2013 Virginia Tech football's 10 things to know: Hokies can be great again ... in 2014

Charles LeClaire-US PRESSWIRE

Frank Beamer knows bounce-backs. He's pulled off quite a few of them at Virginia Tech, and he could engineer another one, but it probably won't be until 2014. A mostly light schedule should easily keep a two-decade bowl streak alive, but the Hokies will be building more for the future than for the present. For more VT, visit Gobbler Country.

Confused? Check out the glossary here.

1. Virginia Tech is going to be pretty good in 2014

In 2008, Virginia Tech sank to 32nd in the F/+ rankings after ranking 11th and eighth the two previous years. The Hokies still went 10-4 and still won a weak ACC despite losses to Boston College, Florida State, and Miami (and, out of conference, East Carolina); but the product itself was regressing. The Hokies scored almost 100 fewer points in 2008 than in 2007 and, despite a relatively weak ACC, allowed more, too. It was easy to assert that head coach Frank Beamer's best days were behind him. He had made the Hokies matter, and his squad was still good enough for a shaky ACC, but Tech on a national level did not matter as much as it once did.

In 2009, Tech ranked fifth in the F/+ rankings. In 2010, 10th. Tech went 21-6 in those two years, not only continuing to live in the ACC's top tier but also putting together a legitimately strong, near-elite product.

Beamer knows bounce-backs. He's pulled them off time and time again. In his sixth year in Blacksburg, Beamer's Hokies fell to 2-8-1; in 1993, they went 9-3. After two 10-win seasons (1995-96), Tech fell to 7-5 in 1997, then won 30 games in three years. Eight wins in 2001 and 2003, 10 in 2002 and 2004. He had already been proclaimed past his prime two or three times when he ripped off a streak of eight consecutive 10- or 11-win seasons. Tech has not been a true national title contender for a while, but few teams pull that off. Living in the suburbs of Elite City, with occasional visits into town, isn't bad for a program that had managed just two top-20 finishes ever before Beamer's ninth season.

That said, Tech was just not very good in 2012. The symptoms were basically the same in 2012 as in 2008 -- an offense that lost the plot, a strangely poor special teams unit, and a defense that was still quite good but not elite -- but the edges were a little duller last fall, the talent a little more difficult to spot.

There is still some talent in Blacksburg, but there might be one more year of tumbling before we get a good glimpse of it. The offense lost its direction last year, and it is now run by a coach who was the coordinator of a directionless offense last year. The defense should hold steady in the nearly elite fringes but probably won't improve enough to drag the offense back toward the suburbs.

There's hope. The offensive line will be laden with seniors next year. The corps of running backs should stabilize. And while there are quite a few senior studs on defense, there is also a wealth of young, fun talent that should be able to hold its own. If Beamer has another bounce-back (a Beamer, if you will) in him, you'll see it unfold in 2014-15. Just don't expect much improvement this year.

2. Losing your edge

I'm pretty sure I mean everything I say above. (That's definitely a sentence you want to read in a preview about your team, isn't it?) But ... Tech has tumbled in rather linear fashion for three straight years now. That is disconcerting. Since 2009's surge to fifth, Tech has ranked 10th, 24th, and 43rd. The offense ranked seventh in 2010, 38th in 2011, and 75th in 2012. Even the defense hasn't crept above 21st since 2009. And special teams, first in 2010, was 68th in 2011 and 62nd in 2012.

Everything Frank Beamer's program has been known for has lost its edge in recent years. Again, he could get it back starting next year. But I'm only reasonably confident in saying that. Three years is a trend.

2012 Schedule & Results

Record: 7-6 | Adj. Record: 11-2 | Final F/+ Rk: 43
Date Opponent Score W-L Adj. Score Adj. W-L
3-Sep Georgia Tech 20-17 W 19.2 - 14.0 W
8-Sep Austin Peay 42-7 W 24.5 - 20.1 W
15-Sep at Pittsburgh 17-35 L 33.2 - 32.3 W
22-Sep Bowling Green 37-0 W 40.7 - 13.1 W
29-Sep vs. Cincinnati 24-27 L 32.8 - 23.8 W
6-Oct at North Carolina 34-48 L 26.4 - 32.0 L
13-Oct Duke 41-20 W 32.9 - 21.1 W
20-Oct at Clemson 17-38 L 25.1 - 18.7 W
1-Nov at Miami 12-30 L 20.8 - 21.1 L
8-Nov Florida State 22-28 L 43.9 - 15.9 W
17-Nov at Boston College 30-23 W 21.2 - 19.9 W
24-Nov Virginia 17-14 W 17.2 - 11.4 W
28-Dec vs. Rutgers 13-10 W 11.1 - 2.5 W
Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
Points Per Game 25.1 85 22.8 32
Adj. Points Per Game 26.8 74 18.9 8

