Breaking the Bear

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Virginia Tech's Ronny Vandyke pursues Ohio State's Ezekiel Elliott.
Virginia Tech’s Ronny Vandyke pursues Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott.

You can measure coaches’ confidence in their talent by their play calling. Monday night, Ohio State called plays to win matchups, while Virginia Tech called plays intended to misdirect opposing players or dictate schemes. This was especially true when Tech was on defense.

It’s easy to identify a Bear front from the stands or on television because of the cluster of down defenders covering the center and covering/shading the guards. On a defensive schematic, the outer defensive tackles are often labeled with the letter ‘T’ while the interior tackle is labeled with an ‘N’ for nose, so the alignment has been called a ‘TNT’ front, which is easier to remember and likewise aids in identifying the formation.

But being Hokie fans, I don’t have to tell you that – you know pretty well what the Bear looks like.

This TNT alignment keeps offensive linemen from double-teaming and pulling in the run game. If a guard or center steps down or playside to double-team, he’ll leave the defensive tackle in front of him unblocked. If he pulls, he’ll have a defender in his back pocket in a prime position to make a tackle for a loss. Of the OSU run-game’s core plays, inside zones and zone-reads are built on double-teams, and their power, power-veer, and counter plays rely on pulling linemen. (It also helps gum-up the midline option, but that’s traditionally more of an issue versus Georgia Tech.)

The Bear also has an inherent weakness. Bunching big-bodied defenders around the football makes it easier to run-off