Scouting Report: NC State

 

Virginia Tech

This might be the most ambiguous evaluation I’ve had to make. On the front end, there’s the impact of prior quarantines/isolations on reviewing the game; based on NC State’s depth chart, it looks like they’re running out the same group against Tech, but there’s no way of knowing for sure until they take the field. On the back end, last year’s State film wasn’t much help—they have new schemes, new coaches, and a healthy roster. After chipping away at these guys for a while, this year’s film looks like our best shot for getting any specific understanding of what’s going on with these guys, so that’s where I’ll focus. This will be Coach Fuente’s first time facing a Dave Doeren-coached team since the Rose Bowl, when Doeren served as Wisconsin’s defensive coordinator.  Let’s see what he’s up against.

Offense

This is Tim Beck’s first season as OC for the Wolfpack. I only knew him for getting demoted at Texas, though from watching his squad’s work against Wake Forest and some old UT and Ohio State games, he seems to be your standard collegiate OC when it comes to broad strokes of scheme and calls.

The Outside Zone was the workhorse play of the night for State. Here’s the first time we saw it, with the Pack in 2nd and long on their opening drive:

It’s almost a flashback to the Denver Broncos when Terrell Davis was there, with the backside of the line cutting and the tailback getting fast to the edge. The play has three paths for the back. If the TE hooks the end, the back takes it wide. If the TE fails, the back takes it inside around the tackle. If there’s congestion or over-pursuit by the defense, a deep cutback can be a third option. The cut blocks on the back of the play can give fronts fits by allowing a deep cutback, so Tech’s DTs better have quick hands and feet.

On the same drive, NC State went to it again; watch what happens to Ryan Smenda (#5), a pretty good linebacker for the Deacs: 

At the bottom of the screen, that’s a tight end (Dylan Parham, #28) split wide to help with blocking the edge.

It took a few quarters for Wake Forest to begin stopping the play, but even then the Outside Zone had breakouts. It also set things up for Inside Zone:

NC State does a good job of messing with back alignments to keep defenses from keying plays based on where the RB is set up. In the first clip, the back’s more at Inside Zone alignment by being tight and behind the QB, and in the second the back shifts at the very last second into a more traditional Outside Zone alignment that has him farther away and more inline with the QB. Add this to the success the OZ had, I almost can’t blame Wake Forest for running themselves out of the play here. The Pack also ran the QB version of the play, much like Hokie fans saw with Quincy Patterson last season:

Later in the game I saw more Split Zone from them.

The second thing that jumped out at me was the misdirection and gadgetry they had. They had Bone formations for the shovel sweep, ran stalk-and-go plays, had the TEs regularly faking blocks before releasing on routes, and motioned the QB out of the backfield not just for direct snaps to the RB, but for pop passes, too: