Back to the Future for the Whip and the Rover

Last summer, I devoted three French on the Bench columns to the design of Bud Foster's 4-2-5 gap defense. Foster developed the 4-2-5 scheme from 4-4 attack principles (that root back to Phil Elmassian's time at Tech in the mid 90s). The 4-2-5 scheme moved the rover back into more of a traditional strong safety role, while the whip transitioned into a hybrid outside linebacker that was part nickel corner, and part free ranging outside linebacker. As the rovers and whips became smaller and more coverage oriented, Virginia Tech made fewer impact plays (sacks, tackles for a loss, forced fumbles) with the front seven, and instead focused on forcing turnovers with innovative coverage strategies. Eight- and nine-man run support was facilitated through the use of inverted cover 2 zone coverage. In the inverted cover 2 zone, the safeties moved forward to support the run while converging on their underneath zone responsibilities. That left special talents like Jimmy Williams and Jayron Hosley free to sit back in robber coverage and rack up interceptions. Foster even went so far to essentially play nickel corner in place of a whip on a majority of snaps over the course of two seasons.

Notes and Quotes From Day One of ACC Kickoff

Yesterday, the media gathered in Greensboro to interview (and eat ice cream with) ACC football players. The coaches speak today, and as it relates to the Hokies, day one of ACC Kickoff is always more candid. Coach Beamer has mastered the art of coach speak, and is anything but frank when engaging the media. The players are more apt to provide interesting news, like Logan Thomas hinting Andrew Miller will be sticking at right guard this fall.

Thomas was accompanied to Greensboro by Jack Tyler, and together they indirectly let on to some of the causes of the mess that was last season, gave insight on Beamer Co.'s cleanup process, and how they're conducting business going forward.

The following quotes from Tyler and Tyler validated the thoughts going through my head last fall for the team's shortcomings, and made me have an even better outlook on the future.

Tyler:

Alabama's 3-4: Impact Plays via the Zone Blitz

Alabama's defense is bigger, faster, and stronger than Virginia Tech's typical opponent, but their front seven doesn't waltz onto the field with the Superman symbol on their chest. I have watched a bunch of film on the Crimson Tide defense over the course of the summer, and while they certainly had moments of physical dominance, they were pushed around up front by several teams. As discussed last week, LSU bullied Alabama's defensive line and linebackers for long stretches, and Georgia was able to get a push on the interior. Texas A&M ran spread and used a ton of play action and misdirection, but in the running game, they attacked the interior gaps. Alabama's defenders can be moved around the box.

Kirby Smart's defense uses movement, gap fits, and assignment execution to create an umbrella across the front and account for each gap. In a base look, the 3-4 is a conservative defense. Players occupy gaps, read and react, and make the play. By nature, it bends.

Colt Pettit is a Hokie

Editor's note: Hokie Wartooth was all over this as my head was buried underneath a remote desktop connection configuring the new server (8 cores, 16 GBs of ram!). HokieHaven.com spoke with Pettit—he lauds Tech, and says he's firm on his commitment. Pettit's versatility on the field is impressive, and so are offers from Harvard and Yale. Brains and physical tools are the ultimate combination in football. Finally, how about the job Jeff Grimes is doing on the recruiting trail?

Alabama's 3-4 Defense: Playmaking Linebackers

As was previously discussed, the basic role of the defensive line in a 3-4 scheme is to control multiple offensive linemen and tie up blockers. The d-line wants to free up a large, athletic linebacker corps to make plays all over the field. There are four linebacker positions in Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart's defense. Inside is a Mike linebacker that plays to the tight end, or strong side of the formation, and a Willy linebacker that plays to the weak side of the formation. Outside is a Drop or Sam linebacker that lines up to the strong side, usually over the tight end, and a Jack linebacker that lines up on the weak side of the formation. Often the Jack is in position to rush the passer.

The Alabama philosophy on linebacker play requires hybrid players. Often, Saban recruits players who have not played the traditional linebacker position in high school. Instead, they target gifted athletes, with unique skill sets, that demonstrate a high level of coachability. Similar to Bud Foster's scheme, the base 3-4 is assignment driven football, and the Alabama staff looks for players who have strengths that will lend themselves to performance in their system.

VT-WVU, Home-and-Home in 2021, '22

Well, this is happening now. Poster Tailgate QB first mentioned series in the forums two days ago, and it's official now via The Register-Herald.

"It's down the road a little bit, but it's the first time they could squeeze us into their schedule," said Luck, who played in the series four times, splitting those four meetings from 1978 through 1981. "But it becomes more important given the geography of the Big 12. Getting a school like Virginia Tech means a lot."

