Diagnosing the Running Game

The Hokies continued their winning ways. They were victorious again on Saturday, beating the pesky Pittsburgh Panthers. The defense dominated and the Hokies offense did just enough. Logan Thomas had another solid game, passing for 239 yards with zero turnovers. He also had good success on third down, helping Tech convert 8 of 19 opportunities. The Hokies struggled getting into the end zone, despite venturing into Panther territory multiple times, and once again the running game never got going.

After the game, like many fans, I was disappointed with the rushing attack. With maybe the country's best defense, Loeffler's group needs to be able to run the ball. It's not necessary for the offense to drop 40 points a game, but it does need to score when in the red zone, avoid three-and-outs, and milk the clock when holding a lead. The short passing game isn't going to be consistent enough to accomplish those goals. Thomas has had success in long passing situations the past few games, but being in 3rd-and-long because the ground game isn't working isn't a good formula for success. If the Hokies can improve their ground game, this team will turn into true ACC contenders.

The Offensive Line To Blame?

Whenever an offense struggles to run the ball the first reaction everyone has is to blame the offensive line. And why not? Historically, the teams with the best offensive lines have the best rushing attacks. Those guys up front have one job, and that's to keep defenders off of the guy holding the football. If the runner can't get a yard past the line of scrimmage without running into a tackler, most of the time the offensive line failed to do their job. However, after watching the game multiple times it became evident that the line can improve, but wasn't solely responsible for the poor rushing display.

On occasion, the offensive line is clearly at fault for a running play going nowhere. Here is an example.

00:17:58–00:18:04

Tech goes to an unbalanced line. Normal left tackle Jonathan McLaughlin lines up on the right side of the formation as a tight end next to Brent Benedict, who is at right tackle. On this play, the Hokies are going to run a counter to the weak side of the formation and pull the right guard Andrew Miller to lead block for Edmunds. Benedict has the responsibility of scoop blocking the defensive tackle lined up over top of Miller. It's a tough block, one where Benedict has to explode to his left and get his head in front of the defender. It requires quickness, and Benedict only manages to get his left shoulder on the Panther before the Panther gets the penetration to blow up the running attempt. If Benedict can make that block, then the Hokies have a shot at a touchdown. Tech would later settle for a field goal on this drive.

00:10:32–00:10:37

Here's another play where the o-line should have performed better. Left guard Caleb Farris reaches for the defensive tackle but falls to the ground without making contact. The defensive tackle walks into the backfield and hits Edmunds before he has a chance to get anything going.

Good Blocking Up Front, Miscues Elsewhere

Those two poor blocks were the exception and not the rule though. There were plenty of times when the five big guys did their job but the rushing play still failed. On this play two things go wrong for the Hokies, neither one of them the fault of Grimes' group.

00:04:29–00:04:34

This is a basic sweep play, with two linemen pulling out front for Edmunds. The first problem is Kalvin Cline getting beat by the defensive end. Cline's job is to seal the defensive end to the inside and not allow him to flow towards the sideline. Cline is a true freshman, has been pleasantly productive in the passing game, but doesn't have the Gentrification needed to match up with that defensive end. However, if he makes that block this run probably picks up at least five yards.

Edmunds deciding to bounce the run outside rather than cutting it up and taking what he can get is the second issue. The two offensive linemen are in a good position to kick out both defenders, allowing Trey to cut behind them. With the defensive end getting past Cline and pursuing from behind, Edmunds avoids the contact and tries to beat him to the edge. The perimeter defenders are maintaining their outside leverage though, and Edmunds can't get anything out of the run.

Here's another example of the offensive line not getting a chance to make their blocks.

00:06:19–00:06:24

Cline gets beat again, this time to the inside and he gets pushed deep into the backfield. The defensive end's penetration actually pushes Cline into the path of David Wang, which prevents Wang from beating running back Joel Caleb to the perimeter. If not for the obstacle in his way, Wang would have been in a great position to take on the defender that ultimately tackled Caleb. With more experience, Caleb may have chopped his feet and slowed down enough to allow Wang to get ahead of him but instead, Caleb blows past his blocker and runs right into a defender. These two plays are perfect examples of running plays failing on the perimeter despite decent blocking up the middle.

Kalvin Cline was asked to block on the perimeter a lot. Although he is a gifted receiver, Cline is struggling to handle the defensive end on this sweep play. That's a shame, since this sweep is a great compliment to the Inverted Veer. The linebackers can't flow too quickly towards the sideline or they risk Logan keeping it and running right past them up the middle. If Cline is able to hold his position against that defensive end, the Hokies will have success with this play in the future.

The Read Game

Grimes' unit actually played pretty well in the rushing game. The mass majority of running plays that went for short or negative yardage occurred on the edge, away from the offensive line. When the Hokies did run through the interior, the line usually found the correct men to block and got a decent push. The runs that were sent to the perimeter failed for a number of reasons, none of which were the fault of the big guys up front.

As has been the case over the past couple weeks, the Hokies spent most of Saturday in shotgun or pistol formations. The rushing game consisted almost entirely of Veer (from pistol) and Inverted Veer (from shotgun). The Hokies had some success with the veer in the third quarter, but the first half was a mess. Logan Thomas did have a good game overall, but when running veer he had a few bad reads and took poor angles when running the football early.

On this play Thomas makes the correct read to pull the ball but he tries to bounce his run outside rather than picking up what yardage he can.

00:03:12–00:03:18

Thomas only has to get two yards. For all quarterbacks on the veer, the rule is simple. If the defensive end takes the running back, "pull and replace". "Pull and replace" means take the ball away from the RB and attack the line of scrimmage where the defensive end started the play. Thomas sees the "keep" key and correctly decides to pull the football back, but he doesn't replace the defensive end. Instead, he heads too far outside. Logan's greatest asset when running is his power, not his speed. When the he keeps the ball on a veer play, Thomas could maximize his production by heading north-south as quickly as possible.

Gibson had a pretty good game at right tackle when he was in. Here he does a great job at blocking down and then peeling off to pick up a linebacker on a veer play. If Thomas replaces the defensive end instead of trying to bounce it again, he can cut inside of Gibson and pick up good yardage.

