The Return of the Wild Turkey

I miss Greg Boone.

The only thing better than watching Greg Boone lay out defenders or make a catch across the middle was shouting our patented "BOOOOOOOOOONE" cheer every time he made us proud. Greg Boone also holds the distinction of being the centerpiece of the Wild Turkey formation, widely regarded as the best named formation in football history. The Wild Turkey was Virginia Tech's version of the Wildcat formation and is rumored to be making a return to Blacksburg.

For those wildly unfamiliar with popular football trends during the 2005-10 era, "Wildcat" was a term that eventually evolved to cover any formation where a skilled runner (not a quarterback) received the snap from a shotgun or pistol formation. The plays packaged out of that formation would usually involve another talented runner who could attack the edge of the defense on a handoff. Taking the quarterback off the field and bringing on another blocker or running threat gave the offense a mathematical advantage on the ground. The Hokies decided to join in on the "Wildcat" fad and used former high school quarterback and massive human being Greg Boone as their sledgehammer.

00:06:50–00:07:22

After Boone's eligibility expired, the "Wild Turkey" package was no more. Although the "3rd-and-Logan" offense was right around the corner. The need to bring in a runner for a special package became unnecessary when Logan Thomas proved himself capable of moving the pile in short yardage situations. Thomas has graduated now though, and all contenders for the starting spot lack the size to consistently run the ball in between the tackles. Apparently this has prompted the coaching staff to consider bringing back the Wild Turkey.

An offseason that is already filled with storylines just got a little more interesting

So Many Questions, So Little Time

When Frank Beamer hinted that they wanted to keep Bucky Hodges in at quarterback for some plays, immediately my ears perked up. Since they obviously didn't view him as a viable long term candidate (you don't move potential QB starters to TE, you just don't), my first thought was, "Whoa, the Wild Turkey is back".

My second was, "WHOA! THE WILD TURKEY IS BACK?!?!?!"

I was happy, excited... and a little bit confused. The fact is, this isn't 2008 anymore. The Wildcat fad has come and gone. With so many high schools running spread offenses, it isn't difficult to find quarterbacks who can run and throw the ball pretty well. Why take that weapon out just to replace him with an athlete who can only run? After thinking about it for a while, I assumed it was just an offseason idea that was being thrown around. It probably wasn't going to actually happen, and I forgot all about it. Until I saw this tweet.

Everyone knows, once Andy Bitter reports something, it's official. If Bucky Hodges is definitely taking some snaps at quarterback, well now we have something worth diving into. I have a couple of questions that probably won't be answered until the season starts. However, I do think that this move (to practice the Wild Turkey) could be an indication of the coaching staff's thinking on some other quarterback candidates.

What Will It Look Like?

What type of plays will Hodges be asked to run from the Wild Turkey? There are lots of different ways to run the ball from the "Wildcat" formation, and how the staff designs the scheme this summer may tip their hand on their plans for the fall.

When Boone was running the Wild Turkey, Stinespring was using Boone in a lot of the same ways that Arkansas was using Darren McFadden. Stiney would attempt to soften up the interior defense by bringing a motion man across the formation at the snap. If the ball wasn't handed off to the player in motion then Boone would simply crash into the line, hoping to bully his way for as much yardage as he could get. Here's a video breaking down the base scheme of the Wildcat.

We know that Loeffler is familiar with these basic Wildcat concepts because he used a variation of them in the Sun Bowl. Logan Thomas lined up in shotgun and handed the ball to Carlis Parker, who was in motion across the formation at the snap. The play isn't identical to the Wildcat plays diagrammed in the video above, but the principals are the same. Motion an athlete (Felix Jones/Carlis Parker) across the formation to threaten the edge with a handoff, and threaten the middle of the defense with a powerful downhill runner (Darren McFadden, Logan Thomas). The formation differences are basically just window dressing.

00:02:35–00:02:41

Carlis Parker would have a pretty good day, finishing with 40 yards on 6 carries. I wouldn't be surprised if Loeffler liked the way Parker looked running that Jet Sweep (I know I did) and decided to keep it tucked away for later. Logan Thomas might not be in Blacksburg anymore, but Loeffler may be willing to bet that Bucky Hodges can pull off a pretty good imitation.