"It's two great universities that have had some great competition," agreed Beamer, who's 12-7 against the Mountaineers. "We've always had great respect for them, and I think they feel the same way about us. Where we're located, it's the right thing to do. We'll take fans to Morgantown, and they'll bring fans to Blacksburg."

It's time to polish up the Black Diamond Trophy and head to Morgantown on September 18, 2021.

#BEATBAMA Dot GIF

I asked our resident GIF maven VTBox if he would make us something fun for the 4th of July week(end). He didn't disappoint.

Please note, Sansa is taller than Saban, so the scale is a bit off here.

Have a great time celebrating America this weekend y'all. Please know how to safely handle fireworks and return with all your fingers intact. Do discuss any plans below or America related homerism below.

Billy Ray Mitchell Commits to Virginia Tech

The Hokies nab another New Jersey prospect and offensive linemen. Coach Grimes is on a roll. Billy Ray Mitchell announced his commitment to Virginia Tech.

HokieHaven.com, spoke with the 6-4 285-pound offensive lineman this afternoon.

Mitchell, who cancelled an unofficial visit to Wisconsin he had planned for the weekend, called the Virginia Tech staff this afternoon to commit, becoming commitment No. 13 for the 2014 class.

Grimes' Recruiting Blueprint

Last week, Jeff Grimes landed New Jersey offensive lineman Tyrell Smith. Previously, the Hokies received a commitment from Eric Gallo from Holland, Pennsylvania. There has also been significant buzz around the Hokies possibly landing Billy Ray Mitchell from Paramus, New Jersey. Hokie fans might be a bit salty that Grimes has not been able to land any high profile offensive line recruits, but these under the radar prospects fit the profile of what Grimes needs to execute his system.

As we have discussed several times since Frank Beamer turned over his offensive staff, Grimes' system is a zone blocking scheme, which requires athleticism, lateral movement, leg drive, motor to stay engaged as a primary blocker, and a natural instinct for timing to engage and then release double team blocks on down linemen to get to the second level. Big and nasty isn't enough, but being quick, nasty, with tremendous reach is the ideal prototype for a Jeff Grimes offensive lineman.

The Book on Erick Green

It's a weird time for Tech fans.

No, not because we are struggling through that awkward phase of emptiness in the sporting calendar with no games or practices. Not because we've been obsessing over the decisions of 17-year-olds for the past month, and have been absolutely devastated when their decisions don't go our way. It's because the NBA Draft is tomorrow, and Tech fans finally have a reason to care.

In case you forgot...or had it electrocuted from memory...basketball is a sport, in fact a sport that the Hokies were not very good at. Erick Green however, was the exception. Think about what it would be like if Leo Dicaprio was in the newest Adam Sandler movie. If De Niro starred in Police Academy 7. If Russell Crowe had a part in the new Superma....oh wait. You get my point.

Green was the lone bright spot in a season of negativity and blowout losses. He won ACC Player of the Year, was first team All-ACC, a third team AP All-American selection, and now he has the chance to be the first Hokie taken in the first round of the draft since 1986.

Tyrell Smith Commits to Virginia Tech

The Hokies have landed their second verbal pledge in as many days. Tonight, it's offensive lineman (guard) Tyrell Smith (6-5, 255 per Andy Bitter) from powerhouse program Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey. 247Sports ranks Smith as a 3-star prospect, while Rivals.com rates him as a 2-star recruit.

Todderick Hunt of NJ.com wrote a nice feature on Smith last December.

"I'm best at run blocking, especially when we run inside zone plays. When I have to block down on an inside lineman, it's going to be a mismatch for him."

Smith, who claims a 315-pound bench press and 500 pound squat, can't wait to get back to football. Since the season ended, he has been working to improve his body for the rigors of the upcoming season.

Loeffler, The Quarterback, and the Running Game

Michael Vick, Bryan Randall, Marcus Vick, Tyrod Taylor, Logan Thomas. Virginia Tech has had a string of mobile quarterbacks over the past decade and a half. Michael Vick burst onto the scene back in '99, and transformed the way that college football utilized mobile quarterbacks forever. Scot Loeffler in his own words describing his offense (emphasis mine), "...it's really a pro-style offense, that's multiple, with the ability to run the quarterback, and I think you got to do some of that in college football now." Programs like West Virginia, Florida, Nevada, and Oregon have revolutionized the way that offenses highlight the strengths of their dual-threat signal callers. The success of these programs prove that mobile quarterbacks aren't a trend, they aren't a fad, and they aren't going anywhere. I can say this with certainty because football is, at its heart, a numbers game.