00:06:57–00:07:03

To his credit, after halftime Thomas started hitting those angles much better and started picking up good yardage on the Veer. The blocking by the offensive line is no different for him for him up front. Watch left tackle McLaughlin do an excellent job at blocking down then getting enough of a linebacker to spring Thomas for nine yards. The only difference is the decisiveness with which Logan cuts up field.

00:12:29–00:12:35

The Hokies also struggled to make the correct read on the Veer play at times. Late in the game, the defense holds on a fourth down play and give the offense the ball on the Panther's 35-yard-line. The offense runs on the field, then promptly get behind schedule after a poor read on the veer.

00:17:31–00:17:37

The offensive line does a fine job here. There is no penetration along the line, Benedict at right tackle even does a good job at fighting off through the defensive end to get a block on a linebacker. Thomas has to read the defensive end and hold on to the football though. He gives it up to Edmunds who has very little chance of getting positive yardage. If Thomas keeps it and follows his blockers to the perimeter he can start the drive off with a good pickup on the ground.

Slow Playing The Inverted Veer

The Panthers did a great job at stringing out the Inverted Veer throughout the game. Pittsburgh's defensive ends would stay at home forcing Logan to hand off to the running back, then try and chase down the play from the back side. They would also have their play side safety crash down to attack the outside alley the running back was running towards. Pittsburgh intended on creating a wall on the perimeter which would slow Coleman down enough to allow the inside-out pursuit of the middle linebacker and defensive end to catch him.

00:10:51–00:10:56

Coleman was sometimes quick enough to cut it up field and pick up decent yardage, but he wasn't quite fast enough to threaten the defense with large runs. Loeffler tried to counter the horizontal flow by running some Inverted Veer action, but blocking the defensive end with a flexed tight end/fullback. With the OLB and the safety flowing to the perimeter, the Hokies had the number advantage in the box and Logan picked up decent yardage up the middle. The offensive line did a good job blocking these plays in the third quarter.

00:12:15–00:12:22

Cline does a good job with his defensive end assignment this time, and Farris gets a pancake block on the middle linebacker. This run could have gone for more yardage, but Byrn struggles with the outside linebacker. The OLB holds up Thomas just enough to allow the safety to come over and clean up. Later on in the same drive they would try it again, but get unlucky when Sam Rogers picks up a holding penalty on his down block.

00:12:35–00:12:47

How To Improve

The Hokies have had occasional success in the rushing game, but are far too inconsistent for Loeffler to just pound the rock. If Virginia Tech played Pittsburgh again and called the same exact plays, they could probably double their rushing total if they executed better. If Logan takes the correct angles on those veer runs at the beginning of the game and makes all the right reads, the Hokies pick up a few extra first downs and can continue running the ball instead of throwing. If Kalvin Cline can do a better job at sealing the defensive end on the sweeps, then Edmunds and Caleb put the Hokies in running downs instead of 2nd/3rd and long. If only, if only, if only...

I have been as big a fan of Loeffler's offensive game plans as anybody. Despite the modest offensive output the Hokies have had this year, I've spent almost every game review showing why I believe that his tactics are much better than what we've seen in Blacksburg in the past. He has clearly already made Logan Thomas a better QB, not only because Loeffler brought a grown-up passing scheme with him, but because he has quickly earned Thomas' confidence. Thomas has better mechanics than ever before and his accuracy has unquestionably improved as the season has progressed.

However, I do think that there are some things that Loeffler could do in the rushing game that would improve Virginia Tech's numbers. Loeffler has done a great job at building a spread attack around Thomas's mobility, but he seems to have fallen in love with the read game. Almost every single rush from the shotgun or pistol was a Veer or Inverted Veer play. As noted earlier, he did try some sweeps with Coleman to the outside, but rarely Loeffler used his tailbacks to attack the interior of the defensive line.

The read option game is all about timing and quickness. Coaches have to spend a lot of time teaching the footwork and mesh point to the quarterback and running backs. If the quarterback is step slow making a read it's going to blow up in the team's face and put the offense behind schedule. I'm not saying the Hokies should stop running the Veer and Inverted Veer, but I'm saying the Hokies should be using it less frequently. Running veer and inverted veer this frequently puts the Hokies at a disadvantage in two ways, one schematic and one practical.

Schematically, when a defensive coordinator knows an offense is going to run a certain concept over and over, he can confidently spend the time in practice to come up with multiple ways to defend it. This makes it harder for Loeffler to both identify what the defense is doing and to call the appropriate counters.

Practically, even if the defenders are outnumbered at the point of attack, they've seen the same play so many times that they can rely on their instincts to compensate. Watching the film, it became obvious that Pitt was waiting on Logan to make a decision and then flying to the football. By using the same read plays over and over, the defense got better and better at recognizing what the Hokies were trying to do and beating their man to get to the ball. The funny thing is, Loeffler doesn't even need to rely on the read option as much as he is. There are other, quicker hitting running plays from the shotgun and pistol which would serve as perfect complements to both plays.

Zone Runs From The Spread

Remember when Loeffler and Grimes spent all that time practicing their zone blocking scheme? Go back and read my reviews of the open scrimmages, I was practically pulling my hair out because that was the only running play they ran. Why don't we see that blocking scheme anymore?

It wouldn't be that hard to implement a zone rushing game from the shotgun formation. All the rules that the offensive line learned for zone blocking from under center would still apply. This would be a great way for the offense to attack the middle of the field with their running backs while also slowing down the inside-out pursuit on inverted veer plays.

Let's look at the difference in the pursuit angles linebackers and safeties have to take on an inside zone run vs an inverted veer play.

If Tech runs both of these plays, then the linebackers and safeties won't be as quick to diagnose the play and get in their appropriate gap. The backfield action looks exactly the same, with the running back crossing the face of the QB and receiving a hand off. Bundling the two concepts (inverted veer and inside zone) actually makes both better. In my mind, this is a "no brainer".

From the Pistol, the Hokies are facing a similar problem with their veer package. The defensive ends are consistently taking the dive, allowing the linebackers to aggressively flow towards the sideline on Thomas's keeps. Virginia Tech should be running far more dives than they are. If the linebackers aren't going to attack the line of scrimmage, then a power dive play is open all day. Zone blocking would work just fine, although bringing a linemen across to trap an unblocked defensive end or pulling a tight end into the hole to block a linebacker would be even more effective.

