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The New High Tempo Offense

One of the more exciting aspects of the new offense will be the pace they play at. Can the Hokies carry over Fuente's up-tempo success at Memphis to Blacksburg?

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In the spring game, the offense clocked in a play about every 12 seconds. Once you realize how much that happens in those 12 seconds, it surely seems Fuente's offense will move at warp speed come game one against Liberty.  The new, up-tempo offense has Hokie fans everywhere just as excited to watch as the players are to play in the new high-tempo offense.

As common sense will tell you, the more plays you run, the more yards you gain. The more yards you gain, the more points you score -€” usually. Tempo will certainly help the offense start this cycle, as it results in more plays run over the course of the game. We know that Fuente also wants to push the tempo as much as possible to not only score points in bunches, but to also get the offense in a rhythm and wear out defenses quickly.

There is the entire quantity vs. quality argument when it comes to running plays. Coaches worry about quantity once their team ascertains a particular level of quality. There is no point in practicing plays repeatedly and as fast as possible if you can't get them right. There may not be a better recent example than the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015. Former Oregon coach Chip Kelly loved to play fast and push the tempo, but the offense failed to execute their plays correctly, both due to a lack of talent and a lack of concentration (they led the NFL in drop percentage last season). As a result, the team often went three-and-out in a very short amount of real time which put the defense in a stressful position.

However, there is hope that the tempo will be effective in Blacksburg. In 2015 under Fuente, Memphis averaged 80.2 plays run per game, ranking 18th in the country.  The Tigers also averaged 6.0 yards per play (30th in NCAA), showing that the team was still efficient even while playing with tempo.

Another element of using tempo which is fairly obvious, but often overlooked, is conditioning. This is especially true for offensive lineman. It is important to have depth at the skill positions, because they can be rotated in and out of the game if one gets tired. On the other hand, linemen typically are in the game from the first snap to the last. Once your body gets tired, you are more prone to mistakes, especially mental mistakes. For linemen, this means missing blocks, not holding double teams long enough, or simply losing quickness which is necessary when dealing with edge rushers. All of these are examples of fatal mistakes that will end drives early, either with a punt or a turnover. This is why conditioning for linemen is so crucial to running an up-tempo offense.

Luckily, Fuente will inherit an offensive line that has experience playing in an up-tempo system. The Hokies ran 75 plays per game in 2015 and 76.9 plays per game in 2014, which means there won't be -€” or at least shouldn't be -€” a rough transition as the players acclimate themselves to the speed of the offense. However, the Hokies were nowhere near as good with their execution, only averaging 4.9 yards per play in 2015. That is what really needs to change. Tempo won't do Virginia Tech much good if they continue to average a low yards per play total. Granted, the offensive scheme did not help, and injuries added to the hardships the Hokies' have encountered the last two seasons.

As the QB battle comes to a close, it's more mental than anything else at this point. Who can process information, both from the coaches and the defense, faster and make the smart decision based on that information? In a no-huddle offense, this becomes far more critical. In a span of 15-20 seconds, the QB must ensure every player is lined up correctly, read the defense pre-snap, and change the play if needed (although it remains to be seen if that will be a liberty Fuente chooses to give his QB). And this all happens before the ball is snapped.

Between Motley, Evans, and now Josh Jackson, there will be an emphasis on going through this process correctly. The good news is that during the spring game, the tempo was the least of the concerns for each QB that was on the field. Every quarterback did a solid job of getting the offense lined up and got the snap off quickly. Doing it in a live game with the bullets flying will be a different story, but it looks all three QBs currently vying for the starting spot have the capability to lead this fast-paced offense down the field.

While the starting quarterback is still undetermined, expect to see an improvement in the Hokies' offense, especially when they do decide to push the pace. Fuente's offense at Memphis was very good when up-tempo, and that should carry over with the Hokies.