One of the more interesting plays the Vols have run this season is a play action pass off a power read action. This play has not been run but a handful of times, but every time offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian has dialed this play up, a receiver has been wide open. So what is this play and why has it been so effective?
Ever since Josh Dobbs has been the Vols quarterback, Tennessee has adapted their offensive scheme to include more gap runs than zone runs. One of their favorite plays to take advantage of Dobbs running ability is the power read.*
The play is pretty simple. The blocking scheme is power, but rather than kick out the playside end, the quarterback will read him. Depending on what the end does, the quarterback can run the ball on power or handoff to the back on the sweep.
Here is an example from the Alabama game.The defensive end crashed on Dobbs, so he handed to running back Marlin Lane.Lane was able to get outside and rush for a gain of 44. The unblocked end could not make the play because he had over committed to stopping Dobbs.One of the most important things about designing an offense is making sure you have constraint plays to counter your base plays. Tennessee must have plays that attack a defense that is too aggressive in stopping the power read.
When he started calling the power read, Bajakian put in a brand new pass protection scheme and added a new passing concept to be a counter. The blocking scheme is simple. The playside of the line all steps into their inside gap in a zone protection scheme while the backside guard pulls around to protect the opposite C gap. The backside tackle just blocks the defensive end in man protection.
This is not the most sound protection scheme for downfield passing, but it is perfect for this play. The Vols are not going for a long pass that takes time to develop. The pulling guard hopefully will help sell the run to the linebackers. When/if the linebackers attack the run, the quarterback can throw the quick pass. Dobb’s reads on this play are simple. The first option is the pop pass. If the linebackers bite on the run, this route should be open. If he is covered, Dobbs just moves his eyes over and reads the two in routes coming from the same side.
The Vols ran this twice versus Alabama and got the pop route wide open, but tight end Ethan Wolf dropped both passes.
Against Kentucky, Bajakian went back to this play from a different formation. This time, the Vols lined up in a split back formation. The fake went to running back Jalen Hurd, while Lane faked a block before running down the seam.
Right guard Jashon Robertson pulled around, and the linebackers bit hard on the fake.Lane was wide open and Dobbs hit him with an accurate pass. After the free safety was unable to bring him down, Lane ran for a gain of 28 yards.This play worked just like it was designed to. The blocking scheme and backfield action is very similar to the power read run play. The route concept attacks the middle of the defense, where the play action is likely to manipulate the linebackers. This concept is very effective, and I would expect to see it, along with potentially some new play action concepts, from the Vols in the future.
*(Note: The power read is often called the inverted veer as well and I had seen some people asking about it after I referred to it as the power read. The inverted veer terminology is correct. I choose to call this the power read to distinguish it from the other form of inverted veer the Vols ran earlier in the year. This scheme is a power blocking scheme. The inverted veer ran before Dobbs was the quarterback did not have the backside guard pulling. So this play can be called by either name, but I will call it the power read to distinguish from how the Vols ran the inverted veer previously.)