Oct. 7, 2010

By Jeff White

CHARLOTTESVILLE — He played football at the Air Force Academy and later spent 12 years on Ken Hatfield’s coaching staff at Rice University, the last five as offensive coordinator.

That makes Scott Wachenheim something of an authority on the triple option, and UVa’s tight ends coach has great respect for what Paul Johnson has accomplished with that offense at Georgia Tech.

Johnson, the Yellow Jackets’ head coach, calls their plays during games. UVa (0-1, 2-2) meets ACC rival Georgia Tech (2-1, 3-2) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Atlanta.

The Jackets, as usual, lead the league in rushing, and it’s not even close.

“Their offense does a terrific job, and the challenge for us offensively is to keep the ball away from that,” Wachenheim said.

“I think Paul does a great job with it. He’s very patient. He’s probably the most patient play-caller I’ve ever seen in studying play-callers, and he’s also willing, though, to take a shot with a play-action pass.”

Asked what he meant by “patient,” Wachenheim elaborated.

“He will be willing to hand the fullback the ball 20 times in a row and let him keep getting 3 [yards], 3, 3, go for it on fourth down and let him get 3 more,” Wachenheim said. “A lot of guys get impatient with that, and they want to gain 15, 20 yards, throw a ball or a trick play. But Paul’s just very patient and willing to play that game. I’ve never seen him lose it.”

When Wachenheim was on the team at Air Force, he played against a Hawaii team whose offensive coordinator was Johnson.

Wachenheim lated studied Johnson’s version of the option.

“When I was at Rice University as a coordinator, we went and spent three days down with Paul Johnson and his staff when he was at Georgia Southern,” Wachenheim said. “There’s a lot of similarities, and then there’s some minor differences. Their fullback’s path is tighter than our fullback’s path was at Rice and at Air Force.

“We ran a lot more predetermined plays than they ran. They read it a little bit more than we did there. But other than that, very, very similar.”

Mike London said Thursday that Wachenheim has shared his thoughts on Johnson’s offense with UVa’s defensive staff, a group led by coordinator Jim Reid.

The previous night, however, Wachenheim had downplayed his role in producing the Cavaliers’ game plan for Saturday.

“Coach Reid has coached against the option in his career, and I think [the defensive coaches] have a great idea on how to stop it,” Wachenheim said. “When I played, I was an offensive tackle. When I coached, I was an offensive line coach and an offensive coordinator, so I spent all my time as an option coach trying to score points running the option, not trying to stop it.

“I’ll leave stopping the option to the experts that do that for a living.”

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