A Closer Look At Ron Crook, Part 1

Virginia Tech, Ron Crook
Ron Crook is Virginia Tech’s new offensive line coach. (Ivan Morozov)

I think the Hokies made a solid, timely hire in Ron Crook. Virginia Tech needs to stop the bleeding up front, and I think they want to run a stripped-down, option-heavy offense. Bob Wylie (an offensive line coach who’s sort of a guru when it comes to coaching the OL) calls Crook a great teacher, and Crook has a reputation for making good meals out of other coaches’ seemingly mundane leftovers. That said, I think we could see some decent play from the OL right away. Crook is also an Inside Zone guy with stops at WVU and Cincinnati, which were two schools that have pushed the option game.

So, Inside Zone is his play of choice, and it’s what he likes talking about. He has his blockers identify their guys with a count system, and at the snap, those blockers try to drive the defense into the second level with footwork and technique that’s very much like man/base blocking. Once the defense is moving (or if a defender shoots sideways at the snap), Crook teaches his guys to stick to the defender and mirror his movements. It’s sort of an “ATTACK ATTACK go with the flow” approach.

I’ll admit this description warms my heart, because it’s basically how I was taught IZ about a quarter of a century ago. As a reader, I’d forgive you for thinking it’s an approach that might be long in the tooth, though I don’t think it’s an out-of-date concept at all, but as admitted, I’m biased.

Talking chalk, the drive-block approach tends to create more vertical seams around the A- and B-gaps, and fewer bend and bounce opportunities. A team that worries more about covering gaps can end up with a muddle in the middle, but better chances at busting a run to either side. I didn’t get a good feel for what the Hokies tried to do last year, so I don’t know how well this compares.