Thursday, August 27, 2009

season preview: Virginia Tech

I put this off as long as I could. Tomorrow we'll wrap up the ACC with Wake Forest. God, that helmet thing over there looks like an erupted wart.


9/5: Alabama (@ Atlanta)
9/12: Marshall
9/19: Nebraska
9/26: Miami
10/3: @ Duke
10/10: Boston College
10/17: @ Georgia Tech
10/24: BYE
10/29: North Carolina (Thu.)
11/5: @ East Carolina (Thu.)
11/14: @ Maryland
11/21: NC State
11/28: @ Virginia

Skip: Wake Forest, Florida State, Clemson

Projected starters:

QB: Tyrod Taylor (Jr.)
RB: Josh Oglesby (rSo.)
FB: Kenny Jefferson (5Sr.)
WR: Danny Coale (rSo.)
WR: Jarrett Boykin (So.)
TE: Greg Boone (5Sr.)
LT: Ed Wang (5Sr.)
LG: Sergio Render (Sr.)
C: Beau Warren (rJr.)
RG: Jaymes Brooks (rSo.)
RT: Blake DeChristopher (rSo.)

DE: Jason Worilds (rJr.)
DT: John Graves (rJr.)
DT: Cordarrow Thompson (5Sr.)
DE: Nekos Brown (Sr.)
WH: Cody Grimm (5Sr.)
MLB: Barquell Rivers (rSo.)
OLB: Jake Johnson (So.)
CB: Stephen Virgil (Sr.)
CB: Rashad Carmichael (rJr.)
FS: Kam Chancellor (Sr.)
R: Dorian Porch (5Sr.)

K: Matt Waldron (5Sr.)
P: Brent Bowden (5Sr.)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Coach: Frank Beamer, 23rd season)


2008 1st team: CB Macho Harris
2008 2nd team: RB Darren Evans, G Sergio Render, DE Orion Martin, DE Jason Worilds
2008 HM: G Nick Marshman, C Ryan Shuman, K Dustin Keys
2009 preseason: TE Greg Boone, G Sergio Render, DE Jason Worilds, S Kam Chancellor

(Italics indicated departed player.)

Media prediction: 1st , Coastal Division, ACC champion

As usual, these bastards won’t go away. Most of the talent that comprised their representation on last year’s all-conference teams won’t be there this year (including tailback Darren Evans) but VPISU is still pretty much the overwhelming favorite for conference champion. Question is, is that because they really are the best team by that wide a margin, or because the media’s just formed a bad habit and doesn’t know how to break it?


I had to laugh, really. Evans’ injury caused a lot of media types and message board posters to suddenly question the coronation of VT as conference champs. Evans racked up a lot of yards last year, sure, but he needed a lot of carries to do it, and his YPC was decent but a little bit pedestrian. They’ve got a lot of talent behind Evans. Josh Oglesby will get the early nod mainly based on seniority, but my thinking is he’ll quickly be overtaken by Ryan Williams or David Wilson, one of whom (or both) will be the featured back not too long from now.

No, the guy the Hokies need to keep under lock and key is Tyrod Taylor. There are still a lot of legitimate questions about his throwing ability, but there’s no Sean Glennon to kick around any more. Taylor’s it. After that is a guy named Ju-Ju (get ready for months of “bad juju” jokes should Taylor get hurt) and a true freshman they’d prefer to redshirt. Taylor can run, and between him and the tailbacks the offense should have no problem moving the ball on the ground, but Taylor’s got to demonstrate he can throw the ball further than five yards or so. He’ll have help on the other end of his passes. Wide receiver was a huge question mark last year after Tech graduated damn near everyone who’d ever caught a pass, but Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin proved dependable if not exciting. The scariest guy out there is actually tackle-sized tight end Greg Boone, a major player as a blocker and a pass-catcher, and athletic enough to take some snaps as a running quarterback.

Of course, the run game could grind to a halt too if Beau Warren isn’t up to the task at center. On the left side the Hokies are very well positioned with Ed Wang and Sergio Render. Run-blocking starts in the middle, though, and Warren has very little actual game experience. He’ll be thrown into the fire early – the Alabama game will be an excellent litmus test to see if he can handle a line like North Carolina’s.


As usual, the calling card, and how VT will win most of their games. There are some holes, most notably a lack of depth at defensive end and a lack of experience at linebacker, but there’s talent enough to cover it up. As long as Jason Worilds doesn’t get hurt, they’ll have a pass rush, though Worilds will see plenty of double teams until Nekos Brown proves himself on the other side. The tackles are not playmakers – they didn’t have to be last year and probably won’t have to this year; again, unless Brown is ineffective. But they do open up the pass rush nicely for the ends.

Cody Grimm was not technically a starter at linebacker last year, but badly outperformed the actual starter, Cam Martin. Both will see time on the outside, but it’s Grimm you should watch out for. Unfortunately for Tech (so actually not that unfortunate at all) most of their experience is piled up at that one position. Jake Johnson was a special-teamer last year and didn’t play linebacker at all. Barquell Rivers has a little more experience at his middle linebacker spot, but he was backing up a 6th-year senior last year, so didn’t get in very much. Lot of inexperience to overcome here.

Not so much in the secondary. Rashad Carmichael is new to the starting role, but has already spent plenty of time in the rotation at cornerback and should fit pretty seamlessly into the job. Macho Harris got all the publicity last year, but Stephen Virgil intercepted just as many passes, making this a pretty dangerous bunch to throw against. Kam Chancellor has been a versatile player, starting at a new position every year, but he’s found a home at free safety, and he’ll be a more dangerous player now that he’s found a little stability.


Solid punting new kicker blah blah blah. Tech has other problems on their hands, like how to regain the special teams domination that TV announcers love so much. Last year they had more of their own punts blocked than they blocked opponents punts, one of them being that ECU gamebreaker. Their punt coverage was crummy too, allowing opponents more than 12 yards per return. The kickoff coverage was a lot better, but then, so was their opponents’. Tech was actually worse than we were at returning kicks, and that was a pretty lame part of our game last year.


The song remains the same here. VPISU slappies spend as much time crucifying their offensive coordinator as they do drooling over their defensive coordinator. There’s a reason for that. Sure, the defense has question marks, but Bud Foster usually manages to integrate new personnel into the defense pretty easily. Any game Tech loses this year will probably be pinned on the offense. I think the key is the two guys who get the ball first: Warren and Taylor. If the new center Warren can run-block and Taylor can throw, then the kooky national title aspirations the Hokies carry have a sliver of a chance. If neither happens, the division will go to UNC or GT instead and VT will have to content themselves with 9-3 and a trip to a non-New Year’s bowl.

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