The best rush of the day for the Hokies came on just such a play. Watch both linebackers react late to the run. Attacking outside and inside gaps with your running backs will create that type of hesitation in every defense.

00:14:35–00:14:41

Perspective

Despite the struggles in the rushing game, let's not get too disappointed with our Hokie offense. As fans we always want to see our team put up 50 on our opponents, but don't forget what made Frank Beamer the active leader in career wins: BeamerBall.

If I could summarize BeamerBall in two words, it wouldn't be "Special Teams" or "Dominant Defense" or even "Conservative Offense". No, BeamerBall is about one thing and one thing only: Field Position. Frank Beamer believes that the most important thing in football is controlling field position, and he's probably right. If you have two separate but completely equal teams, the team that ends the game with the better average starting field position is more likely to win.

Beamer tries to steal field position away from opposing teams through superior special teams and an attacking, turnover producing defense. His offenses employ the same "field position first" mentality. In the second half of the game, it was obvious that the Hokies offense went conservative. They ran Logan up the middle more, a play that isn't explosive but consistently picks up positive yardage. Tech rarely threw it down the field since Pitt kept two safeties in the game. Instead, Loeffler focused on the underneath passing routes when he got behind the chains. The only time he really risked an interception was on the third and long plays, and even those routes were the relatively safe "IN" routes.

Despite this conservative approach the Hokies came very close to blowing Pitt out. Let's not forget this throw down the field to an open Willie Byrn that could have easily gone for a touchdown, if Thomas hits him in stride.

00:04:49–00:04:55

That could have made it 17-0 through one quarter. Instead, the Hokies punt two plays later. That wasn't the only shot down the field that Thomas missed Byrn on.

00:06:50–00:06:56

This pass play would have put the Hokies on the Panther's 35. Instead, the Hokies punt three plays later. Here's another play that left points on the field for the Hokies.

00:13:11–00:13:17

Based on well he's played the last three games, you'd expect Thomas to complete at least one of those. If he makes any or all them, it's a different ballgame.

The Hokies are very, very close to being a really, really good all-around football team. If Thomas continues to improve his consistency, and Loeffler can find a way to work some interior runs for the running backs into the game plan, the Hokies will be in fine shape.

Contact the editor about this post anytime by phone: (703) 646-1931 or mail: 3057 Nutley St Suite 633, Fairfax, Virginia 22031.

Comments

Perhaps I'm an optimist or maybe even a Loeffler apologist of sorts, but I think he's leafing back to page 1 and 2 of the playbook once we get a lead. He knows how good the D is and decides to shut it down and try to milk the clock and play the field position game once we are leading. I think he wants to save some new schemes and plays for the next opponent and try to essentially control what he puts on film.

“When life knocks you down plan to land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up, if you fall flat on your face it can kill your spirit” - David Wilson

"We are better than we think, but not quite what we want to be" - Nikki Giovanni

An interesting side note: Sam Rogers now has a panther skin rug. It is not dead, it is just too scared to move.

Fortune Favors the Bold

I thought Sam Rogers really showed some solid sportsmanship on Saturday. He allowed to official to call a holding penalty on him.

“When life knocks you down plan to land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up, if you fall flat on your face it can kill your spirit” - David Wilson

"We are better than we think, but not quite what we want to be" - Nikki Giovanni

Fuck... that was hilarious +1

I think I agree...A prolific, high-scoring offense may be the offense we deserve, but it's not the offense we need right now. Despite the mostly pedestrian numbers, when the offense has been in situations where they absolutely have to make a play, they've done so.

Not the bagman VT deserves, but the bagman VT needs right now.

Did you just call Loeffler, Batman? If so I always thought Grimes fit the bill more, but I can't say that you are wrong.

“When life knocks you down plan to land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up, if you fall flat on your face it can kill your spirit” - David Wilson

"We are better than we think, but not quite what we want to be" - Nikki Giovanni

Do you really believe that? Did we NOT absolutely have to make plays against Alabama, or are they not the type of opponent we compare ourselves to?

Minority Report.

That was the first game in the season... And we actually got a completely unforeseen 70-something yard touchdown when we were down by 14 to keep us in the game early. So yes we did make some plays. Our special teams blunders were just too costly.

Doesn't matter how, just Stick It In.

That's a fair point. I guess I kind of see the Alabama game as an anomaly. The offense didn't make the plays it needed to stay in the game, but how many offenses could when the special teams gives up two TDs against the #1 team in the country? The wide receiver play was what I have to assume is a statistical outlier.

Not the bagman VT deserves, but the bagman VT needs right now.

I was going to say the same thing. When Mason said that all we were running in the open scrimmages were zone blocking schemes, it is obvious that we have those plays in our playbook and when we do run them, we execute - like on that 14 yard rush by Edmunds.

It just seems like Loeffler doesn't want to deal his hand yet and is waiting for the right game to do so, which is hopefully Miami. My optimism lies in my hope that the Miami DC will spend the entire week scheming multiple ways to stop our inverted veer and then Loeffler just goes "NAWWWP" and we pound the rock on them. But then again, it could just be a fool's hope.

Doesn't matter how, just Stick It In.

I like it, Scot Loeffler is a thinker. So basically the antithesis of Ricky Bobby.

“When life knocks you down plan to land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up, if you fall flat on your face it can kill your spirit” - David Wilson

"We are better than we think, but not quite what we want to be" - Nikki Giovanni

I'm not sure that it's a fool's hope. Loeffler has consistently brought something extra to the table every time it was needed. The was the offense was executing in the 1st half (look at those overthrows of Byrn...goodness) Loeffler didn't get antsy or feel the need to blow open the playbook to get a big lead because of the defense.

I for one will trust Loeffler to bring something extra to the table when needed, which is hopefully against Miami. If we could get a zone running game going early then pop some veer/inverted veer for good gains (or veer then zone, w/e), we could have Miami's D on the ropes early.

I'm getting excited for the Duke game already. I don't want that game to be close.

