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Reading Between the Lines: Changes in UT Football From Last Year

Ordinarily, when a news article has an eye-popping line, I will post it up as a FanShot and highlight the curiosity in the brief text I write with it.  That's the fairest way to handle articles, as it encourages everybody to read the article at the source and give the webhit to the person who wrote the article.  Sometimes, however, I do a double-take at several things inside an article and want a little more space to comment.  Such is the case with an article on GVX entitled Jones is OK if G-Gun dismantled.

The article parrots earlier news stories about how Jones isn't required to run the G-Gun because everybody feels more confident in the quarterbacks this year.  We've been down that road, with all the talk about the complicated Clawfense and the two-year learning curve.  There is some information added to the article - almost randomly - that was far more interesting to me.  First up:

Quarterback Jonathan Crompton has already noticed just how versatile UT's fullbacks can be.

"They're athletic enough that if we want to put them out wide, we can put them out wide," he said.

That's news.  Fullbacks are traditionally lumbering hulks, and certainly UT's are not small boys.  This little line item, however, is a treasure of possibilities.

  • No huddle, anybody?  If you have fullbacks who can play wide receiver, then you can run no-huddle (more specifically, no-substitution) drives and take advantage of either passing mismatches or rushing mismatches.  It's bad enough for a defense to have to get caught with the wrong personnel on the field, but having the offense this wide open is exciting.
  • Also athletic enough for additional rushing options.  Coupled with zone blocking, having athletic fullbacks really opens up possibilities in rushing plays.  You can play-action bootleg and have the fullback block or spread to a pass pattern (or both!).  You can change the timing of the rushing play, depending on whether the halfback or the fullback gets the ball.  You can add a lead blocker.
  • Three tight-end sets.  There's a mythical school of offense that firmly believes that three tight-end offenses will eventually take over.  The trick is getting enough players who can line block and run pass patterns on the field at once.  WR/FB hybrids ought to do the trick.

Then there's this:

No Pushovers: UT's effective rushing attack - especially on short yardage - had even the receivers talking on Tuesday.

"The difference between this year and last year is they've got somebody on their back to push them to the limit to make sure they're going to do it," Jones said. "They've got the mindset that they won't be denied. They won't be stopped.

"It's one yard. We have a great back in the backfield that can pick it up. All they have to do is get a push and they do it."

Huh?  This little line might tell a huge story.  Why didn't we have somebody "push them to the limit" last year?  What was missing?

Other than that, I absolutely love the "especially on short yardage" comment.  The question about a zone-blocking scheme is always: how effective are they at goal-line situations?  In all honesty, they can be just as effective as a power blocking scheme; the problem is that the trust and timing requirements intensify as the number of defenders in the box increases.  In a goal-line situation, the rusher has to head toward a hole that he can't see, knowing that he won't even see it when he gets there.  It's like flying through the Alps in a plane with no windows; you can do it if your instruments and maps are good enough.

Lastly, the sweetest words an offense coach can hear:

"I want to be a playmaker," [Austin] Johnson said, "and I want to be able to block for this team."

It's a great article to read and there's more in there, but those points really stood out to me.