The Revamped Offense with 11 Solid Receivers and 2 Starting Backs
Hold on to your marking pens and paper depth charts, because this one is going to be interesting. The coaching staff has made some “enlightened” choices that lead one to believe that there is more up their sleeve than just a standard list of the starting players and backups. Some of these groups are going to present some serious challenges to the opposition.
Hokie Offense for Game 1 - ODU
|Benji Gosnell or Dae'Quan Wright
Non-QB Skill Positions
Catching the Rock
The first thing that you notice right away (because I put them there, but besides that) is the names and number of positions at Wide Receiver (WR). The key is easy to decode, btw. -1 is #1 in the depth chart and -2 is number two. What you are seeing is a full, capable wide receiver corps of 4 starting receivers and 4 #2s who play like 1s. Tech hasn’t had even four across the board for over a decade, and certainly we have never had eight quality receivers available to line up.
This means that we are going to see lots of position swapping and substitutions. The current #1s might or might not be permanent, but they certainly are interesting. Da’Quan Felton and Jaylin Lane earning the nods for the starting pair is an interesting development. Ali Jennings for the W3 spot makes perfect sense and the big surprise is that Stephen Gosnell stepped up huge to earn the #1 nod for the W4 slot. Remember, not all of them will be on the field all the time, and the named “starter” doesn’t count for much more than some applause in the pregame announcements. The usage of these players will be dictated by the formation and play being called. It’s important to remember that this coaching staff is fond of packaging their players into sub-groups to be moved in and out of the game as the situation demands. This group of eight gives Tyler Bowen a huge opportunity to sew confusion and implement the passing portion of the Power Spread.
The Tight End position stack is not a surprise, at all. Nick Gallo is an excellent blocker, and a capable receiver. There are lots of plays in this offense where the TE is a hot read on an RPO, or the 1st check before hitting the emergency button. The interesting note is that the TE2 Position has two #1’s. It looks like Benji Gosnell might be joining his brother (more about this at the end because it’s really cool, and I don’t think it’s ever happened) on the field and Dae’Quan Wright in the mix at the same level.
Toting the Rock
No surprise here, Bhayshul Tuten is listed as the #1 running back with Malachi Thomas taking up the #2 slot. As long as both stay healthy, they are the best one-two punch that we’ve had in a generation or maybe more. Let’s not discount the other backs, but these two were tracked and nothing short of an injury disaster was going to disrupt this particular move. The coaches have repeatedly stated that getting the running game going is a primary goal for them. There are many people who will argue that choice with force. Modern football is a passing game, not a running game. Running is brutally inefficient and cannot score enough points fast enough to keep up with a quality passing attack. But the Power Spread, even though it’s supposed to be a simplified variation of the Air Raid) depends on being able to run the ball effectively because the RPOs and Play-Action Passes depend on it. We’ll see if these two backs can open up the run and enable the passing game.
Remember the 85/65 is in the Line
Here comes the part that is making most football junkies’ scalps itch. No, it’s not the QB situation, we all really knew what that was going to be, for better or worse. We just really need to see if the essentially brand new and very young offensive line can step up and perform. Remember the rule that the Offensive Line is 85% of the running game and 65% of the passing game. It’s no joke. That list of players in those positions will probably all play at more than a few times in the season. The #1s aren’t particularly surprising. Left Tackle and Guard are assigned to Xavier Chaplin and Braelin Moore respectively. Chaplin roared past the spring roster to earn the number 1 spot, and Moore just seemed to fit. His brother, Kaden Moore is the starting Center. Right Guard and Tackle are covered by Bob Schick and a finally healthy Parker Clements. The backups for those starters look to be capable, and far less of a drop off than the team faced the last couple of seasons. The main issue will continue to be the reality that this line configuration is new, and the experience level is low. There are good players in the mix and it’s up to them to make a difference as a unit. If they win their battles in the trenches, this team stands a chance of recovery.
Last but not Least
So, there was a quarterback competition in the offseason. It was hyped as the big contest to potentially replace the current situation with another situation. With Grant Wells being an offensive captain in 2022, the whole “thing” was frankly awkward, and with the exception of trying to get Wells to concentrate on getting better. Pry’s “Competition Theory” of player development, sets up the need for a contest between the two presumed starting quality quarterbacks. Now, from the looks of things, #2 Kyron Drones worked out with the starting players, and hashed through starting offensive practices. That’s a good thing because QBs are targets and run heavy R-O/RPO offenses are going to beat them up. Having a #2 who can run most of the offense, and even add a variation or wrinkle to the opposition’s game plan is a good bet. The reality is, though that Drones’s passing skills weren’t rising to the level the coaching staff wanted to see. He can certainly operate the RO, and that’s where we are likely to see him if he does get on the field. He’ll likely be playing a variation of the old ‘Wild Turkey’ offense. It might work, or it might be a keyed, predictable disaster. No one really knows until the O-Line proves that it can block so it doesn’t matter.
Suffice it to say that Grant Wells is a Captain, again, and “The Man”, again. Let us hope that Bowen has fixed his sights, and his defensive reading skills. Again, if the O-Line and the Running game can get going Wells can be limited to open passing lanes and easy downfield reads.
We will see how it goes in the first four offensive series of the game.