Exactly. I don't believe it's a fool's hope because I'm seeing the same things you just pointed out. If our back is against the wall and a play needs to be called, I believe he's going to make the correct play calls. I'm confident in that.

And with Miami I think we are going to strike early, like we have in the past games. We put the pressure on the opponent to come up with a play. But they can't because Bud Foster.

Doesn't matter how, just Stick It In.

First of all, thanks for this. Great job at explaining the technical details of the game we all love so much.

Do you think Loeffler is still holding anything back? We've been so dominant on D the past three weeks that the offense's job has just been to keep the clock running and punt. If we get in a dogfight over the next five games I wonder if we'll change up the running game as you mentioned.

Pie all around.

Viva El Guapo

nocake

RIP Stick It In

Downvote for UVa alum reference.
(this is gonna hurt.)

"When you're green, you're growing. When you're ripe, you rot." -Ray Kroc

Really?

RIP Stick It In

Up for 30 rock

Couldn't help it, my UVA hate runs deep.
I posted afterward so that I get my "just desserts".

"When you're green, you're growing. When you're ripe, you rot." -Ray Kroc

well i read her book and the in the chapter about her time at uva she rips on much of the student body, and most of the chapter is about a hike she went on with a boy she wanted to dry hump with but it ended up a disaster. i suppose my point is i really dont think she has a ton of school spirit. . . like most wahoos.

"We're your family right?!? You love your family right?!?"-Dadi Nicolas
"That kid you're talking to right there, I think he played his nuts off! And you can quote me on that shit!" -Bud Foster

To be fair, she was used in proper UVa perspective: frustrated at never getting the results she wants, but misplacing her anger on a lack of cake (zima).


-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

If you accompany said downvote with an upvote, as to not jeopardize said poster's turkey leg count, I think it's ok. I mean, I'm all about hating on UVA in any way, shape or form.

Twitter me

Thanks, I did.
Tried to upvote and downvote the same post (which isn't possible) but I gave VTrumpet other upvotes all around the site.

"When you're green, you're growing. When you're ripe, you rot." -Ray Kroc

Don't worry about it, I guess the "mock" part of my mock anger didn't come through. I upvoted you, I understand it was all in good taste

RIP Stick It In

Its not your mock anger I'm worried about, its the other hundred TKP readers that'll downvote me for being a douche!

"When you're green, you're growing. When you're ripe, you rot." -Ray Kroc

Still can't help but wonder in the current situation if the running backs would perform any better with Billy Hite as the teacher?? While reading 3rdand31's breakdown of the running game he mentions several times how running backs should have cut up field and taken what they could get rather than trying to get to the edge. That's what Hite was all about, get the pads square to the line of scrimmage and run north/south!

"They've done studies you know, 60% of the time it works every time!"

I"m not saying Hite wasn't a great coach, but Kevin Jones and Ryan Williams would make a lot of coaches look really, really good. Just sayin'.

We also had a great running game with Mike Imoh, Cedric Humes, Justin Hamilton and Brandon Ore under Hite's watch.

I'm not saying the drop off is because of the Hite - Shane switch - but you have to give Billy some credit for producing some great backs while he was here.

We started losing our running mojo when we adopted the "pistol" under Logan last year. I'm not a big football xs and os guy, but I noticed the trend develop then.

Worth mentioning that Hite was the only existing staff member Frank decided to keep on his roster when he was hired. I think that says a lot.

While I'm by no means blaming Shane for the recent fall off in the running game, I am not yet sold on him as a running back's coach.

Twitter me

Exactly the subtle point I was thinking! Glad Shane is on the staff and like him as a coach and what he brings recruiting etc but just not sure how capable/qualified he is to teach RB's. I'm by no means a x's, o's expert either but Hite did have success with some not so big name and "star" RB's because of how he taught the position. Billy aint walking back in that door as a coach so I just brought this up as a thought. We have what we have and it will improve!

"They've done studies you know, 60% of the time it works every time!"

He is still around so it's not like he can't give some pointers when asked. Same way with Bruce Smith being "around." Just because they aren't a current coach, doesn't mean they aren't a coach.

The current running game needs more than a pointer or two if that in fact is even happening. I don't think Hite is at practices anymore or on the sidelines. Also worried the running game struggles are going to have a short term negative impact on RB recruiting. We'll see. Beat Duke!

"They've done studies you know, 60% of the time it works every time!"

I love how every game the Jumbotron goes on Bruce and he usually doesn't know it.
The crowd shouts BRUUUUCE! And he turns and erupts into a smile.

Danny caught that ball.

Friends don't let 5 star friends commit to UVA.

I have inside info. - Whit

Not to quibble (wait, that's exactly what I'm doing...shit) but Branden Ore was talented as hell, it was one of my true pleasures watching the patience he had in letting his blockers set up. I vividly remember him consistently putting his non-ball hand on the back of his lead blocker waiting for them to lay the wood so he could make his cut. It was off-field issues that did him in and ultimately made me semi-regret getting his jersey (though it paid off in spades when it became an Alonzo Tweedy jersey!).

Also, I'm not sure if we're remembering the same thing, but I recall our running game being extremely inconsistent when it was the Imoh/Humes/Hamilton show, aside from certain games where certain Lil' Imohs set the single game rushing record. Which is why it was the Imoh/Humes/Hamilton show, none of them were really dominant, they did enough to get the job done and normally not a whole lot more.

He was very talented but spent a year on scout team learning. You're right there were a few lean years for the run game in those days as there were a few big recruits that either didn't pan out or exited early. I always thought Jahre Cheesman should have been given more of a shot as every time he touched it he went for 4 or 5 in trash time. Lets not forget the Dustin Pickle! There was another Va Beach kid that im forgetting that was a bowling ball type guy either got injured or excused??? Now I'm just bored and rambling. I don't like our current read option. Too slow developing. Maybe Lefty is just toying with future opponents and the run game will bust out when it matters. Also waiting for the tip of Grimes spear to bludgeon someone!

"They've done studies you know, 60% of the time it works every time!"

Phoebus' Elan Lewis is the RB you're thinking about - 5'8", 210 pounds. He suffered a knee injury in a post-season high school All-Star game from which he never full recovered, and he struggled with weight issues. He was supposed to have transferred to Delaware State but I lost track of him.

Bingo! Thanks for that recall!

"They've done studies you know, 60% of the time it works every time!"

Also, I'm not sure if we're remembering the same thing, but I recall our running game being extremely inconsistent when it was the Imoh/Humes/Hamilton show, aside from certain games where certain Lil' Imohs set the single game rushing record. Which is why it was the Imoh/Humes/Hamilton show, none of them were really dominant, they did enough to get the job done and normally not a whole lot more.

That's how I remember it.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

Let's examine the production of those running backs who "did enough to get the job done and normally not a whole lot more" in the years that they saw playing time vs our current stable of backs the last two years. Let's also examine what scouts thought of the backs before they arrived on campus vs the current VT running backs.

High School resumes - rank by Rivals.
Humes **** - #9 player in VA
Imoh *** - #11 player in VA
Ore ** - #18 player in VA
Hamilton **** - #5 player in VA (emergency RB)

Coleman **** - #5 player in VA
Edmunds **** - #9 player in VA
Holmes *** - #25 player in VA (no longer on the team)
Gregory ** - #19 player in VA (no longer on the team)
Mangus ***

Let's compare the production of the running backs from (2004-2006) when we had "inconsistent" performance to (2012-2013)

QB stats are excluded from the comparison, but are here for reference (they are almost a push) - Randall ran for 511 in 2004, Marcus Vick ran for 380 in 2005, Logan ran for 524 in 2012.

Only running backs that rushed for 200 yds or are expected to rush for 200 yds or more are listed.

2004
Humes - 604yds - 4.7ypc - 5TD
Imoh - 713yds - 4.5ypc - 6TD
Hamilton - 336 yds - 4.5ypc - 3TD
Total - 1653yds - 14TD

2005
Humes - 752yds - 4.6ypc - 11TD
Imoh - 419yds - 4.0ypc - 4TD
Ore - 647yds - 5.9ypc - 6TD
Total - 1818yds - 21TD

2006
Ore - 1137yds - 4.7ypc - 16TD
Lewis Jr - 215yds - 4.0ypc - 2TD
Total - 1352 - 18TD

2012
Coleman - 492yds - 4.5ypc - 2TD
Gregory - 299yds - 4.7ypc - 1TD
Holmes - 280yds - 4.0ypc - 4TD
Total - 1071 - 7TD

Halfway through 2013
Edmunds - 393yds - 3.7ypc - 4TD
Mangus - 115yds - 5.8ypc - 1TD
Coleman - 89yds - 4.0ypc - 0TD
Halfway Total - 597yds - 5TD

I will stand by my original comment that we got a significant amount more out of the Imoh/Humes/Hamilton/Ore show than what we are getting today.

It's not even close.

Hamilton played a couple of years for the Browns after he graduated, too. Don't remember if he was drafted or not, but I think he was generally a special-teams whiz.

Take the shortest route to the ball and arrive in bad humor.

I cede the point, sir. While I still feel like Imoh/Hamilton/Humes didn't produce in big games, I take your point that they at least produced in SOME games which we really haven't had this year.

Also, I will still contend that Ore was far better than those three and I think belongs up there, not quite with Ryan Williams/Lee Suggs/Kevin Jones, but in a tier just below them as that dude was just so much fun to watch and it hurts to think that talent got wasted. So I wouldn't necessarily include him in an argument about lesser talented backs, is all I'm saying.

Fantastic analysis!
One of the things I'm seeing is Logan making the wrong reads in the run game and missing deep throws in the passing game. In the first case, I'm not a big fan pounding the ball with the QB, mainly because of limited upside (he's not fast) and unlimited downside (injury.) I'd be happy if they got rid of the QB read altogether and used a different outside run play (power sweep) as a counter.
Logan has been erratic on the deep balls, but at least he's making sound judgements. He's not throwing into coverage (as much) and he's missing where the defense can't make a play (overthrows on deep balls mostly). I noticed the touchdown to Knowles vs UNC was a pretty badly thrown ball, but one where only Knowles could make a play.
On the other hand, even though Logan hasn't been great, they're winning. Isn't that what we want in an offense?!

"When you're green, you're growing. When you're ripe, you rot." -Ray Kroc

Let's look at it this way: LT3 had 2 great games where he essentially won the game all by himself (with the defense dominating, of course). This weekend, we saw him have an off game. Even in an off game, he was pretty solid. Did he miss a few throws? Yes. But those were all extremely close misses and did not lead to huge, game-changing plays for the opposing defense. He's proven he doesn't have to have a red-hot, outstanding game to be a good QB. I think that's pretty darn good.

More time in the system, hitting a couple more of those bigger, oh-so-close-miss throws, and I have every confidence that we'll finish the season strong.

Sooner or later, we're going to need that running game to be reestablished. Really hope to see some progress against Duke, but it won't be convincing until we play a stout defense.

Beat uva. That is all.

VT '10, Born & Raised in the 804. Hokies, Keydets, Army Black Knights, NY Giants, NY Rangers, and ATL Braves.

If we come across a defense that can shut down our passing routes, we're in serious trouble.

Beat uva. That is all.

VT '10, Born & Raised in the 804. Hokies, Keydets, Army Black Knights, NY Giants, NY Rangers, and ATL Braves.

Very nice writeup, but once again I take issue (at a philosophic level) with one of your statements:

"It's not necessary for the offense to drop 40 points a game, but it does need to score when in the red zone, avoid three-and-outs, and milk the clock when holding a lead."

It IS necessary for a good offense in this day and age to be able to drop 40 points a game. At least, one with an empty trophy case symbolizing the program's ultimate goal.

When we played for the NC, we led the nation in scoring offense at just over 40 points per game. Impressive. But today, that would be good for 18th in the nation. The world has changed, offense is a lot more important to team success than it was less than 15 years ago.

This is what got us in so much trouble over the past ten years or so - the idea that 'scoring enough to win' is the true measure of the offense's quality. Scoring enough to win is fine when playing a Top 10 opponent. But when you're playing a schedule like ours, a good offense should be able to hang 40-50 points a game. That should be our program's objective offensive goal. Our defense has one, and so should our offense. I'm hoping Loeffler is instilling that kind of attitude.

