Opponent Film Preview- Virginia

Opponent Film Preview- Virginia

Lance Roffers
Lance Roffers
The Miami Hurricanes are 5-1 and coming off of a huge win against their biggest rival in Florida State. They’ve vanquished the demons at home against them and are now looking to build off of that momentum in all areas when they take on ACC Coastal opponent Virginia on the road.

In this article we will take a look at Virginia against Louisville to get an idea of what they want to do on offense and defense as well as preview what you may see when our game begins.

Virginia is led by Bronco Mendenhall, who brings a unique offense and defense to the field. Virginia takes wide splits on their OL and are a true spread team who looks to create space for RB’s and WR’s to run. Their offense is gimmicky, but can really cause issues for the defense to lose contain or get out of position and exploit them. Here is an example of the splits they take:

Teams obviously try to split these gaps and use them against the defense, but Virginia utilizes a lot of trap blocks, wham blocks, and counter motion to exploit the defense when they aggressively split their gaps. Playing splits this big also stretches the defense horizontally, forcing them to cover more blades of grass.

Their base formation is 11 personnel with a split back out of shotgun. They run a lot of motion and look to “flood” underneath zones and have out breaking routes on the edges. Again, they are designed to stretch the defense as much as possible.

This third down play is a good example of what I mean. #8 is running across the middle here on a crossing route. Virginia lined him up on the boundary of this formation and sent him in motion before snap horizontally. When the snap was made he was already running full speed and is a tough cover. The RB runs the out route. The slot is running a corner route behind the underneath out route. The defender to that zone sees the underneath out route and allows the WR to run behind him to the corner here and is wide open. He has to stay deeper and not let his eyes tell him to jump that shorter route. It’s covered by the CB here and he is trying to do too much. Their other outside WR is their leading receiver and is running a shallow cross the other way, which holds the MLB. Tough to stop with this much time in the pocket. I wouldn’t Richt seeing this and saying, “thank you very much” for his own offense. We run tons of 11 personnel and could replicate this flood concept on short yardage plays.

Another play that has given Miami trouble this year is this diamond formation. UNC did this against us multiple times with great success in that ball game. They attack deep out of running formations, liking to send a WR to the seam and the sideline deep out of max protect. Being able to pressure with four and keep the safeties back and still stop the run will be key in this game.


Virginia runs that horizontal motion to get a guy running at the snap and releasing him into a pass pattern on almost every single play. Interesting concept. (Not pictured)

Another sort of gimmicky thing that Virginia does a lot is spin their QB in reverse from the ball carrier. They’re trying to trick LB’s who watch the QB for tells on which direction the play is going. Here, their QB is spinning the complete opposite way of the pullers. LB’s are taught to read the OL rather than the QB on these plays, but if you don’t stay disciplined with your eyes you might take a false step. Interesting, but it worked.
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Virginia likes to run RPO’s and give the QB the option to simply make it a QB draw, or a dumpoff to the RB. Different than the Read-Option RPO’s we see Miami run where the option is the dive, slant/dig/bubble, or keep on the edge. They simply run the RB off the edge as a swing pass option immediately and QB runs or throws it based on what he has. This is intended to be an edge run all the way if he chooses run as you can see #71 trying to block the edge defender inside here. QB runs for an easy 1st down.

Virginia is going to test gap control in so many different ways. They’re not an exceptionally explosive attack, but they run some creative stuff. That horizontal motion they run so much can also be turned into a lead play where they motion the man behind the split back and then the split back leads through and the motion leads behind him and the RB takes the shotgun handoff and just waits for a hole in zone. Kind of fun because the QB could even keep if he liked the numbers better.

I showed the QB spinning the opposite direction on a handoff earlier, well he can also spin and keep it as the RB runs by and is a blocker for him on the edge. It is all about getting penetration with your front quickly against these pop runs with so much motion. When we do get penetration it is going to be so important to hit their QB every chance we get. You start hitting him enough the desire to keep running that football will decrease. (Not pictured)

Virginia struggles in the red zone.

We’ve looked at the offense, now what do they do on defense?
Virginia runs a 3-4 defense that looks to have size and strength hold the point of attack and then send rushers from various places on the field. They play a ton of soft zone coverage in the secondary and can be exploited by running QB’s who can get to the edge since they are a bit slower on the defensive line.

Where they will test Miami is on their blitzes. They do a good job of disguising who is coming from where, as this player was playing WLB at the snap and just waited for the RB to release before he came on the blitz and comes untouched for the sack. It will be important for the OL to communicate and understand where their zone is in pass protection against Virginia. The QB has the dump to the RB if he just stands in for the hit but he shells up immediately and drops his eyes.

Virginia does a really good job of stringing plays laterally and running to the football on defense. Good length and speed on the edges for swing passes and screens. (Not pictured)

It is going to be a struggle to simply line up and bully Virginia off the ball inside in this game. They have very stout interior DL who can eat up blockers and make plays in the run game. With our current OL personnel I hope that Donaldson plays solely at G in this game because their size will give Mahoney real trouble.

#3 Bryce Perkins- QB. Dual-threat QB who has excellent numbers on the season. 87-137 (64%), 11 TD, 4 Int. 76 rushes for 341 yards and 3 TD’s. He’s a pretty good player.

#4 Olamide Zaccheus- WR. They use him as a hybrid player who can run the ball or go into routes. He’s their leader and has 33 receptions for 501 yards and 6 TD’s already. Was an All-ACC player last year.

#1 Jordan Ellis- RB. Nice player who has some wiggle. 84 carries for 478 yards (5.7 YPC). Not much of a receiving threat.

#8 Hasise Dubois- WR. Big, physical receiver that they use as a possession guy. He likes to go over the middle or make tough catches on the outside. 22 catches for 247 yards. Long of only 24 yards.

