Tuesday, August 17, 2010

season preview: Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech Hokies

Schedule:

9/6: Boise State (Mon; Landover, MD)
9/11: James Madison
9/18: East Carolina
9/25: @ Boston College
10/2: @ NC State
10/9: Central Michigan
10/16: Wake Forest
10/23: Duke
10/30: BYE
11/4: Georgia Tech (Thu.)
11/13: @ North Carolina
11/20: @ Miami
11/27: Virginia

Skip: Clemson, Florida State, Maryland

Projected starters:

QB: Tyrod Taylor (Sr.)
RB: Ryan Williams (rSo.)
FB: Kenny Younger (5Sr.)
WR: Jarrett Boykin (Jr.)
WR: Danny Coale (rJr.)
TE: Andre Smith (5Sr.)
LT: Nick Becton (rSo.)
LG: Greg Nosal (rJr.)
C: Beau Warren (5Sr.)
RG: Jaymes Brooks (rJr.)
RT: Blake DeChristopher (rJr.)

DE: Steven Friday (5Sr.)
DT: John Graves (5Sr.)
DT: Kwamaine Battle (rJr.)
DE: Chris Drager (rJr.)
WH: Jeron Gouveia-Winslow (rSo.)
MLB: Barquell Rivers (rJr.)
OLB: Lyndell Gibson (rSo.)
CB: Rashad Carmichael (5Sr.)
CB: Jayron Hosley (So.)
FS: Eddie Whitley (Jr.)
R: Davon Morgan (Sr.)

K: Chris Hazley (5Sr.)
P: Brian Saunders (5Sr.)

Coach: Frank Beamer (24th season)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Media prediction: 1st, Coastal Division, ACC champion

All-ACC:

2009 1st team: RB Ryan Williams, K Matt Waldron, LB Cody Grimm, P Brent Bowden
2009 2nd team: TE Greg Boone, OT Ed Wang, G Sergio Render, DE Jason Worilds, S Kam Chancellor
2009 HM: OT Blake DeChristopher, C Beau Warren, CB Rashad Carmichael
2010 preseason: RB Ryan Williams

(Italics indicate departed player.)

VT is the anti-Carolina in a way: UNC has a returning defense that, on paper, ought to terrorize the conference on a weekly basis. Yet the media thinks they're a fourth-place team. VT's defense is undergoing a wholesale replacement, but when you've been around for 24 years, the media gives you the benefit of the doubt. Or more.

OFFENSE

In a year where really good running backs are in short supply in the ACC, VT's got the monster. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor is a senior, and on most teams that'd be enough to be the focal point of the offense. But it's Ryan Williams (May He Be Drafted Very High) that ACC defensive coordinators are going to be game-planning for. Williams looks the part of the bruising yet elusive workhorse, and set the school record for single-season yards with 1,655 last year.

But if his runs are slanted heavily to the right side, you'll know why: Tech lost the whole left side to graduation and must break in a new left guard and left tackle. Guard Greg Nosal was a regular reserve in 2009 and played about a third of VT's offensive snaps, but Nick Becton was used only sparingly and generally in mop-up situations. The rest of the line is more than solid, though, and right tackle Blake DeChristopher has been a regular since his freshman year.

Taylor is a more elusive quarterback than most, so if his blind side isn't as well protected as he'd like, he can improvise. Tech's offense is tilted very, very heavily toward the run; Williams is the most dynamic player they have, Darren Evans will return and take a little load off of Williams, and Taylor's feet are more reliable than his arm. He's got veteran targets in Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale. Boykin is a good but not great receiver on the outside, and Coale is that really obnoxious white-guy sort of receiver that has a knack for coming up with the 10-yard catch on 3rd-and-8.

The last notable departure is huge tight end Greg Boone. Boone used to play a few different trickeration roles when OC Bryan Stinespring was feeling frisky, but Tech has declared Logan Thomas the backup quarterback, and opponents should watch for some wildcat stuff or put-'em-both-out-and-see-what-happens-stuff, as Thomas is a versatile athlete.

