Tuesday, August 23, 2011

season preview: Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech Hokies


9/3: Appalachian State
9/10: @ East Carolina
9/17: Arkansas State
9/24: @ Marshall
10/1: Clemson
10/8: Miami
10/15: @ Wake Forest
10/22: Boston College
10/29: @ Duke
11/5: BYE
11/10: @ Georgia Tech (Thu.)
11/17: North Carolina (Thu.)
11/26: @ Virginia

Skip: Florida State, Maryland, NC State

Projected starters:

QB: Logan Thomas (rSo.)
RB: David Wilson (Jr.)
FB: Joey Phillips (rJr.)
WR: Danny Coale (5Sr.)
WR: Jarrett Boykin (Sr.)
TE: Chris Drager (5Sr.)
LT: Andrew Lanier (5Sr.)
LG: Greg Nosal (5Sr.)
C: Andrew Miller (rSo.)
RG: Jaymes Brooks (5Sr.)
RT: Blake DeChristopher (5Sr.)

DE: James Gayle (rSo.)
DT: Derrick Hopkins (So.)
DT: Antoine Hopkins (rJr.)
DE: J.R. Collins (rSo.)
WHLB: Jeron Gouveia-Winslow (rJr.)
LB: Bruce Taylor (rJr.)
LB: Tariq Edwards (rSo.)
CB: Kyle Fuller (So.)
CB: Jayron Hosley (Jr.)
R: Antone Exum (So.)
FS: Eddie Whitley (Sr.)

K: Cody Journell (rSo.)
P: Ethan Keyserling (rFr.)

(Italics indicate new starter.)

Coach: Frank Beamer (25th season)

Media prediction: 1st, Coastal Division


2010 1st team: QB Tyrod Taylor, K Chris Hazley, CB Jayron Hosley
2010 2nd team: OT Blake DeChristopher, G Jaymes Brooks, KR David Wilson, DE Steven Friday, DT John Graves, LB Bruce Taylor, S Davon Morgan, P Brian Saunders
2010 HM: C Beau Warren, TE Andre Smith
2011 preseason: OT Blake DeChristopher, CB Jayron Hosley, S Eddie Whitley

(Italics indicate departed player.)

Kind of a transition year for the Hokies - not only do they move on from the Tyrod Taylor era, but the coaching staff got a shuffling in response to Mike London's success in recruiting the state of Virginia last year.  A few guys got shunted to desk jobs, but the awkward part is that offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring got relieved of playcalling duties in favor of QB coach Mike O'Cain.  The changes paid off in the recruiting world, but it remains to be seen how the new staff meshes on game day.  (What does an OC do if he's not calling plays?  Coach the quarterback?  Doesn't that make him the QB coach and not the OC?)


Tech joins the new-quarterback club as the wraps are taken off Logan Thomas, whom UVA had recruited as a tight end.  At 6'6", 254, he's the biggest QB in the conference, and isn't quite as shifty or mobile as Taylor was, but is more than athletic enough to make plays with his feet.

The quarterback won't be as involved in the running game as last year, and Tech also doesn't have as huge a stable of running backs as they've had in recent years; still, when David Wilson carries, which he'll do a lot, there won't be much drop-off in production.  Wilson was on the slightly lower end of the work split with Darren Evans and Ryan Williams last year (as well as Taylor) but will probably get just a ton of work this season.  Josh Oglesby was seldom used last year (or in most of his prior seasons) but should also get his moments in the sun in 2011 as well, as Tech is a run-heavy team.

They'll run behind a great offensive line, too, as long as there isn't much dropoff at center, the only place where Tech must replace a starter.  (And assuming Blake DeChristopher comes back healthy from a pec injury, which he should be after a couple games.)  DeChristopher is probably the line's best player, and he and Jaymes Brooks make a formidable right side.

Likewise, Tech has a ton of experience at receiver as well, where Danny Coale is in roughly his eighth season.  (I swear I thought he'd graduated by now.)  He's evolved from obnoxious white-guy possession receiver to legitimate outside threat, and Jarrett Boykin is as good if not better.  These two will be as productive as Logan Thomas allows, and Wilson is a major threat in the passing game as well.


A re-engineered defensive line is Tech's biggest question on the defensive side of the ball, but there's actually very little trouble with inexperience here.  Tackle Antoine Hopkins is the only returning regular starter, but ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins were just as productive (or more) in a reserve role, and either should be a good bet to replace Steven Friday's excellent production.  Hopkins's brother Derrick is the other starting tackle; there should be little drop-off from last year here, and the only major depth question is the loss (again) of Kwamaine Battle for the season.

At the "whip" position, Jeron Gouveia-Winslow was horrendously inconsistent and was yo-yoed in and out of the lineup last season in his first year of starting, but he's back in alongside leading tackler Bruce Taylor.  If Lyndell Gibson hadn't transferred to Hampton after the season this would have a fair chance to be the ACC's best linebacking unit; as it is there's some gelling to do.

There shouldn't be any uncertainty in the secondary, though.  Jayron Hosley runs neck-and-neck with Chase Minnifield as the conference's best corner, and picked off nine passes last year.  Kyle Fuller, the other cornerback, and Antone Exum at rover (more or less what Tech, in its quest to be different, calls a strong safety) got some starting experience last year; Exum led the team in pass-breakups.  (Gouveia-Winslow's at times lousy play put Exum in the lineup when Tech eliminated the whip position entirely and went straight to a nickel package with three safeties.)  Eddie Whitley is very experienced at free safety and had 80 tackles last year.  The only real problem with Tech's secondary depth chart is how many freshmen appear in backup roles.


Tech yet again breaks in a new kicker this year in Cody Journell, and they're still on the lookout for a punter.  None other than Danny Coale tops the depth chart, but when the bullets start flying, they wouldn't risk their best receiver getting hurt this way....would they?  They might.  David Wilson and Jayron Hosley will do the honors again as kick and punt returners, respectively, and they both brought kicks to the house last season.


Partly because of Tech's schedule, which includes no challenges outside the conference and skips FSU in the regular season, Tech is again getting pub as a possible national title contender.  It's completely within the realm of realistic possibilities that they could run the table.  Still, this is a team that's very good in most places and not really dominant in anything.  In the ACC, that's more than enough to sit at the top, but I think - on paper - FSU is just pips better.  VT should certainly be in the ACCCG - anything less would be a huge failure - and would be a slight underdog if the opponent is FSU and a huge favorite otherwise.  If they run the table up til the ACCCG and then falter (and the same being true for FSU) then they would be a good candidate to give the ACC a second BCS representative.

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