We’re back! After a brief holiday break it’s time for our next installment of ‘Inside The Tennessee Playbook.’ If you have missed any of the previous articles, and would like to catch up, you can check out the links below.
This week we’re going to cover Truck, the final running play of our series. Coach Chaney will run this play out of a three-man bunch formation. It’s a toss sweep going in the direction of the bunched receivers. Next, we’ll talk through the relevant blocking assignments.
The key block on Truck is made by the ‘Y’ tight end. Hopefully you have been able to see throughout this series why the tight end position is so important within Coach Chaney’s offense. The ‘Y’ is aligned as the point man in the bunched receivers, so he is aligned on the line of scrimmage. He needs to keep his split distance relatively close to the offensive tackle. This is because the ‘Y’ is assigned to crack block the first defender on the line of scrimmage. This could be a defensive end with a hand on the ground, or an edge defender from a two-point stance. Normally, a tight end blocking a defensive end one-on-one might be considered a mismatch. However, the crack block allows for an element of surprise, and provides a great angle to simply pin the defender to the inside. There does not need to be a ton of contact on this block for it to be very effective.
The ‘Z’ receiver is the widest man in the formation, and he will also crack block. His responsibility is to block the first defender over him or to the inside. Usually this will be some sort of nickel defensive back or a walked out linebacker.
The ‘F’ player – which could be either a third wide receiver or second tight end – will arc around these two crack blocks and will stalk block the support player. This is usually the cornerback, but it could be a safety rolling down if the defense has a certain coverage called.
The really interesting block on this play comes from the play-side tackle. This player will actually pull and lead through the hole created by the bunched receivers. Coach Chaney will refer to the technique on this type of block as “swabbing the hole.” The tackle is looking to block the alley defender, which will usually be a defensive back in run support.
The remaining assignments on Truck are very straightforward. The rest of the offensive line will look somewhat like a zone play in that they will all step toward the play-side to protect their adjacent, play-side gap. The goal is simply to prevent any kind of penetration. In my opinion the center has the most difficult assignment outside of the pulling tackle. He must prevent any play-side A-gap pressure on a blitz, but also needs to be fast and disciplined enough to cut off the middle linebacker flowing toward the play. All of this while also delivering a manageable snap. The quarterback makes the pitch and will then boot out in the opposite direction. The running back must first catch the pitch, then hit the hole hard. Below is a diagram of what the play looks like:
Now, let’s take a look at how the Tennessee offense executed this play in the Orange & White Game. The only time we saw this play was early in the fourth quarter on a drive from the second unit offense, which was being quarterbacked by redshirt-freshman J.T. Shrout. Below is the pre-snap look, followed by what happened on the play. To help keep the assignments straight I drew the offensive tackle pulling in blue. Apologies for the sloppiness of the line.
Like other plays from the Orange & White Game that we’ve covered in our ‘Inside The Tennessee Playbook’ series this play was effective, but not necessarily exciting. Running back Chip Omer was able to make the line to gain on 3rd and 3 to keep the drive alive. A couple of factors occurred on this play that prevented it from being even more successful.
Remember, as we mentioned above the crack blocks from the ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ players do not require a ton of force to be effective. The ‘Y’ and ‘Z’ players do not make a huge amount of contact, but they both have decent blocks due to surprise and angles. Unfortunately, the ‘Z’ receiver is undersized relative to the Star defender, and he is unable to get more movement on initial contact. It looks to me like the ‘F’ receiver - redshirt-sophomore Jacquez Jones in the play above - takes a good path toward the cornerback. However, because the ‘Z’ receiver wasn’t able to get a lot of movement on the Star defender - being played by Deangelo Gibbs here! Any one know if he is eligible yet? - it causes some traffic for Jones to work around. The play-side tackle, Jarious Abercrombie, starts his pull with decent depth and his eyes on the correct target. But, because Jones is late in getting to the corner I think Abercrombie notices the corner to the outside and thinks this defender is unblocked. Abercrombie decides to commit to the cornerback, which would not have been that bad of a decision had Jones actually missed his assignment rather than just being a touch late. As a result, two offensive players blocked the cornerback, and Mike linebacker Quavaris Crouch was free to run to the play and make the tackle.
The Volunteer offense has another play in their playbook similar to Truck, which they will call Taxi. This also involves pulling the tackle out into space on a pitch play. I know the above clip was a little underwhelming, but we need to look at it from a different perspective. For one, the offense did manage to gain the first down on a third and short in the situation above. Short yardage running was a major struggle last season, so being able to convert these plays into first downs is vital towards improving offensive production overall. Also, we need to keep in mind the personnel. With no disrespect intended at all to the players in the clip above, they are not the anticipated starting unit this season. Tennessee’s two highest rated recruits of the 2019 class - Darnell Wright and Wanya Morris - are projected to be the starting tackles. Vols fans should be ecstatic at the thought of getting these athletic, 5-star tackles out in space running at defensive backs. Also, Jauan Jennings has proven over the years that he doesn’t mind crack blocking defenders out of the way - and I couldn’t even find the clip where he takes out the Georgia lineman.
As always, thank you for your interest in our ‘Inside the Tennessee Playbook’ series. We hope you check us out again next week as we transition into a couple of passing plays to watch out for!