Reality has a mighty pimp hand.

I would agree -if it comes to a shoot out, sometimes "more points wins" or so I've heard...

"...sticks and stones may break my bones but I'm gonna kick you repeatedly in the balls Gardoki!"

Well, look at how long we've been complaining about the offense, but look at the big wins we've had the last few years, like Miami 2011. When the points were needed, we got them. Now consistently scoring points, I agree, could be the difference between 11-2 with two losses to Clemson, and 13-0 on our way to the MNC...


-What we do is, if we need that extra push, you know what we do? -Put it up to fully dipped? -Fully dipped. Exactly. It's dork magic.

Frank Beamer is not in the scoring points business, he is in the winning football games business.

Does Beamer WANT to average 40 points a game? Of course. But he's not going to chase that goal, if it jeopardizes the teams odds at winning.

The only way this team could average forty is by throwing way more and throwing riskier passes. It's an unnecessary risk.

Wins over points.

I think this team could average 40 points a game if the run game would be able to do okay. Honestly, they move down the field pretty well as evidenced in many games this year. I think lack of a running game, particularly in the red zone, means we settle for field goals instead of TDs. There were 5 field goal attempts. If all those end as TDs instead of FGs, we're sitting at 42 points. ECU...all the missed field goals, if they could make them TDs, that's about 40 points.

Point being, we seem to be moving the ball down the field well enough to warrant 30-40 points per game, but we can't capitalize on it.

Also, our return game is lacking the explosiveness it once had. We haven't had a return TD in a long, long time. There was a year where we averaged just under one per game.

All that being said...this team is on the verge of greatness, on both sides of the ball. When everything clicks with this team, and I hope the bye week helps with it, this team is going to kick ass and take names with the sky being the limit.

Back when we used to score 60+ points on weaker opponents, it was generally due to returned kicks, pick sixes, and block kicks, in assistance to an offense that was good for about 3-4 TDs a game. We are SOOO close to that I can smell it.

I've got a crazy idea...why not bring back the WILD CAT and run it with Joel Caleb. Before you shoot, think about it for a second. Florida gators in 2005 I think, Urban Meyers' 1st yr at FL I think. Chris Leak was serviceable, but this did wonders for their ground game as well as red zone offense. Joel Caleb played QB almost exclusively in high school, is incredibly shifty in space and completely misused on our roster to this date. Logan is way too slow at acceleration if you ask me and the very least we would average like 5ypc with HUGE play potential (on the ground). Way too many 3 and outs because we can't move the chains on the ground.

Minority Report.

Not a huge fan of wildcat; it really telegraphs what you're getting ready to do- just not where you're going to do it. I like having both questions unanswered pre-snap myself.

"He shot out of there like the 5th pea in a 4 pea pod"

The wild cat was the preface to the read option. It was incredibly effective for a few yrs because it involves TWO good runners going in two different directions. So while the play may appear obvious, its still really hard to stop. With the exception of a few pass plays here and there this is pretty much what GT's offense is based around. The only reason why u see it much less now is because teams just employed more mobile qbs who can run it as a read option full time.

Minority Report.

The few times we ran the wildcat, it was a disaster.

I won't lose any sleep if we never run it again.

No, I *don't* want to go to the SEC. Why do you ask?

i knew in the first half of the cincy orange bowl we were in good shape because boooooone was gashing them. everybody else had been stuffing it in the later part of the season but they were clearly not prepared for it.

"We're your family right?!? You love your family right?!?"-Dadi Nicolas
"That kid you're talking to right there, I think he played his nuts off! And you can quote me on that shit!" -Bud Foster

Well I completely respect ur opinion if your not a fan of the wild cat. But for all speculative and entertainment purposes, I'd like to think that we would run the wild cat a little differently than we did in the past. Stiney is a moron and doesn't respect speed or know how to utilize his guys. He had "Feetz" (Josh Morgan) running most of the end-arounds/screen plays when he could have used the more explosive Eddie Royal at the time. Instead of using Greg Boone for the wild cat and begging for a few yards per play, he should have used two running backs or any two speedier skilled players that could bust it open for larger gains. Arkansas made this play famous by using Darren McFadden and Felix Jones; neither of which was even a threat to throw and it still worked (wonders).

In the first game against Alabama, previous film suggested that Logan Thomas was threat to make plays with his feet (coupled with this fact that we hadn't had an established RB to that point), so we were able to spring Edwards for a big TD run. Now that its clear that LT3 will only hurt you with moderate gains and the RBs have proven to be more dangerous in open field, defenses are clearly going straight for the RB on read plays. They are taking their chances with LT3 and its clear that when he keeps it, he's almost untouched until the 2nd level. So while the Greg Boons pile driver was entertaining to watch, Caleb taking the snap with ANY of our other explosive RBs could be magical.

Ultimately I feel this could help get our ground game going. Also late in games or at the end of halves, in obvious run situtuations 3 and outs have been inevitable.

Minority Report.

yeah i dont dislike the wildcat, i was just saying thats when i realized cincy wasnt all that well prepared.

"We're your family right?!? You love your family right?!?"-Dadi Nicolas
"That kid you're talking to right there, I think he played his nuts off! And you can quote me on that shit!" -Bud Foster

That's not true - when Beamer teams score over 40 it's primarily due to two factors - scoring on the short field aided by defensive turnovers, and high overall drive effectiveness (i.e sustained drives end in points). One of our main scoring deficiencies this year is inability to convert turnovers into points (see the ECU game, three interceptions, zero points). And the first half of the UNC game showed we are capable of sustaining drives that end in scores - 21 points off of three scoring drives. All we need to do is put it together for a whole game.

Reality has a mighty pimp hand.

That's not true

Wait, what's not true? I'm not sure where we disagree here.

