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Clinic Talk: Breaking Down the Pittsburgh Panthers

Keys to the game: stop James Conner

Virginia Tech v Pittsburgh Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

Junior running back James Conner has overcome a well publicized battle with cancer to return to the Pitt backfield. Conner, who rushed for 1700 yards and 25 TDs in 2014, is on pace to break the 1,000 yard mark again in 2016. While his yards per carry has dropped, he’s still ran for 672 yards and 10 TDs. As Conner goes so goes the Pitt offense as it is based and predicated on his ability to run the ball.

Below, Pitt runs a Stick/IZ RPO. I’ve circled the read, it’s the Inside Linebacker. If that LB sits or drops the QB will give the IZ. If that LB blitzes or plays run hard, the QB will pull and throw. It’s one of my favorite plays and works to perfection here against VT.

When you have a guy as elite as Conner, you give him the rock. Miami has to expect a strong does of James coming into this contest.

However, when Pitt knows teams are focused on Conner, they have to take advantage of the over-pursuit like in the stick/iz, here they do it with the QB throwback

And look at the swagger of the QB Nate Peterman the trick shot king with the big shot

Now look below at the Piesman candidate with the TD run on the tackle-around

Defense is the weak link for the Panthers. The Pitt scoring defense is ranked 98th by giving up 32 points per game.

Below, you can see how Pitt aligns to VT’s 20 personnel. This looks like an adjustment to take away RPO’s and the run game.

However, I really like this look versus the Pitt defense for the ‘Canes RPO’s. Brad Kaaya has to see this look pre-snap and be able to throw the easy bubble. You can see his flat defender too far and approaching the line of scrimmage. This should be an easy catch and throw, yet Miami will still slam the ball into an 8 man box.

Below, watch Pitt get sucked into a 1on1 vs. play-action. The fade should be open for Coley who has elite speed and an explosive vertical leap.

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