One way Justin Fuente has kept Virginia Tech in the race for the ACC Coastal division title is to rely on one of his staples: Utilizing motion in his offenses to disguise concepts. Sean Cottrell shows how that was no different in a crucial game against Miami by breaking down the Virginia Tech orbit motion package.
Coming off of an upset loss to Syracuse less than a week ago, the Virginia Tech Hokies could not afford a loss in Blacksburg for their week eight matchup with the Miami Hurricanes. In what has developed into a very exciting race for the ACC Coastal division crown, a loss to Miami would be devastating to the Hokies chances of keeping pace with division rivals North Carolina and Pittsburgh.
To win the game, the Hokie offense would have to take care of business on the offensive side of the ball. While not perfect by any means, the Hokie defense has consistently been keeping them in games and allowing the offense to make enough plays to win. Head coach Justin Fuente ensured that consistency when he decided to keep long time Hokie defensive coordinator Bud Foster on board after being hired.
Fuente is known for simplifying his offensive formations and concepts while disguising them with his use of misdirection to keep defenses guessing. In a matchup where he would be facing three freshman linebackers, Fuente decided to attack them with more of the same. One of the ways he did that was through the use of orbit motion from his wide receivers. In all the plays highlighted below, the Hokies align in the same formation, giving the defense the same look but running multiple different plays out of it. In addition, Fuente mixes in orbit motion on each play as a constraint and dose of misdirection for the defense.
On the first play we will review, the Hokies face a 2nd and 9 early in the 1st quarter with the ball on the left hash of their own 28-yard line. They have their 21 personnel package on the field and quarterback Jerod Evans (#4) lined up in the shotgun with running back Travon McMillian (#34) set to his left. The receivers and tight end Bucky Hodges (#7) are split out in a 2X1 alignment with an inverted slot formation to the wide side of the field and fullback Sam Rogers (#45) set just behind and to the right of right guard Augie Conte (#72). The Miami defense is aligned in its base 4-3 personnel and show a single high safety over the top.
Prior to the snap, receiver Cam Phillips (#5) goes into orbit motion behind Evans. When Evans gets the ball in his hands he turns and fakes the handoff to McMillian and then fakes the handoff to Phillips as he passes by. He then turns his eyes downfield looking at WR Isaiah Ford (#1) and Hodges running a Yankee Concept.
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Before he can pull the trigger however, Miami LB Shaquille Quarterman (#55) comes on a delayed blitz and forces Evans to evacuate the pocket and throw the ball away. Although the play was not successful, it gives the defense a pass concept out of this formation despite primarily being seen as a run formation.
On the next play from this formation, later in the 1st quarter, Virginia Tech is facing a 2nd and 3 on its own 12-yard line and align in the same formation out of 21 personnel. Miami is in their base 4-3 defense with one high safety. Before the snap, Phillips goes into motion and the Hurricanes rotate their safeties over the top to adjust to the motion.
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Evans receives the snap, turns to his left and hands the ball to McMillian on a pin-pull lead sweep. Rogers fires outside to seal the playside defensive end inside while both guards pull outside to pave the way for McMillian. Unfortunately for the Hokies, Miami DE Anthony Moten (#95) does an excellent job getting penetration upfield and the Miami LBs do a good job reading their keys and flowing outside with the sweep.
On the next play, early in the 2nd quarter with the ball on their own 35-yard line and facing a 2nd and 13, the Hokies line up in the same formation and show yet another play design out of it. Miami once again has its base 4-3 defense on the field. Wide receiver C.J. Carroll (#86) goes into motion just before Evans receives the snap. The Hokies run a veer option on the play.
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Evans puts the ball in McMillian’s gut and reads the backside DE. Once he sees running room out on the edge, he pulls the ball and takes off outside. At this point, Carroll is just behind him and serves as a pitch man on the option. Miami cornerback Corn Elder (#29) does a good job staying home on the edge and taking away the pitch but Evans is still able to turn upfield for a six yard gain.
The success on this play came down to two things. First, the orbit motion was actually going towards the playside. On most other occasions the motion went in the opposite direction of the play. When the ball is snapped, the offensive line fires out blocking up an inside zone to their right. With the line moving right and the motion going in the opposite direction, the young Miami LBs get sucked inside with the zone look.
The second key to the success on the play was the arc block made by Rogers. Lined up pre-snap between the right guard and tackle, Rogers comes across the formation toward the backside DE at the snap like he would on a split zone running play. On this play, though, he doesn’t block the backside DE because Evans was reading him. Just before reaching the DE, Rogers loops around him and arc blocks the playside LB.
It is called an “arc” block due to the arc like motion Rogers goes in, looping around the DE and up to the LB. Rogers is able to seal the LB inside and provide Evans with a crease to pick up his six yards. Of course Rogers may not have been able to get to the LB on time if his eyes hadn’t been stuck in the backfield with the zone action to the other side. This was a great example of how the design of the play and the executions of the individual assignments all came together in unison to create positive yardage.
The final play we will review came with 10:50 left in the 2nd quarter and really seemed to have served as the springboard for the Virginia Tech offense on the night. The Hokies line up again in the same formation on a 1st and 10 from the Miami 45-yard line. The Hurricanes respond again with their base 4-3 defense on the field.
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At the snap, the Hokies show the same exact veer option look but this time Evans hands the ball off to McMillian on a power play. From the same alignment, Rogers does an excellent job kicking out the playside DE who initially gets inside leverage before Rogers is able to turn him outside. Meanwhile, left guard Wyatt Teller (#57) pulls, gets in behind Rogers and is able to get a block on the Hurricanes middle LB, turning him outside and clearing a path for McMillian who explodes for a 35-yard gain.
The key to this play, other than the excellent playside blocking from Rogers and Teller, is the veer option look that the Hokies show as the backside DE and LB both flow outside to stop the option with Evans and Phillips.
The Hokies gained a total of 251 yards rushing throughout the night and misdirection was a major factor in accomplishing that. While not all of the plays above resulted in big gains, Fuente, once again, demonstrated the ability to give a defense multiple looks out of the same formation. This approach allows Fuente to keep the offense simple for his players limiting the formations and assignments for them while still giving the defense a lot to think about. More importantly for the Hokies, though, they got the victory over the Hurricanes and are still very much alive in the race for the ACC Coastal crown. With a big showdown with the Pittsburgh Panthers on the horizon, Fuente’s ability to throw another changeup at the defense will be critical to their success.
Follow Sean on Twitter @PhllyDraft. Check out more of Sean’s work here, such as on what Dorian Green-Beckham can do for the Philadelphia Eagles, how coach Bronco Mendenhall gets to the quarterback, how Carson Wentz did in his first preseason game,what Justin Fuente brings to the Virginia Tech Hokies offense, and on Mark Richt and the triangle offense in Miami.
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All film courtesy of ESPN.