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Virginia Tech Hokies vs. Miami Hurricanes: Five Things Tech Must Do

The Hokies are heading down to Coral Gables for the annual confrontation with our old rivals and foes the University of Miami (FL) Hurricanes. Neither team is much good this season, the team that can out mediocre the other might just get this one. We preview the “Stumble Bowl” starting with Five Things that Tech needs to accomplish.

McClease with a reasonable carry
John Schneider - SB Nation

Maybe, given the circumstances, we could reduce the list to three things, but that would make for a tragically short article, and not leave us with much hope, at all. We’ll leave the Hurricane drill down to Bryan, this one is looking for five positive things that the Hokies can do, given their current configuration, to improve their chances of winning this football game.

Get Five to 8 Yards on 1st Down

The Virginia Tech non-Offense has been hamstrung by its repeated mopes into 3rd down and long situations. This means the Hokies need to change to executing plays designed to get a minimum of five yards, optimally eight yards, on first downs. Folks, this is the primary beef with the play calling and game planning. The Hokie coaching staff keeps trying to execute plays that they do not have the personnel to run. Running between the tackles is a function of power football, and no one is accusing the Virginia Tech Hokie Offense of being a four yards and a cloud of tire shreds deal. This team does not have a power back. It does not have a power drive blocking offensive line. Choosing plays that fit the personnel, and executing properly should be the goal. Thant means 3 second pass game is essential. (Fuente seems to use the term “3 - Step” - which is missing a critical fact base.) No matter who the quarterback is, the strength of this team is the 6 potential receivers that could be hit on each play if the execution time is kept to less than 4 seconds.

Ultimately the goal should be to grab enough yards on first down that there are more options for play selection on 2nd and reasonable distances. If this team is making 1st downs on 2nd and 5 or less, then the team will move the ball and there will be fewer mistakes made.

Put in Three Linebackers

The results are in, and the world is completely unimpressed by the Hokie Defensive front four. They are good in short stretches for stopping the run at the line of scrimmage, but there is no natural ability with four men rushing to put any quality pressure on the quarterback. Our Tackles are too small, and our ends are too. Throw a curve ball in the mix, and build some pressure by playing 2 Mikes with Dax and Rayshard. Put Tisdale outside as a Will/Whip. He has proven that he can cover underneath, and frankly he’s a better outside linebacker than Dax. If Ashby and Hollifield are in the formation together, that gives two alternating, or combining blitzing linebackers to increase the pressure without sacrificing an defensive back.

As a FWIW, it’s a wrinkle that Miami’s limited play planning will not have accounted for and can be done without blowing up regular coverages. Frankly, it can’t hurt, and there may be some surprises. Dax is a great kid, and a real spark plug on defense, but he’s not an outside linebacker. So, don’t use him that way. With everything else in fail mode, it’s worth a shot.

Put in Hooker, or Patterson (whoever is healthiest) and Run the Offense

If Ryan Willis is playing hurt then he’s doing no one any favors. Also, he’s got some serious weaknesses as a pocket passer that the analysts have all noticed. That means defenses have noticed, too. If he gets pressure that he can’t deal with his accuracy evaporates. It’s a precipitous drop off, to boot. Willis is gold in the pocket when the O-Line can keep the monsters away but he has issues getting past the 2nd checkdown. Blow that 2nd read when he’s got nowhere to run, and the results are way less than happy.

So, just like Frank Beamer did with Sean Glennon (he of the concrete galoshes) it’s time to put in someone who can play one read and go offense. Back then, it was Tyrod. Which one is it now; Hooker or Patterson? Choose, and lose the pocket. Hey, at least if either of them are in, they can run the Cheeto and are more likely to keep the ball of the end crashes.

Run the Bear Front, not that Empty A-Gap Set

The defensive line is too small, (see above for the 3-LB approach) and sadly it’s sort of slow as well. Stop playing a wide A-Gap set. Put Hewitt on the Center, have him play a one gap technique with the 2nd Mike covering the other Gap. Fix the outside Tackle to the long side A/B Boundary to play a modified 2-gap technique. That will fill four holes on the LOS. Move the Speed Rush Defensive End back and forth to cover the short side. If Charly hasn’t taught his linemen to pay both sides then shame on everyone. This is an emergency situation and mixing it up is critical to being different enough that it presents a problem for Miami’s audible calls. Interchange Hollifield and Ashby to essentially perform the role of the 3rd inside lineman. Shake it up enough that it’s difficult for anyone to predict who it’s going to be. (That’s the importance of getting the NOSE TACKLE... back into position to actually play NOSE TACKLE.)

Suffice it to say, there has to be quality consistent pressure on their very inexperienced quarterback, along with a shutdown of their running game. It’s just going to take a re-alignment.

Attack the Miami Defense

If there is an urge to check off and run a dud play into the line of scrimmage because something didn’t look right; then there was a serious failure. The offense should be adjusted for each play series, not by pattern, play count, or reaction to the defensive formation. It would be better just to huddle up, than going to the line... stopping and gaping at people waving and gesticulating. It’s not working anymore. Defenses will just adjust what they were going to do, and do something else. Select the play and audible that will attack the defense where you want to attack it, and run the play without interruption. If you want to huddle, then huddle up, but don’t stop the momentum to perform the passive aggressive reaction to what, if I were the opposing DC, would be a base defense decoy.

In short, the Hokies need to run their two minute offense the entire game.

Run Outside with Speed, not Jets

The Jet Sweep is cool, once in a while. It is now completely expected and doped out. It’s time to put it in the “old idea” section of the ring binder. It should almost never be run on the short side of the field anyway. Use the wide side of the formation. This team, since 2016, has completely neglected the wide side of the field. It used to look like it was a limitation of Jackson’s arm, but now it’s become obvious that there is a serious play calling hole that is not accounting for that critical part of the football field... this is especially so in the red zone. Use the entire field available and make the defense string out to cover it. McClease isn’t a barn burner but he is quick enough to get outside and cut up field. King is definitely fast enough. Put Keene in to be a lead blocker and run plays to the wide side... roll the quarterback out.. that puts a WR and a Slot along with two tight ends in the pattern. Talk about a consistent RPO opportunity. Well that all evaporates when you run into the tiny box on the short side of the field.

Oh? A final note to Fuente at the Pressers

Coach. You have a problem. Your game planning is a problem, and so is your tactical play calling. Don’t hide behind the typical losing coach... “I know better than you” gig... We aren’t stupid, and we can actually see. Oh? and yeah, one more little thing. Put the danged water bottle away, blow your nose before you get in front of the press, and talk to Hokie Nation in English... not coach talk. You’ve nearly lost your knowledgeable fans. Remember the rule of holes.