Going into Fuente’s first year, everybody wants to know how the Hokies are going to play. Fuente has been careful to caution that they will adjust the offense to the personnel and perhaps the first year they won’t be able to go as fast as they want to go. Fair enough. However, I don’t think that will drastically change the scheme, the plays, the formations, the groupings they use.
So to get a glimpse of what a Virginia Tech offense might look at, we can look to the past. Justin Fuente came to Virginia Tech after turning around Memphis and turning quarterback Paxton Lynch into a first round pick.
Their biggest win last year was a 37-24 win over Ole Miss. For this article, we’re going to use a scouting video of Lynch to predict the personnel groupings we could see on the field in the fall. I watched the below video and marked five common personnel groupings used. It’s just one small part of one game, but it’s nine minutes worth of Justin Fuente offense and I think it’s fair to predict some things off of it. Let’s dive in.
A couple things to note:
The personnel I mention here is the primary personnel. You’ll see that I have Rogers all over the field. If he played in all these formations every down, he’d burn out by week five. So yes, there will be times when someone else subs in. These predictions are just if they were all 100%.
After writing this, I think it shows just how critical is is for C.J. Carroll, Divine Deablo, Deon Newsome, Eric Kumah, anybody to step up at wide receiver. These guys absolutely cannot play every down. There will be some downs when Isaiah Ford runs 50 yards down the field and needs a breather. Cam Phillips will take a hard hit at some point and need a minute to gather himself. Just looking at these five formations alone shows how important depth at receiver is in this offense. And this is just five formations. There is sure to be more.
SHOTGUN: 3 WR, 1 H-back, 1 RB
The most common personnel grouping was a shotgun look with three wide receivers, 1 H-Back and 1 running back next to the quarterback. We’ll call it an H-Back because rarely, if ever, was that player on the line of scrimmage. He was often just off the outside shoulder of the offensive tackle. I’m convinced this is going to be Sam Rogers’ spot this fall.
Bucky Hodges is a force on the perimeter, so only a few plays out of this formation would require him in that spot. The other tight ends are unproven. Rogers is proven and as talented as a runner as he is a receiver as he is a blocker. That’s ideal for this spot, as they can hand the ball off in this formation and use Rogers as a run blocker; they can drop straight back and use him as an extra pass protector; or, as they did a few times, they can run play-action and drag him through the traffic until he slips open in the flats (like the first play in the video).
Virginia Tech doesn’t have a lot of depth at receiver (you may have heard), so they need to get their best five skill guys on the field. Rogers is one of those.
Memphis used this grouping often against Ole Miss. I expect this to basically be the “I-formation” of the Virginia Tech offense, in that it will be the grouping used most often.
SHOTGUN: 4 WR, 1 RB
This is a classic spread offense grouping. Four wide receivers with a running back next to the quarterback. Sometimes, this is a trips setup either bunched way out wide or spread to the wide side of the field. When it’s a bunch formation out wide, it’s often a quick screen. When it’s a bunch formation, I fully expect Hodges to be one of the guys at the front of the bunch, as he’s a six foot seven receiver who can shield off a defender if it is a screen.
Other times, it’s a simple two v. two set up with two receivers on each side of the formation. This is why it’s so crucial for the Hokies to develop at least a third true receiver. Hodges can be the third guy behind Ford and Phillips, but this grouping needs another threat to be effective. They’ll run jet sweeps out of any formation, including this one. This could be a grouping for a quick slot guy like Greg Stroman or C.J. Carroll. Fuente has a lot of plays that are quick passes where there’s rarely a second option even needed. The play is drawn up to get the ball out of the quarterbacks hands quickly. That’s the kind of play where this formation, and a guy like Carroll, could be effective.