The number 13 play in our countdown to determine the best plays of Tennessee’s 2015 season is Jalen Hurd’s touchdown run against Vanderbilt behind fantastic blocking from the offensive line.
One of my favorite games to watch last season was the Tennessee Vols against the Vanderbilt Commodores. From start to finish, the Volunteers were able to absolutely destroy Vanderbilt at the line of scrimmage. Led by Jalen Hurd, Tennessee ran for 130 yards in the first half. As the Vols wore the Commodores down in the second half, things only got worse for Vanderbilt. Tennessee ran for 201 yards in the half, on their way to a 53-28 win. Much credit goes to the offensive line, who dominated the Vanderbilt front all night long.
The Vols especially had success with the counter play. This inside run scheme is a staple of Butch Jones’ playbook. The blocking scheme itself is very straightforward. The playside offensive linemen (tackle, guard, and center) will all ”block down.” This means they will all block the defender inside of them. These down blocks effective serve to push the defenders away from where the running back is aiming to run. Since the playside linemen are all blocking to the inside, the two outside defenders, a defensive end and a linebacker, will be left unblocked.
The backside guard will pull around to kick out the end. With his block pushing the end outside and the other linemen sealing the interior defenders inside, the running back will have a lane to run through. A backside H-Back/wing tight end, will pull through and lead the running back through the hole. His blocking assignment is to blast the playside linebacker.
All in all, the Vols had great success with this play versus Vanderbilt. The Commodores had no answer for this scheme; Tennessee’s offensive line was opening up running lanes a mile wide when offensive coordinator Mike DeBord called counter.
One great example came halfway through the third quarter. While Vanderbilt had kept the score close for a while, the Vols had extended their lead to 29-14 by this point.
One of the first things to notice about this play is that DeBord put a twist on the counter by using slot receiver Von Pearson as a decoy. Pearson came in jet motion from left to right before the snap, simply to pull the defense away from the ball carrier, Hurd. We will see the importance of this in a minute.
Tennessee ran this play to the left side, towards Vanderbilt’s 1-technique defensive tackle (1-technique means that the defender lines up on the offensive guard’s inside shoulder). Left tackle Kyler Kerbyson (who was named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week following this game) and left guard Mack Crowder double teamed the 1-technique tackle. Center Coleman Thomas blocked down on the 3-technique defensive tackle on the backside of the play (3-technique means that the defender lines up on the offensive guard’s outside shoulder). This is a difficult block for the center to make because, after snapping the ball accurately, he has a lot of ground to cover before he gets to the 3-technique. Bcause of this, right tackle Chance Hall steps down into the B gap to help on Thomas’s man.
Because of Pearson’s motion, the Vols don’t even bother to block the backside defensive end, linebacker, or safety. All three defenders stepped outside to defend a potential jet sweep. Without ever coming into contact with anyone, Pearson effectively “blocked” three defenders.
Right guard Dylan Wiesman pulled around to kick out the defensive end and tight end Alex Ellis pulled through to block the middle linebacker.
By the time Hurd was headed downhill with the ball, his running lane was big enough to drive a truck through. Kerbyson and Crowder absolutely dominated their double team, driving the 1-technique well off the line. Wiesman destroyed the defensive end with his kickout block. Ellis was left searching for someone to block after the middle linebacker over pursued the play. You’re not going to see blocking much better than this.
Hurd ran right through the hole, practically untouched, for an easy 13 yard touchdown.
For more information on the counter play and the rest of Tennessee’s offensive scheme, be sure to check out my book, Fast and Furious: Butch Jones and the Tennessee Volunteers’ Offense. It is the most in-depth study of Coach Jones’ offense ever released, and is a must read for any VFL.
You can learn more about the book and order your copy on Amazon by clicking HERE.
You can read previous installments of this series by clicking below: