Tweaks and Tricks

Many Mountaineer fans were concerned about the number of coaching staffs that visited West Virginia during the winter and spring months – worried that those coaches would plunder WVU's offensive and defensive secrets while leaving nothing of value in return. That's not the case however, and the time has almost arrived for WVU to begin working on the things they learned from their visitors.

While coaches from a number of colleges came to WVU seeking the keys to West Virginia's power spread offense, the Mountaineer coaching staff wasn't simply sitting back and dispensing information. WVU's staff was also learning from the visitors – particularly the methods they employ to counter the unique schemes of Rich Rodriguez' signature offense.

One of the most important of these was the way in which teams are defending the back side of the read option when the quarterback keeps the ball. In WVU's implementation of these plays, the quarterback rides the hip of the running back and makes the decision to hand the ball off or keep it himself, based on what the defensive end on the front side of the play does. When the quarterback keeps the ball, he can cut up inside or, as often happens, move toward the opposite side of the field in the hopes of catching the defense on that side out of position.

In some early forms of this play, offenses didn't block the backside end or linebacker, depending upon the front the defense was in. However, as the play as evolved, defenses often send one or more players crashing from the backside to cut down on the quarterback's options.

Of course, changes by the defense can often open up new avenues for the offense. And although Rodriguez certainly won't reveal what he and his staff have learned, it's readily apparent that he has developed some counters to the new defensive strategies. Whether it will involve blocking the backside defender, or something else, there are certainly some new tweaks to be learned by the offense.

No matter how anxious Rodriguez is to look at the modifications, they will have to wait until next week.

"We haven't worked on those this week in camp because we are going offense against defense," he explained. "Our defense is different than everybody's, and our offense is different than everybody's, so that doesn't help us."

What Rodriguez means is that trying out new offensive wrinkles against West Virginia's 3-3-5 stack defense doesn't benefit the offense, because it doesn't see that defense during the season. Therefore, work on the new twists will wait until the offense begins going against the scout team, probably early next week.

As usual, however, the sixth-year head coach tried to deflect any sort of significance being placed on the modifications. Running in full information-control mode, however, might be an indication that the tweaks have a bit more importance that he is willing to let on.

"We'll start a little bit next week of working on some of the answers and some of the new things that we figured out in the spring," he allowed. "But there's probably not a whole lot to that. If you saw us last year, you'll see us this year."

While the base look may remain the same, there are certain to be a few wrinkles in West Virginia's running attack – changes that will hopefully keep opposing defenses off balance in 2006.


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