Bud Foster has been doing his thing at a high level for a long time. But Foster, one of the nation’s best coaching minds and coordinators who has served as Virginia Tech’s defensive coordinator since 1996, is doing things a little differently now than he did the last time Clemson faced Virginia Tech in 2012.
After watching film of Clemson’s games against Virginia Tech in the 2011 ACC Championship game and the 2012 matchup in Death Valley, and then comparing it to film of Virginia Tech this year, Clemson co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said Foster’s defense is more multiple in coverage than it was in the past.
“I think schematically they’re the same, but they’re a lot more multiple in the coverages that they give you,” Scott said on Monday. “Maybe in the past, you were going to get one of about three coverages. Now, you’re going to see six, seven, eight different coverages throughout the game at different times.
“So, I think that’s probably been the biggest change as he’s evolved his system. He does a great job of giving the quarterback a bunch of different looks.”
So, Clemson’s offense has a lot to prepare for before the Tigers and Hokies meet in the 2016 ACC Championship game on Saturday night at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla.
Foster and Virginia Tech’s defense will try to confuse quarterback Deshaun Watson and Clemson’s attack by showing a variety of coverage looks and playing a number of different coverages.
It presents a challenge for Watson and the Tigers, but Scott said Watson is up for it.
“I think to guys like Deshaun, who’s hopefully going to have a long career, he gets excited about that,” Scott said, “being able to see something different and try to see how guys are going to play us, being able to make the right adjustments and know where to go with the football and those type of things.”
When Scott departed from the coaches’ offices for his interview session with the media this morning, Watson was already there watching film.
“Deshaun’s already been in early this morning and was down there when I left,” Scott said, “just getting some extra film study because it is different than anybody we’ve played this year.”
Virginia Tech ranks 17th in the country in passing yards per game allowed (186.4), 19th in total yards per game allowed (332) and 20th in points per game allowed (21.1).
The Hokies are also 10th in the nation in total plays of 10-plus yards allowed, having allowed just 128 during the regular season.
“Especially this being later in the year where we have a lot more film to break down, that’s pretty incredible,” Scott said of Virginia Tech’s ability to limit big gainers. “So, they give up very few big plays, they make you earn everything you get and it will definitely be a challenge.”
Virginia Tech’s pass defense isn’t all Clemson has to worry about. The Hokies’ defensive line is a talented bunch, and the team is sixth nationally in tackles for loss with 98 — six less than Clemson, which ranks second in that stat category, has totaled.
“First thing is they’ve got veteran guys up there,” Scott said. “Several of those guys are juniors and seniors. They understand leverage, they play with their hands, very well coached. Very few times do they get out of their gap. They do a good job of really holding their gap, and they also do a good job of not allowing you get to the linebacker level and really taking up those blocks, those one-on-one blocks and double-team blocks and making it difficult to get up there to their linebackers. That’s why their linebackers are their two leading tacklers right now.”
Foster, the nation’s longest continually tenured FBS defensive coordinator who is in his 30th season at Virginia Tech altogether, has consistently led top defenses. Virginia Tech has finished in the top five in scoring defense on six different occasions under Foster, leading the nation in both 1999 and 2006, while ranking second in 2001, 2004 and 2005. The Hokies registered six straight top-10 finishes in scoring defense from 2004-09.
Scott said Virginia Tech’s defensive will be one of the best, if not the best, Clemson has gone against all season.
The Tigers, then, will have to beat the best to be crowned the best team in the ACC, and Scott wouldn’t want it any other way.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Scott said. “You’re going to have an opportunity to win a championship, it should be hard and you should have to go out there and earn it, and that’s what we’re going to have to do this Saturday.”