Virginia Tech Spring Game Video Review, Part 2: The Schemes

Virginia Tech
Today we’ll look at some offensive and defensive schemes from the Virginia Tech Spring Game. (Jon Fleming)

The Spring Game finally pulled back the curtains on what Virginia Tech has been working on. In the big picture, we saw stripped down versions of the Joe Morehead offense and the Brent Pry defense. That’s what I expected to see, though I’ll admit to feeling a little relief—after writing thousands of words on these schemes, it’d be just my luck to see them roll out with something completely different.

Superficially, the offense and defense didn’t look very different from what Tech trotted out in the Fuente era. The offense had a lot of spread-gun formations with a TE at wingback, while the defense had personnel and alignments on the field that were almost identical to what we saw last year. The big differences—reads, terminology, play-calling, etc.—are “under the hood.” Still, there were some key things I looked for, both in terms of what I expected in play calls and the limitations inherent to a Spring Game.

Virginia Tech Offense 

Inside Zone Reigns Supreme

I didn’t chart plays, but just about every running call in the first half was a version of Inside Zone. I think I’ll do a piece just on this play in a little bit because it’s that stinkin’ important. But for now, think of Inside Zone as the Swiss Army knife of football plays because of how adaptable it is. It was the core of the Morehead offense, and it was an even greater part of Coach Glenn’s offense. Here, it forms part of a triple-option call:

The core of zone running is that most or all of the blockers attack in the same direction that the back is heading to. That might seem counter-intuitive—why would you push the defense into the runner?—but good zone blocking puts a lot of stress on the defense to be perfect across large swaths of field, which can be a much bigger problem than opening up a single hole, as older schemes tried to do.

On this play, most of the blockers all block to the left, creating a wall of bodies for the running back to get behind. The exception is TE Nick Gallo, who releases to the flat. Quarterback Grant Wells sees the right defensive end go with the run, so the signal-caller goes to his second option, which is a sprint-out throw to Gallo. The TE’s covered, so Wells keeps for what would’ve been a nice gain.

West Coast Wiggle

Speaking of quarterbacks on the move, Morehead comes from the West Coast branch of passing game attacks, and we saw Bowen channeling his mentor in the Spring Game. Everyone uses a pile of West Coast route concepts, so that’s not exactly a distinctive trait for the Hokies. Moving the quarterback around, though, isn’t quite as typical, and the West Coast scheme was one of the first offenses to really think about moving the pocket. We saw both Wells and Jason Brown throwing on the run and breaking the pocket wide, whereas in prior years you’d be more likely to see QBs turn the same situations into runs up the middle.

Here’s a play similar to the first video. The routes are deeper, so Wells gets a little more depth: