Returns to homepage

The Power Spread: Analyzing the Virginia Tech Offense in 2023

By Rob Trimber | August 20
Football Chance Black Spring Game
Running Back Chance Black running to the pilon at the Virginia Tech Spring Game, 2023 via Virginia Tech Athletics.

In 2022, the Virginia Tech offense struggled to establish an effective run game. This resulted in a distinct lack of identity on offense and allowed opposing defenses to rush the quarterback and cover receivers without worry. In 2023, the Hokies will look to find their identity by implementing the power spread and recommit to running the football. In 2019 Virginia Tech offensive coordinator, Tyler Bowen, was in the same role with Penn State along with Head Coach, Brent Pry, at defensive coordinator. In that season, Penn State ran the power spread with a deep running back room and a mobile QB in Sean Clifford. That Penn State offense rushed for 175 yards per game and averaged 34.3 points per game. Similarly, Virginia Tech has a deep running back room and are 2-deep at QB with Grant Wells and Kyron Drones, both of whom are mobile. Virginia Tech may not see that kind of production this season. However, this shows promise that the offense will likely improve over last season. Tyler Bowen had this to say at the Virginia Tech media day:

"I think it all starts with our run game. When you get down there, you look at a successful red zone team, you got to be able to run the ball. We weren't able to do that consistently last year. That's been a big point of emphasis for us. I think that really is the foundation and cornerstone for who we want to be with the power spread team, right. We want to be able to play wide open, but we want to be able to create those run lanes inside it starts there that creates those advantageous situations out on the perimeter be able to take advantage of throws on third down, so redzone to me and the emphasis all offseason has been getting that identity in the run game that we need."

— Tyler Bowen, VT Offensive Coordinator

The Hokies have the personnel to run the power spread affectively. They have 2 mobile QBs in Grant Wells and Kyron Drones. Brent Pry has said that both will be used no matter who is starting. Considering Drones' size, he will likely be used more in goal-to-go situations. Tyler Bowen said in his media day sound bite that the key to being a good redzone offense is to run the ball well. Running QB power with Drones in those situations should be very effective. The great thing is, no matter the QB, the defense will have to expect anything because both Wells and Drones have a good arm and the legs to go with it. The play calling might not be all that different when the QB changes.

The main staple of a power run game is having lead blockers for the running backs. This means having pulling guards and tackles as well as fullbacks. Traditionally, the power run concept is run with the QB under center with multiple tight ends or a fullback in the formation. The idea behind the power spread is that you put the defense in a bind. The formation is spread out from the shotgun, which does not allow the defense to stack the tackle box with larger bodies. So, when a power run is called, it allows the lead blockers space to get downhill to the linebackers and open up those run lanes Coach Bowen was referring to in his press conference.

In Tyler Bowen's power spread, the Hokies will use one tight end who will often be offset from the line to allow him to pull across on zone split plays or follow a pulling guard through the hole. In the Virginia Tech spring game, we saw multiple examples of this. In this play, you will see the formation and zone split pay I am referring to used to convert on a 3rd and 1.

To further stretch the defense, in the power spread, there is ample opportunity for run pass options (RPOs). In this two play sequence from the spring game, you will see how this scheme can keep a defense on its heals. The offense runs a RPO with a pulling tight end through the hole where Wells keeps and throws for a big play. On the next play he gives it to Bryce Duke with a pulling tackle and tight end leading him through the hole. Both plays went for solid gains because the defense does not know what to defend.

If you want to see more of what the offense will look like in 2023, I highly recommend watching the full spring game. The offense showed they are committed to running the ball. They have the personnel to run the scheme well and they clearly have the commitment from the coaching staff to improve the run game. There is no guarantee that the Hokies will be putting up 30 + points per game in 2023. But, there is reason for hope that they will make improvements. Any semblance of a rushing attack will help re-establish the identity of this Virginia Tech program. It will also create space for all the wide receiver talent the Hokies brought in via the transfer portal this offseason. Virginia Tech fans should expect more out of the Hokie offense in 2023. Now, it all comes down to execution.

Tyler Bowen quote pulled from Virginia Tech football Instagram page, article image from Virginia Tech Athletics.