Now this scheme can be effective, especially if you have an ultra talented runner like McFadden (or Ronnie Brown when he was with the Dolphins). It relies on an athlete (usually a running back) who has great vision, power, an ability to take it to the house, and/or fall forward for the first down. Bucky Hodges is no joke of an athlete, but I have doubts if he has all the traits that a runner needs to be a true threat in this system. Hodges probably has the raw physical strength to push guys around, but that's not all that's needed to be an effective short yardage option. Hodges is also faster than people expected, but is he quick enough to make ACC caliber players miss in the open field?

Hodges would probably be effective in this downhill scheme, but I think the ceiling is only so high for him in it. That being said, even with a limited ceiling, there are certain benefits to installing this version of the Wildcat. For starters, it's a fun scheme for players to practice and to use during a game. Keeping players entertained and enjoying practice is a great way to keep the energy level high. Having your backup tight end, who just transitioned from QB, get the snap and run over a defender is one way to steal some momentum normally reserved for Saturdays.

Another benefit is that opposing teams will have to spend valuable practice time to get their defense prepared. College teams don't have a lot of time to go over every little thing an opponent wants to do on game day. Forcing defensive coordinators to spend even half an hour in practice trying to get his players lined up right to defend the Wild Turkey may well be worth the time spent installing it now in the spring.

There is another intriguing possibility about the direction this coaching staff will take the Wild Turkey... and the more I think about it the more it makes sense.

Did Duke Have It Right?

One thing that didn't make sense to me about bringing the old "Wild Turkey" back was: it wasn't exactly unstoppable when Tech was using it with Boone. If Boone was ripping off ten yard run after ten yard run, was unstoppable in the red zone, or Macho Harris was getting huge yardage on the Jet Sweep handoff, then I could see bringing it back exactly as before. But the Wild Turkey was always more fun than effective. Why would Beamer have been so enamored with it that he decided to use practice time installing it rather than focusing on the pro-style run game or the vertical passing game?

It wasn't until I saw a reply to Andy Bitter's previous tweet that the wheels started turning in my head.

That is @Durksr, the father of incoming freshmen Chris Durkin. Chris Durkin, the dynamic runner who plays quarterback. The quarterback who switched his commitment unexpectedly to come to Blacksburg, supposedly after becoming convinced Tech gave him a better shot at playing early.

Durkin's reply jump started my thought process that maybe the old Wild Turkey wasn't coming back. Maybe something more along the lines of what Duke did with their two quarterback platoon is in the works. I'm not saying that Loeffler is planning on having a legit two-man operation like David Cutcliffe did down in Durham, but I do think it is a better model for his personnel than the old Wild Turkey scheme is.

Duke's version of the Wildcat was much different than what Arkansas did with Darren McFadden. When Brandon Connette (Duke's "Wildcat" quarterback) came on the field, Duke almost kept the playbook the same. Connette would run more frequently than starter Anthony Boone, but Duke didn't do anything drastically different. It was a good way for Cutcliffe to highlight the strength's of his two quarterbacks without having to sacrifice too much practice time running vastly different schemes. If he wanted to focus on rushing, he'd bring Connette in. If he wanted to focus on passing, Boone would play.

We already know that Loeffler has a vast array of running schemes for a mobile quarterback (in 2013 Loeffler ran through about every tactic I know of). If Loeffler wanted to put together a package of plays from shotgun or pistol for a mobile quarterback who can't really be trusted to go through all his complicated passing reads, he has those plays ready to go. In fact, with the offense returning basically everybody he wouldn't even need to spend too much time getting everyone on the same page. Considering two of the top contenders to win the starting job (Leal and Brewer) aren't guys you'd typically build a spread running team around, it's not the worst idea to bring an athlete on to take direct snaps and run defenses over occasionally. Especially in the red zone, where the Hokies have struggled ever since Tyrod Taylor left Blacksburg.

