I was thinking about football, and offense, and "Beaker", and it occurred to me that the thing that we've been missing ever since Jeff King played his last football game in a Hokie uniform, has been a corps of receiving Tight Ends, and an offense that actually takes advantage of them.
Please, I mean no offense to the wonderful Greg Boone, I being one of tens of thousands of Hokie fans hollering "BOOOONNNNe!!!!" when the young tight end took to the field and was given something "interesting to do". He was, after all, the first "Wild Turkey" having done the high school quarterback thing in a prior life.
We have lived through a decade of not having a tight end that has garnered any interest by the NFL. Maybe that's not such a good thing, Jeff King had a solid career and is now looking at doing something else with his life. I would like to remind you that professional offenses are beginning to feature TE's in their regular offensive schemes. Over the decade that Tech has virtually ignored the position, the NFL has been graced with the Chargers' Antonio Gates, Pittsburgh has Wahoo Heath Miller, There is Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez, and the Pitty-Pats cannot win much without Gronk. As to the not too distant past who can forget Shannon Sharpe - the non-tight end Tight End?
So what does all of this have to do with "Beaker", Bunsen Honeydew's forever immolating lab assistant? Well the Tight End when used to the position's greatest effect is not only an offensive weapon of first resort, but few quarterbacks of any note will refuse a big tall sure handed target to get a critical 6 to 8 yards as the play breaks down, and the quarterback starts to feel that his hair is on fire.
Brady is an average QB without Belichick's Tight End heavy offense, and Gronkowski's amazing athleticism. I still maintain that if there was no Gronkowski in 2014, there was no Lombardi insult by being awarded to the Pitty-Pats.
So, Coach TMF, how are you going to pull off this major shift in offensive thinking? Well, first I have to admit that it is "offensive thinking and theory" and that's something in pretty thin supply over at the Merriman Center of late. This team desperately needs a core offensive theory and a strategy to go with it. Well, if we can't dominate with the Packer Sweep, and the Diesel running Counter Trey or 70 Chip, maybe we can be audacious and use what we have in abundance to push the ball down the field at a more impressive clip? Perhaps, a pace where "schedule" is more like 6 to 8 yards on first down?
So, we have a short - ok, he's way taller than I am, but he's still short by most QB standards - Michael Brewer behind Center. We have an Offensive line that promises to be a tick better than the sieve from last season; one that can pass block for about 4 to 5 seconds with some consistency, and zone block for runs. We won't talk about what it is still not going to be capable of and that's drive blocking for slow developing power running plays (oops did...).
What we do have are two wide receivers maybe one or two in the wings, but we do have THREE big fast guys who can, if used with some level of audacity and imagination, deliver some really consistent ball movement. They might even add a few thrills into the mix. It's high time for Virginia Tech to figure out that the Tight End should be a first choice in play calling, not the guy to be the last ditch third down hair on fire do or die pass receiver for a harried and rushed Michael Brewer.
We have Bucky Hodges (more a Sharpe, less a Miller), who is actually really garnering attention from the NFL -I smell Tony G sorts of things about what he might be capable of; and Ryan Malleck (a classic Heath Miller, Doc Walker TE - good blocking, sure hands, reliable in the drags, crosses, and squats). With a short quarterback needing to move in the pocket, and a need to get the ball downfield PAST the line of scrimmage, it might be useful to promote Hokie Tight Ends from gimmicks and extra Offensive Tackles to actual receivers. I am putting Sam Rogers in the mix because the Full Back position is virtually dead in football, and it's alternative H-Back designation is actually a motioning extra Tight End. Rogers is possessed of good hands, great YAC potential, and a better awareness of what's going on in the backfield. He'd be a quicker conversion to the third TE position.
Of course the remainder of the downfield game is still in play. Ford on a deep (20+ yards but not more than 40 because Brewer might be tough as saddle leather, but his arm is closer to pistol than rifle caliber.) out route is greatly benefited by the need to roll up any two deep safeties to handle the extra big guys under and splitting the zone. All the downfield activity and spread out line blocking will then open up running lanes for Coleman off the edges, Williams (If he's back in good order after ACL rehab), or Travon McMillan running one cut and go counters.
It would all come from a consistent 3 tight end formation, establishing control of the ball for at will gains of between 6 and 8 yards, and one other thing.
Speed; this offense must be able to consistently execute a 10 play drive, without substitutions, and without stopping for anything, including wig wags from the sideline. Someone needs to pull a George Patton, hit the opponent hard, rock him back on his heels, and keep snapping off offensive plays without stop or pause until the goal line is crossed. With those three big receivers under the zone, if you multiply 10 plays by 8 yards you get 80. Eighty yards is usually five deep into the end zone after a touchback on a kick off. Do that with consistency and your team will never lose a football game.
It's time for the Hokie offensive staff to open up, and perhaps open up Chip Kelly's play book, but season heavily with Hodges, Rogers, and Malleck (Throw in Kalvin Cline for good measure, the roster lists 6 TEs).
It's time to be audacious, Frank!
** The "L'Audace" quote is actually from Georges Danton during the French Revolution, and is entirely more subtle than the movie "Patton" and presumably George Patton presented it. But misattributed truths are still truths, nonetheless...