DEFENSE

If there's hope for the masses who prefer their ACCCG's turkey-free, it emanates from the defensive line, where VT was hit hard by graduation and early departure. The only returnee here is tackle John Graves, who was generally lost in the shuffle among the bigger names along the line. With good reason: Graves is more of a hold-the-line type of DT rather than a playmaker. None of his new linemates started a game in 2009, but still spent more time in the backfield than did Graves. End Chris Drager is the heir apparent in the playmaking role; 2009 was his first season on defense and he acquitted himself nicely, with 6.5 TFL as a reserve. On the other end is Steven Friday, a decent player but unlikely to strike up the kind of fear that Jason Worilds could.

Barquell Rivers will be looked at for leadership on defense from his middle linebacker spot, especially with the departure of Cody Grimm. Rivers racked up 96 tackles last year. The Hokies also return Lyndell Gibson on the outside; Gibson began the year as a reserve but evicted incumbent Jake Johnson midway through the season and started the last five games. Just a redshirt sophomore, Gibson is likely one to watch out for. Fellow sophomore Jake Gouveia-Winslow steps into Grimm's shoes at what Tech calls the whip linebacker position (it's a little bit of a hybrid between an OLB and a safety.) G-W is the most inexperienced likely starter on the defense and one that opposing offenses will look to take advantage of until he proves himself.

At cornerback, Rashad Carmichael is the returning all-ACC honorable mention player (and had six INTs to boot) but Jayron Hosley might be the guy you keep away from. Hosley was installed as the punt returner as a true freshman in 2009 and couldn't be kept off the field on defense, either. Expect an improvement in cornerback play this year, but a dropoff at safety with Kam Chancellor gone. Rover Davon Morgan started four games last year, but he and free safety Eddie Whitley have big shoes to fill.

SPECIAL TEAMS

There's an unsettled battle for the placekicking duties with Matt Waldron gone; the seniormost participant is Chris Hazley, but the job is by no means his yet. Brian Saunders will probably take over the punting chores. Both positions will probably not be as strong as in 2009, especially punting where Tech got almost 44 yards a kick from Brent Bowden. Tech had strong return men in Jayron Hosley for the punts and Dyrell Roberts on kickoffs; Roberts split kickoff duties with tailback David Wilson who wasn't anywhere near as effective. The coverage teams are still their usual strong selves, but the vaunted kick-blocking that made Tech's special teams famous has been AWOL for a couple years now.

OUTLOOK

After being blown out on national TV by nascent superpower Boise State, Tech's season will go into a severe tailspin that.....well, I can dream, anyway. In truth, once the lights go down in Landover, Tech will have seen their last real challenge until November. The schedule is very friendly as they miss the only two Coastal teams that are likely to win the division. October is especially Charmin-esque. After munching on delicious sugary cupcakes like Wake Forest and Duke, Tech gets a bye week and then a gauntlet of showdowns in a whirlwind November that will decide the division title. Tech is being mentioned as a national title contender but I think that's largely out of force of habit; if they couldn't win a crystal football with last year's defense, it seems unlikely they can do it with this year's. Still, they're a top contender for the Orange Bowl and even if they don't make it, their postseason destination will be a good one.

I will now unclench my teeth. The Terp preview was a lot more fun.

1 comment:

shiben said...

Decent writeup for VT, but I think you missed a few things (it's cool, you can't be expected to follow us as rigorously as we follow ourselves)... John Graves was actually injured much of last year, and really wasn't very healthy until the bowl game, where he single-handedly riped Johnathon Cromptom in half. Also, hokies actually expect to see better play out of the saftey position this year, as Eddie Whittley is a more natural FS than Chancellor (granted, he's not as much of a physical freak, but he will be in better position, and knows the spot better). It's also looking like Barquell Rivers will be missing the early part of the season as he tore a pectoral ligament in the spring (so our lb core looks pretty shakey). Anyway, great writeup!