So what would a Duke style platoon look like? It would allow Loeffler to run all of his pro-style offense (under center rushing/passing schemes and spread passing schemes) through whoever wins the actual starting job. When he wanted to use some of the plays that he had success with Logan Thomas, Loeffler could rotate Hodges or someone else with that skill set onto the field. Plays like the inverted veer, the veer dive from pistol, the zone read... those could all be run successfully by someone other than your starting quarterback. Loeffler could use the numerical advantage on the ground to pick up short yardage without risking an injury to his starter. Plus, because the scheme looks similar to his normal one, it'll be even harder for the defense to gameplan against it.

There's another reason as to why Loeffler might prefer to avoid the traditional Wildcat scheme. Player development. Chris Durkin is coming into camp in the summer and when he arrives he'll probably be the most athletic quarterback on the team. He's not just an explosive runner though, his highlight tape has plenty of examples of him finishing a run with attitude.

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Durkin told Andy Bitter he'd have a chance to play early when he committed.

"A chance to play early," Durkin said by phone Monday night. "At the other place I was looking at a two- to three-year wait before I really got a shot. And coach [Scot] Loeffler said he wants me to play early."

If Loeffler was serious about getting this true freshmen on the field in 2014, it won't be as a traditional quarterback. His offense is simply to complicated for that. Loeffler could ease his way into the position by giving him a package of plays which highlight Durkin's best asset, his running ability. As defenses catch on, Loeffler can slowly build on Durkin's knowledge and play base to stay one step ahead.

If Loeffler is open to the possibility of a platoon system, don't be surprised if Durkin takes plenty of snaps in the Wild Turkey when he arrives in the summer. If he explodes on the scene and is too electric to keep off the field, that would be a great way to get him some first time experience. If Durkins isn't a "must-play" freshmen though, Loeffler can always choose to redshirt him and wait til next year.

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Comments

Wow, this is way too insightful to not be true. well done

I love the Hodges, Durkin line... Add in the fact that we went true no huddle offense for the first time in VT history and we could see an exceptionally fast paced offense coming whereby defenders will be looking at the potential of:

a) Snap to QB
b) Snap to Hodges
c) Snap to Durkin
d) Snap to Rogers
e) Snap to Parker

and amazingly they could ALL be on the field at the same time. my brain hurts just imagining that.

g) Snap to Snap, Crackle, and Pop

Snap

I support Coach Frank Beamer.

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

...so...snap to the defense?

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

Certainly tempting, but does that give us an unfair advantage? Also, shouldn't we give the 47 QBs on the roster a chance first?

My only concern is that Hodges or Durkin could get confused when the crowd erupts with "BOOOOOOOONE".

Because that is simply what is done when the Wild Turkey is run.

We should just yell that anyway.

Actually, we should yell it when the Duke QB throws an int.

back when boone was running that wild turkey, by the time I realized what was happening and started with "BOOOOOONE" the play was already over half the time.

"We're your family right?!? You love your family right?!?"-Dadi Nicholas
"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 because you were following the rules - any wild turkey formation requires an appropriate toast!

Interesting?

"Sure, I've been called a xenophobe, but the truth is, I'm not. I honestly just feel that America is the best country and the other countries aren't as good. That used to be called patriotism." Kenny Powers

When I first saw your post was about Wild Turkey, I was excited, because I love bourbon. Then I started it and was disappointed, because I quickly realized it wasn't about bourbon. Then I finished it, and was even more excited, because that's a really good idea.

It was a catch

Now that you've mentioned him, saw on the news last night that Connette is seeking a transfer from Duke. So this makes yet another Coastal division team that will be playing a freshman at QB this year.

"Does it get any better than Thursday Night in Blacksburg?" - Reece Davis
"People who like to brag about how smart they are, are never as smart as they claim." - Colin Cowherd

Wow, what's going on at Duke that he would leave after the most success that program has ever had?

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

I don't know if this is why (and my apologies if I don't have the info exactly correct), but he's from Calif and apparently his mother had surgery in Dec to remove a malignant brain tumor and had a stroke during the surgery. He missed time before the bowl game because of it. He apparently already has his degree, so he can play elsewhere right away.

