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Inside The Tennessee Playbook: Texas

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A look at one of Chaney’s basic run plays.

Tennessee v Auburn Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

To begin our ‘Inside The Playbook’ series we will look at Texas, one of Jim Chaney’s most basic run plays. Texas is a very simple inside — or tight — zone run in the direction of the formation’s strength. If the formation is balanced, such as a 2 x 2 set with two tight ends, this play is then run in the direction of the Y-position player. In general, the Y-position in the Chaney offense is going to be the primary tight end, which for Tennessee’s purposes in 2019 will almost always be Dominick Wood-Anderson. There are obviously exceptions in terms of personnel, but this should help to provide a basic understanding.

Texas is a play that every team in the country at almost every level of football has in their playbook. One of the reasons for the popularity of an Inside Zone like Texas is the physical nature of the play. The primary goal of the play is to be physical up front and utilize double teams at the point of attack to displace defensive linemen from the line of scrimmage. This is a “hit you in the mouth” kind of play. An additional reason that teams all over the country love this play is its versatility. Texas is versatile in that it can be used from a multitude of formations and with a variety of tags. We’ll get into what that looks like a little later.

The Basics

The blocking rules for any zone running play are really quite basic. Here is the simplest I can put it: If an offensive lineman has a defensive lineman directly in front of him he blocks that player. If an offensive lineman is not directly covered up by a defensive lineman, he then steps in the direction the play is going — toward the formation strength in Texas — and provides help to the offensive lineman next to him. This is how the interior offensive line is able to establish double teams at the point of attack. Once the two offensive linemen working together displace the one defensive lineman being blocked from the line of scrimmage, then one offensive lineman will scrape off to a linebacker while the other maintains control of the defensive lineman. Now, it can get much more complicated than the above description depending on the type of zone running play called, defensive alignment, and defensive tendencies. However, hopefully that brief explanation provides a good understanding of what the Vols are trying to accomplish with Texas. Here is how the play looks drawn up against an odd-front defense.

Figure 1: Texas Diagram

Texas is likely to be a staple play of the Vols offense during the regular season, and it was not surprising to see it so frequently called by Jim Chaney during the Orange & White Game. This is a play the offense will need to execute at a high level in order to run the ball effectively. Below is an example of the first team offense running Texas exactly like the diagram drawn above.

Figure 2: Texas vs. Odd Front
Clip 1: Texas ‘Bend’ Read

There’s nothing especially flashy about the play, but the end result is a gain of three yards and a more manageable third down situation. On any zone running play the running back will begin toward a designated aiming point, and then make an adjustment based on reading the defensive reaction to the play. In Texas the running back is attacking the play side guard’s hip and reading the first defensive lineman past the center to adjust his run. Running backs are usually given three choices when reading the defense on this play: ‘bend’, ‘bang’, or ‘bounce’. The above is an example of a ‘bend’ read. Tim Jordan sees the nose tackle and defensive tackle cause congestion at his aiming point, and decides to bend — or cut back — to the back side of the play for positive yardage. One knock on Jordan last year was that he had a tendency to bounce plays to the outside too often. However, if the spring game is any indication, he appears to have seriously developed in this area. Another example of Jordan’s vision on Texas is demonstrated in the example below.

Figure 3: Texas vs. Odd Front #2
Clip 2: Texas ‘Bang’ Read

One change made by the defense in the above example is middle linebacker Daniel Bituli walking up to a position directly over the left guard, Jahmir Johnson. Johnson correctly takes Bituli rather than zone stepping to help out on the nose tackle over the center. Unfortunately, this play could have been much more explosive had the right guard been able to get off of his double team to the middle linebacker Shanon Reid, who makes the tackle. However, what is encouraging here again is Tim Jordan’s vision. He correctly makes the ‘bang’ read, getting downhill through the hole. He is able to fall forward for extra yards, and again sets up the offense in a manageable third down.

Versatility

I want to touch on the versatility of this play using one final example. Below the first team offense is again in a 2 x 2 set, but they have swapped personnel. The offense added Jauan Jennings as a receiver in the slot — labeled ‘F’ in Figure 4 — and removed the second tight end from the field. The defense is forced to change their personnel group from their base package to their Nickel package in order to match-up with the additional receiver. When Tennessee’s defense is in the Nickel they typically shift their front to align more like an even-front team. With this even-front type of alignment the center usually does not have a defensive linemen positioned directly over him, which can be seen in figures 4 and 5, below. What this boils down to is the play side tackle and center become the linemen blocking the linebackers at the second level instead of the guards. This is a big deal because Tennessee struggled last season, and at other points in the Orange & White Game, with guards getting to the second level defenders. While it isn’t perfect, in the clip of this play below — Clip 3 — you can see the play side tackle and center getting to their area preventing the middle linebackers from running free to the play.

Figure 4: 11-personnel 2 x 2

In addition to personnel changes the offense adds motion to this play. Before the snap Marquez Callaway motions in from the outside, bringing the corner with him. This pushes the rolled down safety back to a more traditional safety depth. The great thing about the motion is that it gives the offense the numbers to block effectively. In the original alignment there are essentially six offensive linemen to block seven defenders — i.e. the five offensive linemen and tight end versus the three defensive linemen, three linebackers, and one safety. Callaway could theoretically stem inside to block the safety, but that would leave the corner free as a force defender close to the line of scrimmage. With the safety pushed back he has a much longer distance to cover to serve as a force defender, and needs to be mindful of the play action pass preventing him from being overly aggressive in run support.

Figure 5: Motion Alignment and Blocking
Clip 3: Texas with Z Motion

The ability to keep the structure of the play — and the teaching/coaching of the play — relatively unchanged despite personnel changes, formation changes, and motion is what makes Texas so versatile.

Believe it or not, there is still so much more that could happen on this one simple play. “Bubble” and “Lookie” tags can be added to easily turn Texas into a dangerous RPO. Also, Chaney could utilize Jarrett Guarantano’s running ability by leaving an end unblocked and turning Texas into a zone-read. I didn’t want to get into those examples, though, because that would mean going back to watch Georgia film. I wasn’t about to subject my eyes, or yours, to any of that.

Expect the Tennessee offense to run Texas often throughout the 2019 season. This will be a play the Vols will absolutely need to execute well in order to be successful on offense. If you haven’t had your fill of X’s and O’s just yet here’s a little discussion on Twitter of the double tight end formations you’ve seen above creating one-on-one match ups for the talented receivers.

Be on the lookout for the next play we’ll cover in our ‘Inside The Playbook’ series: Ohio.