Half-rolls, mesh could provide spark in Tennessee’s offense

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No. 12 Florida (3-1, 1-1 SEC) defeated Tennessee (2-2, 0-1 SEC), 38-14, Saturday at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

The Vols will play at Missouri (2-2, 0-1 SEC) in Week 5. Kickoff is slated for noon EDT and SEC Network will televise the divisional matchup.

Florida led, 17-14, at halftime against Tennessee. The Gators outscored Tennessee, 21-0, in the second half.

Tennessee’s offense totaled 423 yards at Florida, 417 against Tennessee Tech, 374 versus Pittsburgh and 475 in Week 1 hosting Bowling Green.

First-year head coach Josh Heupel started Joe Milton III at quarterback against Bowling Green and Pittsburgh. Hendon Hooker replaced Milton III versus Tennessee Tech and at Florida.

Overthrows have been an issue for Tennessee and the quarterback position through four games.

Two elements of Heupel’s past could help with timing, shifting defenses and to counter offensive line play with Hooker and Milton III.

As detailed in the e-book “Josh Heupel’s Offense”, Heupel played quarterback collegiately at Weber State, Snow College and Oklahoma, coming from Central High School in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

Heupel played for Steve Svendsen at Central High School. Svendsen served on the University of Houston’s staff from 1988-92. The Cougars ran a run and shoot offense that produced quarterbacks Andre Ware and David Klingler. Ware won the Heisman Trophy in 1989.

An element of the run and shoot offense is a quarterback half-roll.

Hooker has tangibles in which using a half-roll in Tennessee’s offense could help him throw more on target as wide receiver crossing routes would have more of a window in throwing to. Hooker also has the ability to run and shift defenders.

During Heupel’s time as Oklahoma’s quarterback, he played for offensive coordinator Mike Leach.

Mesh is a part of Leach’s offense and something Heupel has steered away from since implementing Baylor’s veer and shoot scheme as Missouri’s offensive coordinator from 2016-17.

The mesh concept could allow for Hooker or Milton III to read and react quicker for short and intermediate throws. Against a man coverage defense, Hooker or Milton III can create running lanes if their throwing targets are heavily defended.

Against zone coverage, Hooker or Milton III would have more of a spy on their running abilities, but would have an opportunity in throwing to their target in a mesh concept window, or even use a half-roll to throw vertically in Heupel’s veer and shoot scheme.

Against man or zone, a halfback draw would also open up Tennessee’s running offense as wide receivers are in a mesh concept.

Steve Svendsen, Photo by Dan Harralson, Vols Wire

Tennessee’s offense against split safety coverage

Tennessee will play at Alabama and head coach Nick Saban in Week 8 on Oct. 23.

Half-rolls and mesh concepts can help move the ball against Saban and Alabama’s defense, or any other teams that run the scheme such as Georgia.

Tennessee has not been able to provide an element of having its X-receiver as a vertical threat this season.

Alabama and Saban will use their cone call to take the X-receiver out of the game.

If the defense is playing an offense in which they cannot defend a wide receiver in man coverage, then the defense has to do something, right now Tennessee is not a threat with its X-receiver.

The cornerback lines up slightly in outside leverage on the X-receiver. If the X-receiver takes an outside release, the cornerback can then defend the X-receiver in man coverage.

If the X-receiver goes inside, then the cornerback and free safety will double team the X-receiver.

How mesh and half-rolls can cause trouble against split safety coverage

With Tennessee not having a threat with its X-receiver, the Vols will need to establish other options against schemes they will play against on their schedule.

The following with underneath mesh concepts can help Tennessee’s offensive personnel, as well as having Hooker or Milton III pre-snap read whether to run with its halfback, run with the quarterback, half-roll to shift defenders or throw towards a mesh concept depending on the coverage.

A quarter zone takes place if the wide receiver runs short or underneath. The defensive alignment also has the STAR playing one yard outside and six yards off of the Z-receiver, playing flat.

Air Raid and veer and shoot concepts can cause for the STAR to play the Z-receiver on vertical routes.

SMASH is a call that informs the STAR if the wide receiver is playing short. If the wide receiver is playing short, then the STAR will play within the flats.

The strong safety has an alignment of being 10 yards off and two yards outside of the tight end. If there is a No. 3 receiver that is flexed out, then the STAR is 10 yards off and positioned against them.

This is also where a vertical route comes into play. If the No. 3 receiver runs a vertical route, the strong safety will provide man coverage on him. The strong safety will double-team the No. 2 wide receiver inside if the route is not vertical.

The POSTER is an inside linebacker that will read run-pass, typically from 5-7 yards. If the No. 3 wide receiver goes underneath, the MACK linebacker will play him in man coverage.

If he reads pass, he will then post the No. 3 wide receiver at 5-7 yards, forcing the No. 3 receiver to go over the top against him. If he goes underneath the POSTER, the inside linebacker will play him in man coverage.

The POSTER linebacker has the first inside of the No. 2 and No. 3 receivers.