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Film Review: Defending Tennessee and the QB Counter

To stop the Tennessee running game, don't forget about the quarterback and the power counter.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Because Tennessee has Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara, who are fast and strong runners that can get to the edge of a defense and out leverage force players on their own, the Volunteers can use their dual-threat quarterback a lot on counter plays. This has been a successful play in the playbook to not only move the chains, but to gain large chunk plays thanks to Joshua Dobbs being one of the best running quarterbacks in college football.

The play is best run for Tennessee with a running back, H-back and three wide receivers. The tendency is to run it most with the H-back and the running back on opposite sides of the quarterback. However, this is not definite.

Below is an example where the running back and the H-back are on the same side.

After establishing the outside edge  with Hurd and Kamara, Tennessee is set to pick on the backside linebacker and punish him for over pursuing.  The Play will begin as if it is going to be a handoff to the running back on an outside zone or power run. The running back will cross the face of the quarterback and landmark to the end man on the line of scrimmage.

The guard on the  side the running back is land-marking for will pull and look to kick out the end man on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage. Initially, this will look like a zone read to this end defender because the tackle inside him will execute a down block leaving the defender unblocked momentarily.

The H-back will work the same direction as the guard and work to get into the funnel created by the down block and the kick out. His goal is to remove the defender who should be defending this gap. Tennessee has had a lot of success getting this defender to abandon his gap and chase the running back. This has resulted in the quarterback having a good running lane and a lead blocker remaining, making a big chunk play likely.

Tennessee will also run this without an H-back and an in-line tight end. This is an excellent way Tennessee breaks its tendency of running to the tight end side.

In this personnel grouping, the running back and the tight end are aligned on opposite sides. The running back will cross the face of the quarterback giving the appearance of the off tackle power run. The tackle on the same side of the running back will block down. This again is giving the defender over the tackle a zone read look as he is temporarily unblocked. However, the adjacent guard will bucket step behind the down blocking tackle and engage the defender.

If this defender is squeezing down, he will attempt to log block and pin him inside. If he is moving up field, he will attempt to continue pushing him out and away from the line of scrimmage. The quarterback will keep, and read the block of the guard. If he is pinned, he bounces to the outside. If he is being kicked out, he runs the alley between the down block and the kick out.

This is an excellent constraint play to the outside zone. It allows Tennessee to use its quarterback in the power run game and not have to take the risk of being hit by unblocked defenders, as in the true zone read game.