Alabama vs Virginia Tech Offense Preview
Ahh, yes, thank God it’s football season once again!!!! This Saturday is the opening weekend of the 2013 college football season and that means it’s time to bust out your finest tailgating hardware and find your favorite lucky beer koozies! I’m not the only one who has one, right? Well, this weekend, we are suggesting that you do some deep pantry diving to find that big ole Turkey fryer back there behind the recycled peanut oil. Why?? Because Turkey (form of, a Hokie)…it’s what’s for dinner!
The fine folks at Chic-Fil-A were kind enough to invite Alabama back to the Georgia Dome for another Kickoff Classic and, once again, Alabama’s main course will consist of dining on Virgina Tech’s famed Hokie Bird. Here at the Lighthouse, we want to cast a light on everything and that includes “what the heck is a Hokie?” Apparently, back when Tech was a military college, the cadet athletes used to “gobble” their food in a great big hurry so when Va Tech went looking for a mascot the whole gobble thing came up – this resulted in the Hokie Bird! Va Tech fans probably think it’s a great story and a great mascot but the whole thing seems kind of hokey to me…
I know, I know – you didn’t come here to this site to read a bunch of hokie jokes and fowl language. I imagine you guys get plenty of that kind of stuff from Duck Dynasty, right? Ok, so we aren’t quite at mid-season form just yet. And, honestly we admit that we are still feeling the sting of shame from predicting the Notre Dame defense would be a stiff challenge in the BCS Championship game. Seriously. What were we thinking?????? Well, at least last year the Lighthouse nailed the Michigan game (and the A&M game but who’s counting?) to start the 2012 season so maybe Virginia Tech is just the Thanksgiving we need to get us off to another fine season. So, get your turkeys ready – it’s time for the Lighthouse to begin the master basting for the 2013 season!
Alabama on Offense
All of Bud Foster’s Hokie defenses are hell-bent on one thing – stopping the run. Tech loves to stack (and oftentimes blitz) 8 men…9 men…and everyone including the damn Hokie bird across the line of scrimmage in an effort to shut down the running game. And, while their LBs and defensive line groups are both woefully undersized, Foster uses slants, stunts and shifts to get his smallish lineman into the gaps of the offensive line. As if that’s not enough havoc, Foster will then send his linebackers and corners on kamikaze missions that are designed to accent the slants and stunts of his front line. The Hokies hit the edges hard in an effort to funnel the running game back to the inside and they were extremely successful in doing so against FSU last year.
Also, in watching the Florida State tape it was obvious that Va Tech likes to blitz well over 50% of the time. Down doesn’t matter. Distance doesn’t matter. Time doesn’t matter. While holding onto a one point lead with a minute to go in the game, instead of sitting in a prevent defense, Foster blitzed every single play. Every. Single. Play. Virginia Tech eventually lost when the Seminoles picked up the blitz and hit a speedy WR on a crossing route – he went into the end zone untouched from about 40 yards out. You live by the sword, you die by the sword…
Anyway, there are obviously going to be two main outcomes to these all out blitz tactics and, as a friend of mine says, each blitz should guarantee that one of the two bands will be playing their fight song. You will likely hear the Va Tech fight song (we think it must be Adam Sandler’s “Turkey Song”) a few times because their attacking, ultra-aggressive style of defense should result in several negative yardage plays – sacks, tackles for loss and probably a holding call or two. But, when the Bama line is able to pick up the blitz, the Million Dollar band leader better have the “Yea Alabama” placard handy because if AJ gets the ball to Bell, White or Cooper then it should result in a quick six.
With Tech stacking the line of scrimmage and flying downhill to stop the run, Bama’s play action passing game should put the Hokies in a pressure cooker numerous times throughout the game. Both of Tech’s safeties are former corners so they will likely not be completely over matched by Bama’s slot receivers as we are accustomed to seeing. However, in their nickel looks the Hokies will be employing two true freshmen in Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson so look for their two names on the backs of the jerseys trailing Bama receivers into the end zone. Nussmeier loves to call for double moves so look for a couple of the Hokies to be served up with some un-dressing by Bama receivers. Also, swing passes and screens to the backs should prove to be wildly successful against the blitz.
As for the Bama running game, we think it will falter early but will be much more effective later after the Tide establishes the passing game. Tech’s front four weighs 253, 312, 295 and 252 and their linebackers weigh in at 225, 232 and 211. Both groups are woefully thin (in numbers and in size). Look for the majority of Bama’s rushing yardage to come in the second half after the Hokies’ front seven has been slow roasted for the first two quarters. Also, the Hokies hit the flanks really hard so look for most of the Tide’s rushing yards to come between the tackles.
- Blitz packages should leave a their corners stranded in man-to-man coverage. Look for “rub” routes where Bama receivers will essentially pick the Hokie defenders leaving a few wide open receivers. We predict at least two plays where you giggle and wonder where the defender was on that play.
- You will get to know the name of Tech defensive end James Gayle as he will likely spend quite a bit of time harassing Bama backs in the backfield. He’s very fast, very seasoned and is by far their best defensive player. We think he gets at least a sack and a half and 2 TFL’s. His matchup against Austin Shepherd is the key one of the game in our opinion.
- AJ will be sacked a minimum of 3 times. Why? Because Bama has a rebuilt line that is working together for the first time. Did we mention the blitz? Va Tech will be bringing some pretty complex blitz packages for this new group to figure out.
- Bama will come out flat as the Va Tech defense is a veteran group who improved by leaps and bounds over the latter part of last season. It will take a few series to adjust to the pressure packages of the Hokies. It won’t be 21-0 like it was against Michigan at the end of the first quarter.
- Derrick Henry will be Alabama’s second leading rusher and he’s going to blow your mind. He’s nearly as big as the two Va Tech ends and he’s bigger than all three of their linebackers. He can also catch the ball so we think he may get out into the open field and do some serious damage to a little defensive back.
- TJ Yeldon will be the second leading receiver (in catches) on the day. With Foster committing his backers to stop the run, Yeldon should easily be able to slip out for a few passes.
- AJ will toss at least two touchdowns and will complete four passes for over 20 yards.
- OJ Howard will make a critical catch on a third down conversion.
- The right tackle will give up at least two sacks.
- Alabama’s offense should gain around 400 yards total with over 50% of it coming via the air.
- Va Tech will double Amari Cooper as much as they can and that will open opportunities for White, Bell and Norwood.
- You will see at least one double move result in a big, big play.
- When Va Tech blitzes, their corners will sometimes play way off the receivers. Look for quite a few quick hitch routes and WR screens to the outside to take advantage of this.
- FSU had several opportunities to hit their slot receivers against the blitz but they never connected. I can’t stop thinking about Chris Black and Christion Jones being isolated one on one against a freshman. Look for them to catch a quick hitting slant route or two against a blitz.
- FSU’s offense really struggled against the Hokies until they began running between the tackles and moving to a hurry up offense. Alabama’s offense has been practicing the hurry up O all summer so I think you will see a little of this somewhere (likely early) in the game.
- Alabama will “max protect” using tight ends and backs much more than usual.
We expect a slow start to the game while Alabama’s offensive line begins to create some traction against its smaller Virginia Tech opponents. Their aggressive, attacking style of defense will likely create several negative plays for Alabama but it should also open up some huge opportunities down the field. Va Tech will be completely overmatched if they just sit back and play a standard defense so they will have to blitz all night long. Alabama will begin to get their groove on in the second half and will turn a relatively close game into a race to the Atlanta bars to watch the last two quarters of the Georgia-Clemson game.