#11 Charles Snowden- LB. This kid has excellent length at 6-7. He’s built like a WR and can run at 225 pounds. They liked to drop him into zone coverage and not ask him to cover 1-on-1. That way he can use his eyes and play forward. He’s excellent on the edge because of his length where he can cover both QB and RB on Read plays. Good player. Just a sophomore.

#13 Chris Peace- Edge. Tied for team lead in sacks with only 1.5 and TFL at 5.5. Nice sized player at 6-3, 250. Can move but does a good job sealing edge.

Special Teams
Virginia has had a lot of trouble with their kicking game and have recently replaced their kicker who was 1-4 on FG’s. They are using Hunter Pearson, who is 2-2, but both attempts have been less than 30 yards. It’ll be interesting to see if he has to try a longer FG how he fares. They have a kickoff specialist who has put 16 of 27 kickoffs for touchbacks.

They have an excellent punter in Lester Coleman, who averages 43 yards a punt with 6 traveling over 50 yards. He does tend to kick the ball low though as 12 of his 20 punts have been returned with only 4 Fair Caught.

Virginia is mediocre in the return game but Tavares Kelly is a good punt returner. He’s the dangerous returner of the group.

Virginia is 3-2 on the season with a 1-1 record in the ACC. Their wins have come over Richmond, Ohio, and Louisville. All at home. They are 0-2 on the road, losing at Indiana and NC State.

Offensively, Virginia is #30 in the NCAA in yards per play at 6.1. Miami is 64th at 5.5.

Defensively, Virginia is #61 in the NCAA in yards per play at 5.3. Miami is 4th at 4.1.

On the road, however, Miami has given up 5.0 yards per play and Virginia has given up only 3.5 yards per play at home. On offense, Miami has gained 5.5 yards per play on the road and Virginia has gained 6.1 yards per play at home.

Virginia has a unique offense that can test defenses early. Coming off of a bye week to rest and to come up with a game plan, I would expect Virginia to start this game strong. Playing in front of a large homecoming crowd at night will help fuel their upset dreams. Defensively, they had an interior DL that can give Miami problems but are limited in speed at the corners. Miami is going to need to stick with their game plan and stay on track with this one.

I expect Virginia to scare Miami in this game and look for Miami to have a close victory 28-24. I would caution those expecting a blowout in this game because there are parts to Virginia’s offense and defense that should scare Miami based on what they do. The path to a blowout resides in our DL creating pressure without blitzing and forcing turnovers early. Virginia is not a team built to dropback and throw the ball 40 times in trail mode.

Fun team to review quite honestly and they are better coached than I expected given their mediocre results. They have a few talented players but for the most part of a grinder team that is greater than the sum of their parts.

Comments (26)


Sounds like quite a few things they like, we have struggled with in the past.

Hopefully our guys learned a lot in that first half against FSU and the carry over from playing disciplined and dominating keeps rolling into this one
Interested to see if we'll be prepare to defend those diamond formations because I said after the UNC game we will see them again.

My concern is the offense. People want to crown Perry as some next great but I don't see that much of a jump overall offensively from Rosier TBH. We still struggle to drive the ball the length of the field. Against UNC our defense was scoring and against FSU we were starting some drives at FSU's 40 yard line because of turnovers and great punt returns. Most of the 1st half Perry played Rosier-esque missing throws we though he could complete. I just hope that was just a 1 game thing because of the nerves of being in the rivalry.
That review def didn’t help me feel comfortable with this game lol.
Games like this worry me more than FSU and VTech

Need the striker to mirror their QB the entire game

good assessment. we really need to show up for this game. If Nkosi struggles we could be in for a long *** night
We are gonna run the ball dwn their throat if richt finally moves Donaldson back inside and we are also gonna hit some easy ones over the top. It will be a battle but we will win by 10.
It’s all about the dline, dominating, I actually want to see some well schemed and timed blitzes where the strikers Finley and #25 Smith fall back into coverage and read the plays behind the blitz. This game is on the intelligence of Shaq and Pinckney on defense. As day 1 starting Juniors it’s time to dominate and not be fooled anymore...their presence needs to be felt against conference opponents especially. These gimmicks shouldn’t and usually don’t stand a chance against well coached and seasoned LBs.

On offense: Throw the bubble out of the RPO until they stop it and then adjust to the double move with JT and it’s a curtain call.

Hope to see a ton of DJ and Homer throws out of the backfield and even wheel routes. Hopefully Linguard appears late.

Brevin in the seam is unstoppable.

Please start OL: Scaife, Boulware, Gauthier, Donaldson (and Mahoney as his back up) and St. Louis at RT. No Jahair pleeeeeeze! Would rather see Reed or Gaynor if someone needs a breather.
This will not be a blowout. Bronco Mendenhall is a good coach. I think we start the game conservative with protection and test their corners.
Do not like this game one bit.

Just leave with a W
I love it, we'll play with more heart. VA will guve us a fight 1st half...We'll be up 10 at halftime. Then we'll be able to wear the defense down, because our D will create at least 2 turnovers in 2nd half but still dominate and their D will spend a lot of time on the field.

We win by 16.
Just for a little context for everyone:

Georgia Tech put up over 60 points and never punted against that Louisville defense.

UVA will make a couple plays (#4 is legit), but LOL at anyone being scared.
Manny will have to earn his paycheck ... if he tries to out gimmick their gimmicky offense, we are in trouble...
... hate these kind of crapo unconventional offense...
We will rush for close to 200 yards and and Perry will have around 250-300 yards passing and Thomas will have 100 yards receiving if he’s good to go.
We win
Film.previews and coaches talk sem to always make the next opponent seen like a top 10 unless you know better
Cannot be blitz happy this game. This is a classic trap game.