Change the Math

Film Vault: GameDay VT-Miami 2003

I had fun watching and writing this the last time, so I decided to do it again. I hope you enjoy reading and reminiscing. Happy Friday y'all!

Even though GameDay was in Oklahoma for Bedlam, a lot of the show was dedicated to a memorable matchup in Blacksburg.

Be sure to check out Hokietapes massive film collection.

0:00–1:10 - I really miss that intro. Bring it back ESPN.

1:28 - Survival Saturday! (What's the job title for the person who has to come up with all of these weekend catch phrases?)

1:31 - A reminder about the whoopin' we took in Morgantown the previous game. If I knew the tour bus was stopping there on our trip down memory lane, I wouldn't have bought tickets. I thought Kevin Jones would have a career day in the snake pit against the 'Eers. Instead, Tech got out gained by 199 yards on the ground. That doesn't happen often for the Hokies, lopsided rushing totals, but when it does, the losses are branded into your brain.

2:04 - Not one SEC team among the lot, my how times have changed.

Alabama's 3-4 Defense: D-Line Basics

Over the course of the summer, I will be examining the matchups and schemes of the Hokies' opponents, and no scheme presents more conundrums and challenges than Nick Saban's NFL-style 3-4 defense. Saban comes from the Bill Parcells/Bill Belichick coaching tree, and brings an NFL-esque attention to detail that is unparalleled in college football. Yes, Alabama has talent, but the true genius of Nick Saban (besides his ability to represent strong the Lollipop Guild) is to ensure that his talent executes the scheme.

Several years ago, Smart Football posted an excerpt from Saban's LSU playbook. While the post has been lost in a sea of bytes, Saban's own words on his defensive philosophy live on (via Pats Propaganda).

[Our] philosophy on first and second down is to stop the run and play good zone pass defense. We will occasionally play man-to-man and blitz in this situation. On third down, we will primarily play man-to-man and mix-in some zone and blitzes. We will rush four or more players versus the pass about ninety-percent of the time.

QB Andrew Ford Commits to Virginia Tech

Pennsylvania quarterback Andrew Ford verbally committed to Virginia Tech this afternoon.

Ford is 6-3, 190-pounds, rated a 4-star by 247Sports, and a 3-star prospect by Rivals.com. I asked French what he thought about Ford and this is what he told me:

Da'Shawn Hand Eliminates the Hokies

Mike Farrell of Rivals.com announced Hand's top-3 this morning.

Throughout the entire recruiting process, Hand has been adamant about Bud Foster being his favorite coach, so most Hokies and recruiting analysts felt extremely good about Virginia Tech's chances to land him. Early on Hand stated he wanted to pursue a degree in engineering, but his academic interests changed not too long ago, and that might be a reason why the Hokies sit on the outside looking in.

Priority Partner Scheduling in the ACC

The negative effect an eight game ACC schedule had on a 14-team league became crystal clear last week when the ACC announced the football rotating crossover opponents through 2024. Eight conference games worked well with 12 teams. Teams in opposite divisions would play each other at least once every 4 years, visit and host each other every 5. Moving forward, the ACC is intent on preserving a primary crossover game as well as rotation in which, "Each ACC school will play all of their rotating crossover opponents twice during the 12-year rotation, once at home and once on the road, but not consecutively."

Andy Bitter put it into context nicely.

I've tweeted the numbers before, but they bear repeating: from now until 2024, the end of this ACC scheduling cycle, Virginia Tech will play Florida State, Clemson and Louisville five times. It will play East Carolina, a non-ACC member, seven times between 2014 and 2020.

Jaylen Bradshaw Commits To Virginia Tech

According to SportsWar's (TSL) Chris Horne, Oscar Smith (Chesapeake) wide receiver Jaylen Bradshaw made it official and verballed to the Hokies this evening.

Bradshaw earned a Virginia Tech offer after camping in Blacksburg last Sunday.

Class of 2014 wide receiver Jaylen Bradshaw landed his first BCS offer on Sunday when the Hokies offered. The 6-1 175 pound wide out with the sub 4.5 speed is highly regarded as one of the best wide outs in the rising senior class locally. Until now, Jaylen held five offers, but the Tech offer has the potential to trump them all. Bradshaw picked up offers from Old Dominion, Campbell, Charlotte, Towson, and UMass this Spring.

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