Let's kibosh on the excuses for a second. All we did for several yrs was make excuses for Stiney's offense even going as far as to give it the "ball control" moniker, until it was clear that he was just simply inept. I think people will become frustrated because while you can get excited about a winning record, people are smart enough to realize that when you play a TOP team, this will not be enough. It never has, and it never will. When you're packing the best defense in the country (one of the best I've ever seen at this level)...you have to sell out for a NC. Do whatever u have to do. Make the team realize that while we've shown vast improvements, what we have so far is NOT enough. Personally, I believe that with this gat damn defense, we have enough pieces on our roster to beat anyone. We have to create more weapons on offense, the ground game has to get better...fast!

Minority Report.

Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is this offense. Mason showed two instances of Calvin having trouble blocking, but they can't bench him for being an ineffective blocker. Heck, he's a true freshman.
You can say the same about Edmonds and Caleb and their decisions (I think Mason already did.) It might take some time before these guys can put it all together to become a good offense (30+ points) and even longer before they'll be a great offense (40+ points).
Have some patience folks; If we're still scoring 17 points a game in 4 years, I'll be complaining too. If you expected a good or great offense this year, put down the cool-aid.

"When you're green, you're growing. When you're ripe, you rot." -Ray Kroc

I agree to a degree. To be an elite team, you need elite athletes on both sides of the ball. On defense, VT has elite athletes in the form of Gayle, Nicolas, Jarrett, Kyle, Kendall, and Facyson. On Offense, Logan... and that's it. And Logan is not a game-breaker in the open field. So essentially, there is not a single player on offense who has a chance to score a TD anytime that ball gets in his hands (Think of Wilson, Royal, Coale, Williams, Tyrod, MV7, Davis). If VT had that player on offense, they would get more TDs, especially from 20+ yds. But instead, they have to have methodical drives averaging 12 plays or more. It's hard to be perfect for 12 plays, thus the inefficiency on offense. One false start, one missed block, one dropped ball, and you're behind the sticks. Considering these facts, I think Loeffler is doing an amazing job. And I predict, once he has a few elite athletes on the offensive side of the ball, you'll see VT scoring 40 pts, whether Beamer likes it or not.

I agree, we really see the sum of years where the recruiting really dropped off on offense right now.

Beat uva. That is all.

VT '10, Born & Raised in the 804. Hokies, Keydets, Army Black Knights, NY Giants, NY Rangers, and ATL Braves.

there is not a single player on offense who has a chance to score a TD anytime that ball gets in his hands

instead, they have to have methodical drives averaging 12 plays or more. It's hard to be perfect for 12 plays, thus the inefficiency on offense.

Great explanation.

Twitter me

I don't think that's entirely fair. I think Edmunds (Alabama game this year), Coleman (Duke last year), and Knowles have shown they have the speed to take it to the house if they get past the defense. Admittedly, these guys seem to have a lot more trouble making people miss and getting into the open field than some of our offensive skill players have in the past, but I still think there are some high quality athletes on the offensive side of the ball. These types of guys are all freshman or sophomores, so hopefully they will continue to develop and get to that level where they can take a moderate gain and make it a big play.

I believe there is a difference between game-breaker and having break-away speed. I think all game-breakers must have break-away speed, but just because one has break-away speed does not make him a game-breaker. In my opinion, a game-breaker is one that consistently makes you go "wow, did he really just do that?" From what I've seen of Edmunds, Coleman, and Knowles, only Edmunds has had a game-breaker type play (the run against Alabama). However, since then, I haven't seen that wow play. Maybe, one (or all of them) will turn into game-breaker athletes, but right now, I don't see it. Although, I do see major potential in Edmunds.

I don't think this post deserves to be down-voted. I personally don't agree with Baltimore Hokie's opinion, but I think it is worth discussing. It is also well written and respectful.

I realize posting about unnecessary down-voting happens a lot, but I think it's important to repeat it. Complacency will eventually lead to implicit acceptance that this type of post is acceptable to down-vote or is unwelcome, which I hope does not happen. I would hate TKP to become a site where everyone blindly agrees with Joe's, French's, or Mason's opinions (as right as often as they are).

Now, in response to your actual post, I think there is still a place for ball-control offense. Part of what makes a team like Oregon so difficult is that they make you change your style of play to keep up with them. If they get out to a lead, you have try and score quickly or risk falling into an insurmountable hole. By limiting their number of possessions, you are trying to limit the number of times they can score. I also think it's a fallacy to assume they'll score on each of their possessions. They're still college kids, and they have to execute just like we do (or don't :). For each three-and-out they have, it's damages their psyche about how much time they'll have left when they get the ball back.

Furthermore, ball-control is a 60 minute philosophy and you are counting on having a better late game than your opponent. If I've been on offense for 25-30 minutes of the 45 minutes going into the fourth quarter, then your defense is more likely to be gassed and not able to defeat that block or keep up with the go route. It is also disheartening for the defense to constantly move the chains on them. I would think over time it would cause players to either lose their desire to play as hard or cause them to take larger risks in order to make that elusive stop. Either way it exposes holes to attack, potentially allowing for even longer drives.

I'll cede that not every team can play this way, which is why I think you see a lot of upstarts running more exotic offenses. It's also unlikely that even with a team tailor suited to this offense that we'll constantly have 8-10 minute drives ending in TDs, but it's a beautiful thing when it happens.

Man I must be learning something by reading these things. My thought during the play Logan bounces outside instead of picking up the 1st down was, "man they are gonna rip this apart in the review. Why didn't he just go inside?" Pretty sure that lead to Cody's 48 yarder though, which was the most I've cheered for a field goal to go through the uprights.

Winning is the ultimate goal and I think this offense will figure things out. There are still plenty of games left and plenty of more excitement to be had.

Interesting that Loeffler used a bit of the pistol full house or cross, which seem to be called diamond formation these days.

My thought, and I tweeted this to Mason today, on the running game seem to be squarely on the running back. I asked Mason if he thought Loeffler didn't have any confidence in the running backs, and his response was he think Loeffler doesn't have confidence in the offensive line's execution of running block.

My reasoning on the running back is this: last week, we talked about how the running backs seem to be missing holes being developed elsewhere instead of hitting, what I am assuming, a per-designated hole in the running play. So it'll be interesting to see what other think.

