Last week we began our ‘Inside The Tennessee Playbook’ series, where each week we take a closer look at a play Tennessee is expected to run this season under new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney. We started by looking at Texas, an inside – or tight – zone running play going toward the formation’s strength. If you missed that article you’re definitely going to want to check it out right here.
The main reason you will want to familiarize yourself with Texas is because this week’s play is extremely similar. Today we are going to take a deep dive into Ohio.
Ohio is also an inside zone running play. The difference, however, is that it is run toward what Coach Chaney will term the “open” side of the formation. Think of this as the formation’s weak side, or the side opposite of the tight end on the line of scrimmage.
Tennessee is expected to use quite a bit of 11 personnel – one running back, one tight end, three wide receivers – in the upcoming season. The most basic formation from this personnel grouping will position a tight end on one side of the formation on the line of scrimmage. The Z-receiver will be positioned off the line of scrimmage toward the tight end’s side. On the other side of the formation will be an X-receiver and a slot receiver, who will be designated as the F-receiver. Ohio, then, will be run away from the tight end and toward the two receiver side of the formation. For those visual learners out there here is a basic diagram of the play against a standard 3-4 – or odd front – defense.
Next, let’s take a look at Tennessee running this play in the Orange & White Game. The first time we saw the play it was run in the first quarter by the second team offense as they drove into field goal range. Below are the alignments and assignments immediately before the snap.
Now, in this case the Vols are in a balanced 2 x 2 formation, so at a quick glance it can be difficult to determine the formation’s strength. But, as you’ll see in the clip coming up, the Vols are in 11-personnel with Jacob Warren playing the ‘Y’ – or primary tight end – position. He is on the line of scrimmage to the bottom of the screen, and slightly flexed out in a 2-point stance, giving the appearance of a more spread attack. Therefore, because the tight end is to the offense’s left the strength of the formation is to the left. The offense will then run Ohio to the open side of the formation to the right.
As you can tell from the clip it wasn’t the greatest play of the day. It looks – at least to my eyes – like there were some missed assignments along the line, which allowed multiple linebackers to run free and Will Ignont to make the tackle. Well, as good of a tackle as you can make in a non-contact jersey. But remember, the purpose of this series is not to pick apart every single flaw with each play. All we are trying to do is simply illustrate what the Vols will be running from a technical standpoint.
Later on in the game the first team offense had their chance to run Ohio, which they did from a ‘Trips-Closed’ formation. You can see the alignments and assignments below prior to the snap.
From an assignment perspective the first team offense was technically correct on this play. Each member of the defense was accounted for as they should have been. The issue here was one of execution. Daniel Bituli walked up from his middle linebacker spot and run-blitzed through the strong-side A-gap. This penetration slowed down the running back, Tim Jordan, and forced him to make an early cut. The offense still managed to pick up positive yardage here, but they will need to get more out of this play in order to be successful.
Last week in the Texas article I touched on how specific tags could be added to that play to present more options for the offense and challenges for the defense. These same tags can be used on Ohio. Now unfortunately there weren’t any good examples of Tennessee running this in the Orange & White Game, and I thought that the two examples of this play above were just not exciting this week. So, I made a major sacrifice for you, Vol Nation. I buckled down and watched Georgia film just so you can get a feel for what I’m talking about with these tags. Avert your eyes now if watching the Bulldogs is something you can’t bear to do.
The first example I want to touch on is running Ohio with a tag to turn it from a straight zone run into a zone-read. Below is an example of Georgia running Ohio as a read rather from their game against Alabama last season in the SEC Championship.
There are a couple of clues here that help us know this play is Ohio with a read. First of all, Justin Fields comes into the game. Fields was Georgia’s 5-star dual-threat quarterback who has since transferred to Ohio State. Fields is much more of a running threat than starter Jake Fromm, attempted to mix that into his attack last season. The second clue is what the tight end is doing immediately after the snap. Georgia is aligned in ‘Trips-Closed’, almost identical to Tennessee in Diagram 3, above. You can see the linemen blocking to their right, away from the tight end, but the tight end does not take zone steps with the line. Instead, he ‘arc releases’ around Alabama’s stud defensive end Isaiah Buggs (#49) and attacks a second-level defender. Buggs is left unblocked because he is the ‘read–key.’ Fields’ eyes go right to Buggs post-snap, and because Buggs does not pursue quickly down the line of scrimmage after the running back, Fields hands the ball off for a decent gain.
This season Tennessee will the ability to run this play with a minor advantage. Unlike Georgia last season they will not have to substitute quarterbacks to present a running threat from the position. Although Jarrett Guarantano has done more running for his life than for first downs at Tennessee he was one of the top dual threat quarterbacks coming out of high school. As long as he is able to avoid the big hits, and remain healthy, running him on reads like this can help keep the offense moving down the field.
Another simple tag to add onto Ohio is ‘bubble’. With this tag the quarterback could make either a pre-snap read or a post-snap read. With a pre-snap read the quarterback is simply looking for a numerical advantage and throwing the bubble screen when the offense has numbers in their favor. The quarterback could also make a post-snap read where he watches for the action of a particular player after the snap, usually a nickel defender or walked out linebacker, and can either give the ball or throw the bubble screen depending on that player’s reaction. Below is an example of Georgia using this ‘bubble’ tag on Ohio to get the ball into the hands of their play-maker, Mecole Hardman.
Okay, so the Bulldogs don’t block this very well and the play is a little underwhelming. But, you can see what they’re trying to do. It would be fascinating to see Ty Chandler split out in as a wide receiver and used in a similar role to Hardman above. Chandler demonstrated good hands in the spring game, and did occasionally split out for the Vols. Getting Chandler out on the perimeter, using Jordan to run between the tackles, and throwing the defense off with Guarantano keeping the ball would absolutely stress any defense.
There you have Ohio, which is essentially just Texas to the weak side of the formation. Hope you found this article helpful for improving your understanding of what Tennessee will try to do on offense come fall.
Check back again next week as we dive into our next play: Blast.