Wow, that trumps everything. Hope she and he are OK.

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

Sorry, I didn't see this....I basically posted the exact same thing after you did. Upvote for ya!

VHokie

Boone is a r-SR, so he is back for one more year. Boone will be starting.
Connette's mother had a brain tumor removed and lives in California. I think he might be seeking to transfer to a West Coast school.

VHokie

Very interesting and intriguing! Imagine, Va Tech taking shots with the Wild Turkey formation on the field!

Va Tech taking shots with Wild Turkey on the field, while I'm taking shots with Wild Turkey in the stands. I couldn't think of a better heaven...

Logan Thomas might not be in Blacksburg anymore, but Loeffler may be willing to bet that Bucky Hodges can pull off a pretty good imitation.

Hopefully it's not too good of an impression, we can't afford that many interceptions and negative plays.

Logan gave the Hokies everything he had and then some. He was also a great representative off the field.

I support Coach Frank Beamer.

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

4 Interceptions against Dook, 4 turnovers against BC, the list goes on. I love Logan, he just had turnover issues.

I've found that Logan is a bit of a sensitive subject here.

I think anyone that talks in absolute terms about who's at fault for various offensive shortcomings is going to bear the brunt of pushback. It's the unending story, still going even after graduation. Blaming LT entirely for all of those turnovers is naive and ignores all of the film review we've had here. Some of the mistakes were his, others were on teammates. He's definitely not to blame for all 8 of the turnovers mentioned here.

The 2013 team had turnover issues; LT was just a microcosm of greater offensive problems.

Exactly! Don't oversimplify football stuff on TKP. We've all been educated by each other and especially Joe, French, and HOAT. We know BS comments when we see them. You gotta bring your A game here! If not and you're too critical, you get run out on a rail.

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

Because thinking that just stats alone shows the true picture is also weak.

#thingsiblamethemvsfor

I think it has to do with a single target of the comments, LT3. Certainly there were other contributors to those...
Its been said ad naeseaum

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

I do not understand why this comment is being downvoted. I am a Logan supporter, but when Kendall Fuller was Duke's leading receiver you'd think we'd win that game. And YES I understand it was not all his fault.

"Go Hokies!" - Thomas Jefferson
@HaydenDubya

It's being downvoted because the original poster seems to be under the impression that even balls that hit a WR right in the hands, then get deflected and intercepted were the sole responsibility of LT3. It's a cheap way of thinking, to just look at INT numbers and say "What a terrible QB." ESPN does that. TKP should not.

#thingsiblamethemvsfor

Good point.
I normally don't like him but Czaban says that INT's should be treated like fumbles; the forced fumble and the actual recovery are two different stats.
There INT's thrown by the QB, and INT's caused by the receiver. I wonder what LT3's stats would have been then?

Tweedy can run like a dadgum antelope or whatever. I like to use scalded dog. Do antelopes lumber? Cheetah, OK. He runs like a cheetah. He's fast. - Bud Foster

Baseball people have spent decades developing more detailed statistics to get a truer picture of what happens on the field. There's even been a book and a movie about it. But folks still point to a starting pitcher's wins and losses, or a reliever's holds or saves, as if they told you something useful.

In football, the stats do not differentiate between a poor throw by the QB, a mistake by the WR, and a terrific play by the CB. They're three completely different events, but the outcome is the same, so they are all counted the same way. It's pitiful, but there it is.

Yeah you wouldn't want to impersonate somebody who broke every school passing record, would you

RealDiehl

The thought of our record the past 2 seasons without LT makes me want to cry. Sure, there were plays we all wanted back, but without his leadership, skills, and determination, the past 2 seasons would have been horrific.

Go Hokies

The versatility of Hodges running that formation in certain situations should be making Loeffler salivate.

Hodges would probably be effective in this downhill scheme, but I think the ceiling is only so high for him in it.

