Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente has been coordinating high powered offenses since his days at TCU with Andy Dalton. The Hokies call themselves a multiple pro style team, and their base personnel resembles the modern NFL, typically lining up in either 11, 20 or 10 personnel with a tight end out wide. 21 personnel is pretty common.
However, this is a distinctly college spread system. Fuente, a former quarterbacks coach, has had success with Dalton at TCU, Lynch at Memphis and Evans at VT running a system inspired by the better (on field only) Baylor teams. The wide receivers often are aligned as wide as possible to force the offense to defend the entirety of the field. Both tight ends, at under 240 pounds, struggle blocking at the point of attack but can block in space on screens and are dangerous motioning out of the backfield.
In the passing game Virginia Tech looks to attack the field horizontally and vertically. One of their best ways of moving the ball is to throw an out route to an isolated Cam Phillips. Phillips, the leading receiver in college football, may be targeted on throws like this two or three times in a row. Sometimes as an RPO, sometimes as a called throw. Here we can see VT threatening the entire width of the field, forcing the defense to account for a jet sweep or run up the middle (and they use both extensively) before throwing to the other side of the field.
Fuente’s quarterbacks have all tended to have strong arms and Josh Jackson can make the throws that punish teams sitting in off coverage. Clemson may press a lot more often than they usually prefer to. Phillips will also work in comebacks, posts and fade routes.
Jackson is aggressive pushing the ball downfield and while he only has one interception so far this year he has not exactly played world beaters defensively.
VT has a lot of run pass options and asks their quarterback to make a lot of decisions under pressure. This play reads the play side linebacker, either he accounts for the pop pass or he accounts for the QB power.
Fuente is also extremely fond of running mirrored concepts, basically splitting the field in half and running two different quick passing schemes. The Hokies particularly like to combine slants with curl flats. In addition they run quite a bit of four verticals (often with a tight end or running back wheel route) and double pivot.
Like all spread teams the Hokies run quite a few screens. Jackson has also shown adeptness at sprint out passes.
So much so that the Hokies have added a shovel option as a constraint play.
Despite a ton of experience the Hokies line is pretty average, particularly on the right side. The pace the Hokies are capable of could tire a Clemson defense that lacks the depth of last year, and Fuente likes to rotate skill players to keep guys fresh, but if Virginia Tech is going three and out they will go three and out rapidly.
The Virginia Tech running game is based around power, inside zone, both of those plays again, outside zone and counter.
Jet sweeps, option concepts and quarterback runs are used liberally. Virginia Tech does not run as much power read as they have in years past, but this generally is the scheme Fuente bases around. The Hokies three running backs, #’s 32-34, are all capable of taking advantage if the blocking is there. Jackson is dangerous on the zone read and lit up an aggressive West Virginia defense with his legs.
The offensive front has struggled at the point of attack but gets to the second level well. Jackson is big play threat in the backfield, but Virginia Tech needs to keep their running backs involved to win this game. The scheme the Hokies run is great for attacking aggressive quarters defenses but their scheme requires the threat of the inside run to really get going. That said, this is a talented offense that will find ways to move the ball and score points. Even if the Tigers can keep the Hokies out of the red zone VT has a pretty good kicker.
Clemson 28, Virginia Tech 21