Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster drew up an excellent gameplan to exploit Ohio State J.T. Barrett's inexperience, the lack of wide receivers able to beat man-to-man coverage and the young Buckeye offensive line replacing multiple starters.
I looked back at Virginia Tech's tape against their week one, FCS opponent William & Mary where they deployed the Bear front with aggressive blitzing and man-to-man coverage on the perimeter. The Bear front resonates from the "46" defense, which is a 4-4 front. It gives an odd front for the opposing offensive line by covering the guards and center.
Foster typically shows a similar front combined with an aggressive style of blitzing against Paul Johnson's flexbone offense at Georgia Tech, which is somewhat similar to Urban Meyer's power rushing attack. Since 2008, Foster has been one of the few coaches in the country to figure out Johnson's offense, as the Hokies have gone 5-2 versus the Yellow Jackets. They have also kept Georgia Tech to 21 points or less in four out of the seven games. It is baffling looking back at last year's Virginia Tech preview article and talking about the Bear front then watching the offensive line look like they have never seen it before.
Here is an excerpt from last year's preview article:
As everyone knows, the run sets up the pass in Meyer's offense, especially with redshirt freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett making his second career start on Saturday. Not to mention the offensive line issues that plagued the Buckeyes versus Navy, Foster will surely have an aggressive plan; showing multiple fronts, stunts and pressures from all directions, along with a variety of coverages to confuse the young signal caller into making critical mistakes.
Foster's main focus will be to stop the run first, with seven to eight players in the box, trusting his corners on islands in man-coverage. He will force the redshirt freshman quarterback and his array of playmakers on the outside to beat his talented defensive backs one-on-one, while Barrett and the inexperienced offensive line face extreme pressure up-front.
Fast forward to the game and what most expected Foster to do, he did and it was with massive success. He played mostly a Bear front with Cover 0 or Cover 1 with aggressive style blitzing.
Here are the positives, negatives and how to beat Cover 0:
- Good run support
- Tight, man-to-man coverage
- Exotic pass rush
- Multiple rushers (six-plus)
- Chance to identify the hot receiver pre-snap
- No safety help in the middle of the field (use deep posts, deep ins)
- No help underneath (rub routes, crossing routes)
- Hard to disguise against motion (Meyer staple)
- Running backs vs linebackers in space
Here are the positives, negatives and how to beat Cover 1:
- Tight man-to-man coverage on the perimeter
- Help in deep middle of field with the free safety
- Good run support with an extra safety in the box
- The chance to identify the hot receiver pre-snap
- No underneath help (rub routes, crossing routes)
- Out routes
- Can identify easily with motion
- Play-action against an aggressive free safety
J.T. Barrett vs Virginia Tech
|Designed runs||Drop-backs||Completions||Incompletions||TD pass||Scramble||Overthrow||Underthrow||Throwaway|
|Sacked||Hit during throw||Pressured||Batted at LOS||Drops||Pass break-up||Interceptions||TD run||Defensive PI|
- Barrett dropped back 46 times (no designed runs), he was sacked eight times, pressured an additional 15 times and was forced to scramble seven times.
- I thought he had a solid first half and remained composed without much help from his offensive line and his receivers, things changed massively in the second half.
- In the first half, Barrett had a total of one overthrow and in the second half he had six. This was due to intense pressure by Foster in the second half.
- Barrett's lack of confidence in his arm strength showed multiple times.
- Michael Thomas showed he was the team's number one receiver and Barrett's go-to guy.
- Barrett was clueless pre-snap which resulted in sacks. He could not identify rushers or his hot reads. Nor did he attack the middle of the field with crossing or seam routes versus Cover 0 or backs against linebackers.
- The wide receivers could not beat man-to-man coverage or get a clean release against press coverage.
I fully expect Foster to see how the Ohio State coaching staff exploited the Bear front following their match-up. The Buckeyes faced numerous copy-cat teams who took a page out of Foster's playbook but in all instances, the Buckeye offense moved the ball with ease.
With four of the top five Ohio State wide receivers out, expect Foster to deploy man-to-man coverage on the outside and dare the inexperienced pass catchers to beat them one-on-one. Kendall Fuller is arguably a top three corner in the country and he will most likely be lined up on an island against Thomas. I would expect Cover 0 and Cover 1, with a safety shaded over Thomas in Cover 1, forcing inexperienced players such as Johnnie Dixon, Braxton Miller, Curtis Samuel and others to beat them.
It will be interesting to see which defensive front they will use, since the Buckeye offensive line did a great job against the Bear front after their first match-up. If Barrett is named starter and struggles early on versus the Hokies' exotic fronts, pressures and man-to-man coverage, it would not surprise me to see Cardale Jones, which would force Foster to play Cover 1 with a deep safety or Quarters coverage.
It should be an excellent coaching battle week one of the season, with two of the best offensive and defensive minds in all of college football, going head-to-head.