3. This wasn't very fun

There were points here and there. UNC dragged Virginia Tech, kicking and screaming, into an offensive shootout (UNC was good at that), and the Tech offense looked fine against Duke and Florida State. But all in all, if you like points and yards, you didn't much enjoy VT games last fall. (And you really didn't enjoy the bowl game.)

On a play-for-play basis, Tech's defense was not only good last year, it got significantly better in the season's second half.

Adj. Points Per Game (first 6 games): VT 29.5, Opponent 22.6 (plus-6.9)
Adj. Points Per Game (last 7 games): VT 24.6, Opponent 15.8 (plus-8.8)

After UNC laid 533 yards and 48 points on the Hokies, VT battened down the hatches -- Duke averaged 4.6 yards per play, Clemson averaged 4.5, Florida State averaged 4.6, Boston College averaged 3.9, Virginia averaged 3.9, and Rutgers averaged a ghastly 2.5. Only Miami was able to move the ball reliably on Tech after October 6.

Of course, this would have meant something if Tech's own offense hadn't dried up. If you liked tight, competitive games, you might have really enjoyed Tech's stretch run. If you like offense, you hated it.

Offense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 83 91 106 83
RUSHING 81 96 91 101
PASSING 65 83 104 63
Standard Downs 90 96 85
Passing Downs 91 101 88
Redzone 78 76 77
Q1 Rk 117 1st Down Rk 90
Q2 Rk 84 2nd Down Rk 89
Q3 Rk 62 3rd Down Rk 37
Q4 Rk 29

4. What's Loeffler's plan?

Scot Loeffler's only 38 years old. It feels like he's been a former-NFL-assistant-and-QB-guru type for a lot longer, but his career has basically lasted about a decade. He was Lloyd Carr's QB coach at Michigan from 2002-07, spent one year in the same spot with the Detroit Lions, spent two years at Florida, spent one year as Steve Addazio's offensive coordinator at Temple, and spent last year as part of Gene Chizik's last-ditch, gypsy staff at Auburn.

Running a lot is probably the way to go at Tech, too.

It's easy to blame the O.C. for an offense's failures, but I think a lot of people are giving (or should give) Loeffler a pass for last year's Auburn stink; Chizik seemed to have no idea what kind of offense he wanted, and Auburn didn't have a competent non-freshman at quarterback. He got somewhere with freshman Jonathan Wallace and an extremely run-heavy attack near the end of the season, but it didn't really matter.

But if we are going to pin some of Auburn's No. 111 Off. F/+ ranking on Loeffler, we also have to give him credit for the simple fact that Temple's offense surged from 78th to 45th under Loeffler in 2011, then dropped right back to 76th without him.

We don't really know what Loeffler's plan is in Blacksburg. At neither Temple nor Auburn did he have any semblance of a passing game, but that could have simply been because of the personnel on hand. He was forced to run a lot, so he did. But running a lot is probably the way to go at Tech, too. Tech was good at basically nothing in 2012. With a freshman running back looking for holes behind an underdeveloped, shaky offensive line, the running game disappeared, leaving quarterback Logan Thomas to throw a ton of passes under pressure on second- or third-and-long. A pair of outstanding receivers (Marcus Davis and Corey Fuller) bailed him out a few times, but not nearly enough. Thomas' stats plummeted after he was unfairly given some Heisman hype heading into the season, and despite some outstanding running ability (and an absurdly large frame), he had to battle for every single rushing yard. In all, his per-attempt passing average fell from 7.0 to 6.2, his interception rate went from 2.6 percent to 3.7, and Tech's offense fell from 38th in Off. F/+ to 73rd.

