The number 17 play in our countdown to determine the best plays of Tennessee’s 2015 season is Todd Kelly Jr.’s interception against Vanderbilt.
Perhaps the best word used to describe Todd Kelly Jr. is “playmaker.” Despite only starting in five games over the past two years, Kelly has led the Vols with six interceptions over that time frame. Even though Kelly has not been an every down player, when he is on the field he has shown a knack for reading the quarterback’s eyes and finding his way to the football.
One of Kelly’s most important interceptions came late last season against Vanderbilt. Late in the first half, the Commodores were driving, down 27-14. A touchdown before the half would’ve cut the Volunteers’ lead to one possession and given Vanderbilt all the momentum headed into half.
Facing a critical third-and-10 from the 11 yard line, Vanderbilt went to a bunch formation. Tennessee responded by going to Quarters, one of their base coverages, with a key adjustment to counter to bunch alignment (Note: For more on quarters, you can read HERE).
To attack the bunch, the Vols used a check called “Box.” This is four over three pattern matching scheme. The Vols align four defenders over the bunch; two are responsible for any in breaking routes, while the other two are responsible for any out breaking routes. This leaves the defense well equipped to handle any common route concept.
The Commodores ran a “Follow” concept. The number one receiver (closest to the sideline) ran a simple shallow crossing route, while the number three receiver (closest to the offensive tackle) ran a corner route. The number two receiver, the primary target for the quarterback, ran an angle route. This is a double move, designed to look like a flat route before the receiver breaks back inside “following” the first receiver on the shallow cross. The hope is that the first crossing route will pull the defenders, leaving the second receiver open “following” behind him.
The Vols defended the route concept correctly from the stop. Malik Foreman walled off the shallow crosser, while Darrin Kirkland Jr. was prepared to defend any sort of deep, in breaking route. Cam Sutton dropped and took away the flat.
Kelly is the key player. Technically, his responsibility was the deeper outside route, which would’ve been the corner route. However, Kelly was reading the eyes of quarterback Kyle Shurmur and saw where he was going to throw. Just as the receiver was making his cut back inside, Kelly was jumping the angle route. The receiver slipped and Kelly was right there to make the interception.
Kelly’s interception was a huge play for the Vols. It swung the momentum back Tennessee’s way and kept the Commodores at a safe, two possession distance. Kelly, who should move into a starting role in 2016, has shown a great knack for making big plays in Knoxville, and this is one fantastic example.
You can read previous installments of this series by clicking below: