How Did Bajakian Scheme Receivers Open vs. Bama?

The Tennessee Volunteers saw a lot of success on the ground versus Alabama. When quarterback Josh Dobbs was inserted into the game, the scheme completely changed and the Vols had their best game of the season rushing the ball. There were some new running plays, and the offense was more effective as a whole. This was also evident in the passing game as offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian called some creative plays that we had not seen before (or rarely seen) to get receivers wide open for Dobbs.

One playaction pass the Vols had success with was the post/wheel concept. This is as simple as it sounds, as the outside receiver runs a deep post route, while the H-Back runs a wheel route. Tennessee likes to run this play with a fake jet sweep so that the slot receiver will end up as the checkdown receiver in the flat.

The hope with the post/wheel concept is that the post will clear out the corner and safety and leave the wheel wide open down the sideline.

Tennessee only ran this play once, and it resulted in an easy completion for Dobbs on his second series in the game. Outside receiver Marquez North ran the post, while H-Back Alex Ellis ran the wheel. Slot receiver Von Pearson was the motion player.AL PA Jet Post Wheel 1.1We see that the playaction fake to running back Marlin Lane froze the linebackers. Ellis broke down as if he was going to block the flat defender to sell the run even more.AL PA Jet Post Wheel 1.2 Ellis’ fake caused the flat defender to run to Pearson in the flat. Ellis then turned up the sideline and ran past the defender.AL PA Jet Post Wheel 1.3North cleared out the defensive backs with the post, and Ellis was wide open for a 25 yard gain.AL PA Jet Post Wheel 1.4The Vols also were able to get the tight end open over the middle on playaction passes.

Bajakian introduced a new pass protection scheme for the first time in this game to go along with the power read play. This scheme was designed to look like the power read with the back on the sweep and the backside guard pulling around. This is especially effective because defenders will think it is a run when they see the pulling guard.

AL PA IV Y Pop 2.1 We can see the linebackers bit on the fake and Wolf is wide open over the middle. Left guard Kyler Kerbyson (#77) has pulled across and is blocking the defensive end on the right edge. We can tell that this is a play action pass, not a packaged/option play, because the linemen are dropping to pass protect, not moving downfield to run block.AL PA IV Y Pop 2.2The ball hit Wolf in the hands, but he unfortunately dropped it. The ball was a bit high because Dobbs had to get it over the linebacker, but it was certainly catchable.
AL PA IV Y Pop 2.3The Vols ran this play twice and each time Wolf was wide open, but dropped the pass. So even though this play was not successful, the concept was effective because it got a receiver wide open and attacked the defenses tendency to attack the run when the guard pulls. It would not shock me at all if Bajakian went back to this play in the near future.

Another run play the Vols had success with was the quarterback run up the middle with the option to throw a swing screen to a motioning running back. Bajakian also had a pass play to counter this action.

AL PA Tzr 1.1Lane’s presnap motion forced the defense to show their hand. The middle linebacker ran with Lane, indicating man coverage. The strongside linebacker showed blitz and the strong safety came down to cover Wolf in the slot.
AL PA Tzr 1.2 The line picked up the blitz and Wolf was open on the slant over the middle.AL PA Tzr 1.3 This time Wolf was able to make the catch for a 10 yard gain and a first down.AL PA Tzr 1.4Now this isn’t a playaction pass because there was no run fake. However, every other time the running back motioned towards the sideline, the Vols ran a swing screen or quarterback counter. So by passing off that action, Bajakian is essentially faking the run to throw the quick hitter over the middle.

Lastly, I want to highlight Dobbs’ two touchdown passes. Both came on well designed plays by Bajakian.

The first came on a 3rd and goal play from the 9. The Vols lined up in a trips formation. The play call was a fake now screen to slot receiver Von Pearson on the trips side. Tight end Daniel Helm and flanker Jason Croom both faked blocks before running to the end zone. On the opposite side, split end Josh Malone (not in the first picture) ran a fade route.

AL Fade 1.1

This play really showed off Dobbs’ decision making skills. Presnap, Alabama showed man coverage across the field with 7 players in the box. This screams cover 0, an all out blitz. Dobbs knew he would not have time for the fake screen to develop, so he immediately looked to Malone on the fade.

AL Fade 1.2 Dobbs threw a perfect back shoulder pass and Malone made the catch for a score. This was an excellent read by Dobbs to know where to go with the ball, and it was an even better pass. Malone also made a great play to react to the ball and pull in the touchdown.AL Fade 1.3Dobbs’ second touchdown came on another 3rd and goal. This was a well designed play to get Pearson the ball in the flat.

The first way Bajakian attempted to create confusion in Alabama’s coverage was my having Pearson motion across the field presnap.
AL Roll Snag 1.1The play was snag with Dobbs rolling out. This is a common goal line pass because goal line defenses are often in man coverage. The hope is that the flat route will be open because the other two receivers form a natural pick.AL Roll Snag 1.2This is exactly what happened. With the motion, Alabama was already confused and not ready to defend the bunch alignment. The route concept created more confusion, as the defender responsible was late to react, and was more worried about the deep corner than the flat route. So Pearson was wide open for the completion.AL Roll Snag 1.3Pearson was then able to make a defender miss, get to the corner, and score.AL Roll Snag 1.4Overall, I felt like Bajakian did a really good job of simplifying the passing game for Dobbs and using some playaction concepts to help get him open receivers. Dobbs made some mistakes, but overall, he threw the ball well. I believe that this was easily Bajakian’s best called game since he has been at Tennessee. There is still obviously room to improve, but hopefully this game will just be a stepping stone for both Dobbs and Bajakian and we continue to see improvement.

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