I read this as a Bucky Hodges height joke

#38-0

Bucky going up steps:

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

So the 2014 offense could consist of the firm of
Gashem (Edmunds), Bashem (Williams), Gasem (Coleman/Mangus) and Beatem (Durkin/Hodges)?
Works for me, I can't wait to see it in action.

You forgot the partner they keep in the basement office, Smashem.

Sam Smash

Could Caleb compete for snaps in this role, too?

What's Important Now?
The Lunchpail. The Hammer. BeamerBall.
Deal some damage boys

Oh my goodness I miss me some greg boone

Coale'd blooded

Can we call the new version the 101? Everyone knows thats way better than the regular.

My suspicion is that Bucky is more of a placeholder for Durkin until he gets to school in the fall. We wanted to practice this formation with the rest of the offense in the Spring, with the idea being Durkin actually running come Fall. I guess time will tell.

I think that if this is going to be a thing, then we should have a few guys to give depth and competition. Would love it if Durkin comes in and lights it up in this role. But what about giving Caleb, Parker, McMillian a chance at it? Rember, McMillian was a BOSS at the IV in high school.

What's Important Now?
The Lunchpail. The Hammer. BeamerBall.
Deal some damage boys

Sigh. Line up in the I-formation, blow people off the ball, find at least one really good back you can lean on and have a Play Action pass scheme that frightens defenses.

We've got a lot of talent on offense now, time to focus on fewer formations, not more. No more Loeffler Sampler, pick a scheme and get good at it.

I totally understand where you're coming from and I know how much everyone wants the old-school, smashmouth running game, but that's not what we're gonna get. Loeffler's offense is about running the football, finding and exploiting matchups, and then throwing off of play action for easy completions.

I'd encourage you to read Mason's film review after the UNC game that really talks about Loeffler's offense.
http://www.thekeyplay.com/content/2013/october/7/true-multiple-offense

In Beamer & Co. We Trust #Livefor32 #DecadeofDominance

The Hokies have come a long way on offense over the first six games of the season. Every game they've looked better than the last. Now that ACC play is in full swing, the Hokies true offensive identity is starting to take shape. Defenses will be kept off balance all year by Loeffler's unpredictable play calling and formation usage. Logan Thomas has had two good games in a row throwing the football, and his wide receivers are becoming more reliable.

sniffle.

The problem is that the play calling got more and more predictable in the second half of the season. Loeffler ended up completely abandoning the under center game.

Techs only real offensive advantage (unpredictability) was lost when every run occurred out of the pistol or shot gun. I spend a lot of time praising loeffler for bringing a coherent offensive system to Blacksburg, but at some point this offseason I'll touch on things I feel he could have done differently

Thanks, definitely saw dramatic improvement in many areas under Loeffler, but it was far from a complete composition. My simpleton mind only focuses on running eight different packages with only two plays out of each instead of two sets running everything.

Please wait until after today's scrimmage. I'm sure SL is too focused to read before. TIC

I'm all for power football and it should never leave Blacksburg, but frankly we had a power running scheme in the past and we are still missing that crystal trophy. And the thing that took us to the game in 99 was a mobile QB that broke the power running offense mold.

What I like about the Sampler is that it uses all of your offense weapons and doesn't just depend on the one player/position moving the chains. Ever since I walked onto campus in 95 there have been groans that the offense was boring. I don't see last year as indicative to the offense that Lefty wants to run either. So I am quite excited to see the one that he is working towards with as many offensive weapons being exploited as possible.

This times 1000, I thought Durkin would be perfect as a belldoozer type package except better because I think he's more athletic and less of just a big muscular dude who played QB in high school. This also might help develop him because lord knows throwing a true freshman into the fray doesn't tend to workout. I've been saying it all along he would be great for a system like this and goalline packages to give us that extra wrinkle and player to defend

Taylor, looking desperately throws it deep..HAS A MAN OPEN DANNY COALE WITH A CATCH ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE FIVE!!!!....hes still open

What will it look like? I think it will look like UF's red zone offense when Lefty coached Tebow...jet sweep/fake; one man play action; simple fade route; jump pass, etc.