Heels tries to decipher Virginia’s “awesome formations”

CHAPEL HILL, NC – Scroll down the Virginia offensive depth chart and between the tailback and wide receiver groups you’ll find a unique designation that stands out in the college football impersonator world: FBP. This abbreviation stands for “Football Player” and it helps shed light on the schematic creativity of Virginia offensive coordinator Robert Anae.

The Cavaliers have five quarterbacks on the roster and all five have played this season, albeit in different roles. Keytaon Thompson, who is listed as a starter in the FBP position, caught 10 passes, carried the ball eight times and threw a pass. Iraken Armstead also scratched the stat sheet with rushes, passes and a reception, while Jacob Rodriguez, the FBP substitute, made four carries for 31 yards in the first two weeks.

In Saturday’s 42-14 win over Illinois, three players took snaps, three attempted passes and quarterback Brennan Armstrong ticked all the boxes completing 27 of 36 passes for 405 yards, five touchdowns and an interception, carrying the ball five times for 31 yards and catching a pass for 18 yards. Five players ran for 10 yards or more and six players caught a pass for 10 yards or more. The end result was 556 total yards of attack at a 7.6-yard clip per play.

Bronco Mendenhall’s Virginia offense has been known for being a feast for the eyes since arriving at Charlottesville, with steering errors, double backhands and wide passes, but this Cavalier team’s emphasis on use from his group of quarterbacks in different ways added a new dimension of versatility. It’s not a new concept, however, as the creativity dates back to his days at BYU with Taysom Hill playing the quarterback.

“With Taysom he was a great runner, probably the best athlete on our team to run the ball, and he was the best pitcher,” Mendenhall said after Saturday’s victory. “He was probably the best receiver, or the tight end, or the running back. And then that thought, “What if there was someone else who could throw it at him?” Why does he have to play quarterback every time? Or if we have someone else who looks like somewhere, why do they just have to watch until we need another quarterback? ‘ ”

Keytaon Thompson lands a 4th and 3rd behind against UNC last year. (Photo: Geoff Burke, USA TODAY Sports)

This mindset evolved during his programming efforts in Charlottesville. Thompson, who previously played at Mississippi State quarterback, appeared to be a target for the Cavaliers when acquired through the transfer portal in the spring of 2020. His versatility provided a different option in the box. Mendenhall’s tool, as evidenced by his five yards. making a first try on a false punt game to seal the Cavaliers’ victory over UNC last season.

“Taysom was the start,” Mendenhall said. “Last year when Brennan got injured, it just doubled our direction to put more quarterbacks on the pitch, but not just more quarterbacks, more soccer players, not just more soccer players,” good athletes who can do many things. It was Taysom’s origin and Brennan’s injury that eased and added fuel to an existing path that has sort of emerged in what you’ve seen so far.

While Virginia’s defensive staff were busy this offseason implementing their new basic 3-3-5 plan, the focus of the offensive staff revolved around the playmaking staff. Top athletes on high school football teams have typically played at quarterback, and it’s a trend that has continued for decades and decades. Instead of recruiting these players and immediately moving them to a different position or relegating them to the bottom of the quarterback depth chart, Mendenhall’s philosophy is to let these athletes contribute in their own way as they develop their skills. quarterback skills.

This allowed Anae to organize “a lot of crazy stuff,” as UNC defensive coordinator Jay Bateman said on Monday.

“They’ve always been lined up in great lineups,” said outside linebacker Kaimon Rucker. “And just as a defense, we just have to lock in. They give us a lot of pleasure for the eyes. They give us a lot of training. Lots of different guys in a lot of different places. They’ve got a lot of guys lined up as a quarterback and wide receiver and tight end in all of these different scenarios. But really, we just need to focus on ourselves as a defense. We have a playbook, they have a playbook and we just have to respect what we are given.

There is also a certain sense of play involved. Mendenhall’s experience is on the defensive side of the ball and, therefore, he understands what is schematically a challenge for opposing defensive coordinators. There are significant time constraints at the college level – the NCAA allows student-athlete participation of no more than 20 hours per week – and adding a variety of game-day looks can be overwhelming during the week. preparation of the film.

“We all have the same time and it’s a race,” Mendenhall said. “If you can’t name something, it’s harder to have the resources to prepare it, and every minute counts, so the longer it takes to decipher it, and if it’s constantly changing, then it might be. that there is still not enough time. “

The UNC has been focusing this week on not letting window dressing and eye candy force its supporters to think too much. This is to avoid paralysis by analysis. It’s all about focusing on the fundamentals and simplifying the game when the ball is snapped. There will be either a run or a pass that requires a tackle. It is about making plays. It’s about being a football player.

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