Loeffler probably has no choice but to lean on the run, for reasons stated above and below, but it will be interesting to see how he utilizes Thomas in the passing game. Does he get him out of the pocket as much as possible? Does he attempt to turn Thomas into something of a pro-style, pocket-based guy? I assume the former, but I don't really know.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2013 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Comp Att Yards Comp
Rate
TD INT Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Logan Thomas 6'6, 254 Sr. **** (6.0) 220 429 2,976 51.3% 18 16 26 5.7% 6.2
Mark Leal 6'1, 217 Jr. *** (5.6) 4 6 26 66.7% 0 0 0 0.0% 4.3
Brenden Motley 6'4, 216 RSFr. *** (5.5)






Bucky Hodges 6'6, 235 Fr. **** (5.8)






Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Rushes Yards Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Carry
TD Adj.
POE
Logan Thomas QB 6'6, 254 Sr. **** (6.0) 148 683 4.6 4.5 9 -2.6
J.C. Coleman RB 5'7, 191 So. **** (5.9) 109 494 4.5 6.0 2 -1.8
Michael Holmes RB 70 280 4.0 4.4 4 -3.5
Tony Gregory RB 6'0, 187 Sr. *** (5.7) 64 299 4.7 4.7 1 -2.7
Martin Scales RB 52 187 3.6 3.0 2 -6.0
Dyrell Roberts FL 10 71 7.1 8.9 0 +1.2
Demitri Knowles FL 6'1, 180 So. *** (5.5) 7 24 3.4 3.9 0 -0.7
Marcus Davis SE 5 72 14.4 7.8 0 +4.4
Joel Caleb RB 6'2, 205 RSFr. **** (5.9)





Trey Edmunds RB 6'1, 216 RSFr. **** (5.8)





Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Yds/
Target
Target
Rate
%SD Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Marcus Davis SE 98 51 953 52.0% 9.7 24.1% 49.0% 9.9 103.1
Corey Fuller SE 73 43 815 58.9% 11.2 17.9% 38.4% 10.2 88.1
Dyrell Roberts FL 61 33 398 54.1% 6.5 15.0% 62.3% 6.5 43.0
D.J. Coles (2011) SE 6'4, 234 Sr. **** (5.9) 50 36 480 72.0% 9.6 12.9% 48.0% N/A N/A
Demitri Knowles FL 6'1, 180 So. *** (5.5) 39 19 240 48.7% 6.2 9.6% 64.1% 6.1 26.0
J.C. Coleman RB 5'7, 191 So. **** (5.9) 30 21 132 70.0% 4.4 7.4% 56.7% 4.2 14.3
Ryan Malleck TE 6'4, 249 Jr. *** (5.5) 29 17 174 58.6% 6.0 7.1% 58.6% 5.9 18.8
Randall Dunn TE 25 12 128 48.0% 5.1 6.1% 64.0% 5.1 13.8
Joey Phillips FB 13 5 18 38.5% 1.4 3.2% 76.9% 1.8 1.9
Tony Gregory RB 6'0, 187 Sr. *** (5.7) 12 7 60 58.3% 5.0 2.9% 41.7% 3.8 6.5
Michael Holmes RB 8 5 23 62.5% 2.9 2.0% 50.0% 3.1 2.5
Eric Martin TE 6 3 16 50.0% 2.7 1.5% 66.7% 2.4 1.7
Zack McCray TE 6'4, 247 Jr. **** (5.9)








Chris Mangus FL 6'0, 184 RSFr. *** (5.7)








Charley Meyer FL 6'1, 215 RSFr. NR








Carlis Parker SE 6'3, 185 Fr. *** (5.6)








5. Where did the receivers go?

Fourteen Virginia Tech players were targeted by at least two passes in 2012; four return. That's staggering. Seventy-three percent of Tech's targets are gone, and while only two receivers were even slightly successful last year (which means the losses aren't quite as heavy as it seems), somebody's still going to have to catch passes in 2013. Who's it going to be?

We know D.J. Coles will be involved. The senior erupted for seven catches and 116 yards in the ACC title game loss to Clemson in 2011 but battled knee issues all of last season and redshirted. He is both big and explosive, but conditioning is evidently still an issue, and he is far from certain to last 12-plus games this year.

We know Demitri Knowles will be involved. A speedy guy, Knowles was neither explosive nor efficient last year, but he was young. He's struggled with drops this fall, but he's got potential.

And I just basically listed all of the experienced wideouts. The good news is, aside from Coles this is a very young unit, one that should be expected to improve incrementally in the future. But for now, yikes.

Offensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 87.7 2.60 1.97 35.7% 59.2% 22.2% 94.6 4.6% 6.1%
Rank 106 106 121 97 103 105 68 60 54
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals Career Starts/Honors/Notes
Andrew Miller RG 6'4, 296 Sr. *** (5.7) 21 career starts
Nick Becton LT 13 career starts
Vinston Painter RT 13 career starts
David Wang C 6'2, 299 Jr. *** (5.7) 10 career starts
Michael Via RG 9 career starts
Brent Benedict LG 6'5, 292 Jr. **** (5.9) 6 career starts
Caleb Farris LG 6'3, 308 Jr. *** (5.7) 5 career starts
Matt Arkema C 6'3, 296 Jr. *** (5.7) 2 career starts
Laurence Gibson LT 6'6, 290 Jr. **** (6.0)
Mark Shuman RT 6'7, 295 Jr. **** (5.8)
Marcus Mapp RG 6'4, 295 So. NR
Augie Conte RT 6'6, 302 RSFr. *** (5.7)
Jonathan McLaughlin LT 6'5, 313 Fr. *** (5.6)
Parker Osterloh LT 6'8, 318 Fr. *** (5.5)
Kyle Chung LG 6'3, 258 Fr. *** (5.5)

6. Stumbling in the trenches

In 2011, Virginia Tech's line ranked an awful 102nd in Adj. Line Yards, but the Hokies still managed to rank 51st in Rushing S&P+ because of explosive tailback David Wilson. With Wilson gone, a grab bag of freshman J.C. Coleman, redshirt freshman Michael Holmes, Tony Gregory and Martin Scales took over, and while Coleman showed some explosiveness, none of these backs were all that reliable or capable of creating something out of nothing. Meanwhile, the line had to replace four starters and dropped to 106th in Adj. Line Yards.

With the passing game starting over, at least the running game will have more experience on its side. The line is still reasonably young (five players with starting experience have combined for just 44 career starts, almost half of which come from center-turned-guard Andrew Miller), but it has nowhere to go but up. And I do think that Coleman is going to be pretty good. The dismissal of Holmes obviously dings the depth, but Coleman and big redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds could form a nice thunder-and-lightning combination. With the Big Thunder himself, Logan Thomas, also returning, Tech could have a diverse, fun running game if the line gets its act together. But that's a significant "if."

In 2014, the line will be dominated by seniors, and Coleman, Edmunds, and basically everybody but Thomas will return. But in 2013, development could still be an issue.

Defense

Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 18 8 4 14
RUSHING 30 15 12 20
PASSING 24 9 3 12
Standard Downs 11 6 16
Passing Downs 5 3 11
Redzone 8 2 15
Q1 Rk 9 1st Down Rk 17
Q2 Rk 15 2nd Down Rk 3
Q3 Rk 10 3rd Down Rk 5
Q4 Rk 14

7. This is still a damn good D

We can talk about how Bud Foster, Beamer's long-serving defensive architect and 4-4 innovator, has lost his edge, or how his squad isn't quite as adept at handling the modern spread offense as it was at defending previous, more archaic attacks. There are facts on our side if we want to do that. But without major turnovers luck or a boatload of blue-chip talent, nobody is defending the spread all that well right now. And in 2012, barring a couple of nightmare games (most vivid: UNC), Tech's defense was once again strong. And despite fielding a unit of mostly underclassmen, it got much, much stronger over the last half of the season. Picking nits is fine, but Foster is still a strong defensive coordinator, and this is still a strong defense.

The line in particular should be fun to watch this fall; all seven linemen who logged more than 10.0 tackles last year are back, and potential studs like true freshman Wyatt Teller or redshirt freshman Ken Ekanem could enter the mix. (Then again, Teller might require a bit of development in terms of technique.)

Barring developmental issues on the line, the defense should remain perfectly strong beyond 2013 as well. The front four is indeed laden with seniors, but from top to bottom the D is stocked with highly touted, athletic freshmen and redshirt freshmen.

Defensive Line

Category Adj.
Line Yds
Std.
Downs
LY/carry
Pass.
Downs
LY/carry
Opp.
Rate
Power
Success
Rate
Stuff
Rate
Adj.
Sack Rate
Std.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Pass.
Downs
Sack Rt.
Team 112.4 2.53 2.79 33.7% 60.0% 24.1% 138.1 6.2% 7.7%
Rank 19 15 24 14 19 15 14 21 44
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
James Gayle DE 6'4, 255 Sr. *** (5.7) 13 35.0 4.9% 11 5 0 1 0 0
Derrick Hopkins DT 6'0, 311 Sr. *** (5.5) 13 33.5 4.7% 10 3.5 0 1 1 0
Luther Maddy DT 6'1, 296 Jr. ** (5.4) 13 25.0 3.5% 6.5 4 0 0 0 1
Tyrel Wilson DE 6'2, 230 Sr. *** (5.6) 13 23.5 3.3% 7 4.5 0 0 1 1
J.R. Collins DE 6'2, 248 Sr. *** (5.7) 13 20.0 2.8% 6 1.5 0 0 0 0
Corey Marshall DT 6'1, 257 Jr. **** (5.8) 13 18.0 2.5% 3 1.5 0 1 0 0
Dadi Nicolas DE 6'3, 224 So. NR 10 14.0 2.0% 3.5 2 0 1 1 1
Antoine Hopkins DT 13 10.0 1.4% 3.5 0 0 3 0 0
Matt Roth DE 6'3, 239 So. *** (5.7) 13 5.0 0.7% 1 1 0 0 1 0
Kris Harley DT 6'0, 283 So. **** (5.8) 10 4.5 0.6% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Ken Ekanem DE 6'3, 242 RSFr. **** (5.8)

Nigel Williams DT 6'2, 283 RSFr. *** (5.6)

Alston Smith DT 6'2, 281 RSFr. *** (5.5)

Wyatt Teller DE 6'5, 271 Fr. **** (6.0)
Woody Baron DT 6'1, 264 Fr. *** (5.6)

Seth Dooley DE 6'5, 245 Fr. *** (5.5)

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Jack Tyler ILB 6'1, 230 Sr. NR 13 87.0 12.1% 13 2.5 0 3 0 0
Bruce Taylor ILB 12 61.0 8.5% 10.5 5.5 0 5 1 0
Alonzo Tweedy OLB 13 31.0 4.3% 6 3 0 0 0 0
Ronny Vandyke OLB 6'3, 218 So. **** (5.8) 13 19.0 2.6% 2 0 0 0 1 0
Josh Trimble OLB 6'0, 216 So. NR 11 12.0 1.7% 0 0 0 0 0 1
Chase Williams ILB 6'2, 220 Jr. *** (5.7) 13 4.5 0.6% 1 0 0 0 0 0
Tariq Edwards ILB 6'2, 234 Sr. *** (5.6) 7 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Derek DiNardo OLB 6'0, 216 Jr. NR 13 1.0 0.1% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Deon Clarke ILB 6'2, 210 RSFr. **** (5.8) 3 0.5 0.1% 0.5 0 0 0 0 0
Devin Vandyke ILB 6'0, 218 RSFr. *** (5.7)

Dahman McKinnon ILB 6'1, 207 RSFr. *** (5.6)
Andrew Motuapuaka LB 5'11, 224 Fr. *** (5.7)






Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Rivals GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Kyshoen Jarrett ROV 5'11, 198 Jr. **** (5.8) 13 70.5 9.8% 4.5 0 0 4 1 0
Detrick Bonner FS 6'0, 194 Jr. *** (5.5) 13 50.5 7.0% 3 1 1 10 0 1
Kyle Fuller CB 6'0, 194 Sr. *** (5.5) 13 48.0 6.7% 3 0 2 5 1 0
Antone Exum CB 6'1, 220 Sr. *** (5.7) 13 41.5 5.8% 1.5 0 5 16 2 1
Michael Cole ROV 10 32.5 4.5% 1 0 2 1 0 1
Jeron Gouveia-Winslow ROV 12 20.0 2.8% 1.5 0 0 0 1 0
Donaldven Manning CB 8 4.0 0.6% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Desmond Frye ROV 6'2, 188 So. *** (5.5) 13 4.0 0.6% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Donovan Riley CB 5'11, 204 So. *** (5.5) 12 3.0 0.4% 0 0 1 0 0 0
Der'Woun Greene FS 5'10, 180 RSFr. *** (5.7)

Kendall Fuller CB 5'11, 193 Fr. ***** (6.1)

Brandon Facyson CB 6'2, 188 Fr. *** (5.7)

Anthony Shegog ROV 6'1, 216 Fr. *** (5.5)

