It’s time for another round of mailbag questions in the Virginia Q&A feature, which runs as part of our Fan Friday content on TheSabre.com. For this edition, it’s time to look at UVA football as Tony Elliott’s first season creeps closer.
As always, click on the question to go to the message board thread and discuss.
It’s been an offseason full of indicators and reminders that Coach Elliott and company want to run the ball more in a more balanced offense. While the refrain has been consistent, there have also been some clarifications at times from the staff. The coaches have said that the main goal is to be able to run the ball more effectively, particularly with the running backs and in situations where it’s most needed (short yardage or when winning the game in the second half, for example).
With traditional running game elements now expected, this is a good question. How will the Hoos use those types of runs and how might that differ from a “standard” power running game. I think when most fans – Virginia fans at least – picture a power running game, it’s probably pulling from the memory bank and the George Welsh era. I formation, off-tackle type runs. Toss plays with a wall of blockers. That sort of thing.
There have been mentions of more frequent under-center types of plays with the new coaching staff so it’s possible that some traditional I formation concepts emerge, but I don’t think you’re going to see a “standard” power game like that become the dominant style. I think the Hoos will remain in shotgun more than some fans might be assuming with all of this balanced run game talk.
Instead, I think it’s more likely that you’ll see Pistol formations that challenge defensive key reads and become power plays. I think you’ll see the running back alongside the shotgun quarterback for some inside handoffs while a guard and an H-Back tight end come across to create a blocking numbers advantage for power looks. I think you could see periodic toss plays out of either of those formations. And, yes, I think you’ll still see the quarterback pull the ball on read option concepts and run it himself too.
I don’t think any of the latter qualify as “different” from modern college power plays in the run game. I think there will be differences from the most recent Robert Anae offenses here at UVA with fewer delayed handoffs and disguised draw attempts. I’m expecting more designed, quick-hitting concepts instead.
Unsurprisingly, the offensive line remains one of the hottest topics this offseason. That makes sense since the top six rotation guys from a year ago are all gone. Plus, the returning players have seen little field time to date even when lopsided scores appeared at times so no one really knows how some players entering the second half of their careers have looked.
I pulled 2021 snap counts from Pro Football Focus recently for an EDGE board post that really shows how it looked. Olu Oluwatimi (transfer to Michigan) played 910 snaps. Chris Glaser (graduate; signed with Chiefs) played 864. Ryan Nelson (pursuing pro career; Giants mini-camp this spring) played 806. Ryan Swoboda (transfer to Central Florida) played 787. Bobby Haskins (transfer to Southern California) played 654. Joe Bissinger (transfer to SMU) played 389. Of the returning linemen, Jonathan Leech, Noah Josey, and Ty Furnish led the way with 183, 20, and 11 snaps respectively.
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