to me yesterday, so I’ll discuss it, and then fill out the article will smaller observations.

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Starting point of the offense has jumped forward

Last spring, the starting point of the offense was ground zero.  As Willie Byrn said after practice yesterday, they were working on huddling properly at this point last spring.  They literally started at the bottom and worked their way up.

“It’s night and day,” Mark Leal said when asked to compare the first day of practice this spring to the first day last spring. “Last year at this time we were kind of all over the place.  Everybody was learning the offense because it was brand new.  We have a lot of our older, veteran guys back, so everything was able to run a lot smoother today.”

The offense was very limited last spring, particularly the running game.  The Hokies basically installed two running plays at the beginning of the spring, an outside zone to the left and an outside zone to the right.  Scot Loeffler will say they only installed one running play, because that one play can be run to either side of the field.  Whether you consider it one or two plays, you’ve got to admit that’s a pretty limited package, and it’s also the most basic of running play outside of a regular ISO up the middle.

Things have come a long way in one year.  The first session in which the offense worked together as a unit, they weren’t huddling.  They were getting up to the line of scrimmage and running the play as quickly as possible (they weren’t practicing against a defense…they were just running the play to get their timing down).

Don’t misinterpret that and think Virginia Tech is going to run a no-huddle offense this year.  I very much doubt that’s the case.  I’m just using it as an example to show that the offense has made great strides in the past 12 months.  They couldn’t huddle properly (not properly enough for Scot Loeffler, at least) at this time last year, and this year they already have the base offense installed and they can move up to the line of scrimmage quickly without huddling and still get the play off.

Running a no-huddle offense in a session like that is a way of testing the quarterbacks as well.  Everything is moving fast, and they have to get up to the line of scrimmage quickly and make the play call.  That’s tough on guys like Brenden Motley and Andrew Ford, who don’t have much experience.  They are being thrown right into the fire.

This year, Tech’s returning offensive players enter spring practice already knowing the plays, terminologies, routes, schemes, etc.  The coaches don’t have to wait around while the players learn.  They learned the offense last year.  Now it’s a matter of executing better, improving at fundamentals, and expanding the offense.

Naturally, young guys like Andrew Ford and Marshawn Williams have some catching up to do, but that’s exactly why they decided to enroll a semester early.

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