Chuck Clark FS 6'0, 197 Fr. *** (5.5)






8. Can the secondary hold on?

The linebacking corps is starting over a bit after the departures of Bruce Taylor and Alonzo Tweedy. Meanwhile, star corner Antone Exum is out for at least a couple more months after tearing his ACL in January. Depth is perilous, but if the Hokies avoid any major injuries, the back seven could still be pretty interesting. Sophomore Ronny Vandyke (who recently suffered a shoulder injury) looks like a quality Tweedy replacement, Kyshoen Jarrett is an emerging stud at Foster's Rover position, and the Fuller brothers -- senior Kyle and blue-chip freshman Kendall -- have looked good this fall.

The key, though, really is depth. There's just not much of it left. And while most of the reactions to Exum's injury and everything else have been in regard to the Alabama game (Tech doesn't have anybody capable of handling Amari Cooper!) … Tech's not going to beat Alabama anyway. And nobody can handle Amari Cooper anyway. Tech's schedule starts in earnest on September 14, and if the back seven of the 4-4 is as healthy as possible (and getting healthier when Exum returns), it can overcome a decent amount of youth.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
A.J. Hughes 6'1, 199 So. 79 40.6 3 18 22 50.6%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB TB%
Brooks Abbott 39 61.5 9 23.1%
Michael Branthover 5'9, 184 Jr. 20 59.7 8 40.0%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2013
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Cody Journell 6'0, 183 Sr. 34-36 14-15 93.3% 6-10 60.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2013
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Demitri Knowles KR 6'1, 180 So. 21 28.3 1
J.C. Coleman KR 5'7, 191 So. 19 21.6 0
Kyshoen Jarrett PR 5'11, 198 Jr. 18 13.9 1
Michael Holmes PR 14 7.4 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 62
Net Punting 79
Net Kickoffs 98
Touchback Pct 89
Field Goal Pct 27
Kick Returns Avg 20
Punt Returns Avg 38

9. Beamer vs. BeamerBall

For the second straight year, the special teams unit, once an incredible strength for Virginia Tech, was distinctly average. Returns were good and should be again with Demitri Knowles and Kyshoen Jarrett returning kicks and punts, respectively; meanwhile, Cody Journell was perfectly fine on kicks under 40 yards. But punting and kickoffs were mediocre (or worse), and Tech blocked just a single kick last year. It hasn't been that long since Tech had the best special teams unit in the country, but the Hokies have been distinctly average in this regard of late.

2013 Schedule & Projection Factors

2013 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. Rk
31-Aug vs. Alabama 1
7-Sep Western Carolina NR
14-Sep at East Carolina 74
21-Sep Marshall 82
26-Sep at Georgia Tech 32
5-Oct North Carolina 29
12-Oct Pittsburgh 35
26-Oct Duke 88
2-Nov at Boston College 69
9-Nov at Miami 25
16-Nov Maryland 83
30-Nov at Virginia 71
Five-Year F/+ Rk 16
Two-Year Recruiting Rk 21
TO Margin/Adj. TO Margin* -5 / -7.6
TO Luck/Game 1.0
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 13 (4, 9)
Yds/Pt Margin** +0.4

10. A 2012 facsimile

I do think the running game is going to improve, and I love the front four on defense. I think the young secondary should at least mostly hold up (with some glitches), and I don't see why the defense should rank outside the top 25 when all is said and done. But I also don't even slightly trust the passing game, and I don't see the defense ranking ABOVE about 15th or 20th.

In other words, I once again see a mediocre-at-best offense and a good (but not good enough to offset the offense) defense taking the field, and I once again see Virginia Tech struggling to rank in the top 40 overall.

Beamer has recruited pretty well over these past couple of years, and the odds are decent that some of the young studs on defense and at running back become experienced studs in 2014 and beyond. Another bounce-back for the King of the Bounce-Back is possible, but it's probably not going to happen this year.

The good news is that the schedule will disguise a lot of the issues. Once the Hokies have taken their whipping on August 31, they will likely be favorites in eight to nine remaining games, even if they are barely a top-40 team. This is not a team equipped to win double-digit games, I believe, but it won't be the end of the world if the Hokies tread water this year while getting some exciting youngsters a lot of playing time. Hope is not lost that Tech can once again find residence among the nation's semi-elite. But the Hokies won't find it this year.

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