I had someone tell me two interesting observations. 1) He noted that the running backs seem to be running with their head down instead of looking up and noticing a hole being developed else where in their peripheral vision, and 2) he also said that since running back need to be fast before receiving the hand off, needing less than two seconds to hit the line of scrimmage, it seem the running back are slow at getting there, and by then, it's too late as the defense has crashed the line and it's a loss of yardage.

I honestly feels this offense is suited more for a spread type of offense where they dink and dunk their way down. The first touchdown drive is an example of that. I also think that Loeffler is trying, in some regards, to mimic the New England Patriots with the way they spread the ball around and using a bit of running game to keep defenses honest. I just don't think the team has the personnel to be a hard-nosed powerful running offense just yet.

One thing is for sure, this offense is perfectly content at being boring, even if it drives all of us nuts.

I support Logan Thomas and make no apologies for it.

I wonder if not having billy hite is hurting the RB play..hmm.

Touchdown Tech - Bill Roth

Maybe it is, but remember that by not having Hite on staff, we actually have all of our coaches now recruiting. Hite hadn't recruited a kid who he didn't personally know for a decade.

Just a thought I was having, but do we think Loeffler has showed his entire hand? One thought I had was that he's doing just enough to win the games, but he will pull out the stops when we face greater opponents. We saw some of that against GT, but what if he's saving something for Miami or beyond? Thus giving his offense a chance at an opportunity to surprise a team that they will need a lot going for them to beat. I don't agree with the mentality of holding back, but we saw him open the playbook for GT and it's worked thus far. Will we see any more triple option in order to get the running game back? Could there be more that's waiting to be revealed? Maybe a super secret play like the Annexation of Puerto Rico? Who knows.

I'm not sure if he's hiding his playbook.
I think it's more like it takes time to install a playbook and teach the plays to the guys.
Like some of Thomas' INTs early in the season were more attributable to WRs not running the routes correctly/completely.

I'm not sure Lefty's being coy, I think it's just the learning curve. Like Dadi last week, he played a heck of a game but more experienced players had to tell him where to line up. (Def, I know but a good example.)

Danny caught that ball.

Friends don't let 5 star friends commit to UVA.

I have inside info. - Whit

I completely agree with you Egbert. I will be more likely to believe that it will take time to absorb all the concepts Lefty is looking to install than to believe he is this mad scientist poker playing grandmaster of sophisticated offensive deception. I remember only a few weeks ago we almost lost to Marshall and I didn't see anything more ground breaking being unveiled, only we made the savvy/desperation move to just hand the ball to LT3 in OT and just let him do his thing.

Loefler is a smart guy with a football mind, which is a 10 fold upgrade from Stiney. I believe the best equity we will get out of Lefty will be an ability to evolve and grow stronger as a coordinator once he gets his confidence as an OC. Let's not forget he is young and relatively inexperienced in THIS role.

Minority Report.

I would also venture to say that he is going to be a major upgrade in the QB coaching department. I think LT3 looks light years better than he ever has...and just imagine if Loeffler had been able to work with him from the very start. I'm excited about what our QB's will look like after being coached by Lefty for 2 or 3 years

especially since they'll probably have a bigger better line to play behind now that we're actually recruiting linemen for offense.

"I like to hit a home run early" ~ Whit "knows how to create a Buzz" Babcock

Are you saying that 2yrs at a job makes one experienced or inexperienced...relatively speaking?

Minority Report.

Early press interview with Loeffler:

Were going install and were going install, install and install, he said at a Roanoke Valley Sports Club event Monday night at the Salem Civic Center. And after install, were going to install some more.

http://www.roanoke.com/sports/virginiatech/vtfootball/2114969-12/scot-lo...

6-5, 10-1-1, 2-9, 3-8, 6-4-1, 6-5, 5-6, 2-8-1, 9-3, 8-4, 10-2, 10-2, 7-5, 9-3, 11-1, 11-1, 8-4, 10-4, 8-5, 10-3, 11-2, 10-3, 11-3, 10-4, 10-3, 11-3, 11-3, 7-6, 8-5.......

I have a saying about software installation that always seems to be true: "The last 10% of the progress bar takes 90% of the time." I suspect that's at play here, too. The final details and getting things working efficiently will take the most time.

Plus it can't be easy to install with our DL always in the backfield.

“When life knocks you down plan to land on your back, because if you can look up, you can get up, if you fall flat on your face it can kill your spirit” - David Wilson

"We are better than we think, but not quite what we want to be" - Nikki Giovanni

In Beamer & Co. We Trust #Livefor32 #DecadeofDominance

This verbalized a lot of the things I had been seeing in the backfield. I really appreciate this write up as I had felt for about three weeks now that it wasn't altogether the offensive line. The amount of time that Logan spends making the decision on the Veer Read is costing the offense the advantage of the initial surge. The one time you saw Logan straight hand off to Edwards, he ripped off a long run because he didn't lose his forward momentum and was able to hit the open holes.

Rob Peterson
VTCC
Charlie/Hotel Company
Class of 1999

First of all this is a great analysis of the run game and the apparent issues therein. I could not be happier to be 6 & 1 at this point in the season. The offense seems to improve every game. I know Beamer's recipie isn't sexy but we are winning. That said I really wish we'd go for the six rather than kick the 3. It drives me crazy to see us settle for field goals in the redzone. Hopefully the young back and the beat up blockers will get a much needed rest during the bye and work some of this out. I think this scheme given time can become dangerous for VT. I like what the offense is doing...it just drives me nuts when we don't finish. Go Hokies!!!

He's Still Open!!!

So, it seems like we are shooting ourselves in the foot a lot, leaving points off the board.
It DOESN't seem like it is so much the design, tactics, adjustments of our offense that is the issue. (New offensive coordinator....check!)
It seems more installation, execution, and personnel.
I am impressed with how quickly/efficiently the installation has occurred-it just takes time.
The execution and personnel issues are related, (although I would still put some question marks towards our RB, WR position coaching towards execution.)
I see vast improvement coming towards us in regards to personnel: Next 2 years will our RB situation improve? Yes.
TE situation improve? Yes. Wide receiver situation improve? Yes. O-line situation improve? Hell YES. And I think that Loeffler will be a great QB coach, just worried about ?drop off next year.
These improvements should allow better offensive production to come.