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Virginia Tech's defense deserves another 10-win season. Can the offense help yet?

There's a good chance Frank Beamer's got at least one more ACC title shot in him.

Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here.

1. One more good offense for old time's sake

According to Sports Reference's SRS measure, Frank Beamer has been in charge of 12 of Virginia Tech's 13 best-ever teams.

His 1999 and 2000 squads that went a combined 22-2 are third and first on the list, and he almost topped himself with the 2005 team that went 11-2. Tech won at least 10 games for eight consecutive seasons after all-world quarterback Michael Vick left, and the Hokies haven't finished with a losing record since 1992, his sixth year in Blacksburg.

The Hokies have finished in the AP poll 18 times, and Beamer was to thank for 16 of the finishes, including all seven top-10s. With 231 wins, he is Tech's winningest head coach, a cool 167 victories ahead of second-place Bill Dooley. If a replacement Tech coach went 15-0 and won the national title for 15 straight years, he'd still be six wins behind Beamer.

In the annals of Virginia Tech football, he has lapped the field several times.

We know all of that. We also know this: in terms of SRS, Beamer's last four teams have ranked 24th, 58th, 40th, and 38th in Tech history. In my F/+ ratings, the Hokies ranked between fourth and 17th for five of six seasons between 2005-10. Since then, they have ranked 28th, 41st, 25th, and 33rd.

This is still pretty good, mind you. But it's also a clear slip. And it isn't too difficult to figure out the cause of the problem.

Year Offensive S&P+ Rk Defensive S&P+ Rk
2005 26 1
2006 65 1
2007 59 2
2008 92 10
2009 10 7
2010 13 35
2011 44 18
2012 87 8
2013 71 1
2014 85 10

Defense and special teams have long been the Virginia Tech calling card. Beamer was a defensive coordinator at The Citadel and Murray State before he became a head coach, and since 1995 he has employed his former Murray State linebacker Bud Foster as one of the most successful defensive coordinators in history.

Still, on most of Tech's best teams, offense was somewhere between a competence and a strength. Beamer's 12 best seasons all came between 1995 and 2010; of the 55 players Tech had drafted in that span, 29 were defenders and 26 were offensive players. Vick, Marcus Vick, Tyrod Taylor, Josh Morgan, Kevin Jones, Andre' Davis, Lee Suggs, Jim Druckenmiller ... a lot of the most iconic players of the Beamer era played on offense.

The ongoing dominance of the Tech defense has made the offensive struggles unbearable. This isn't a case of an aging coach losing his grasp -- Beamer's (and Foster's) grip on the D is as strong as ever. But it's been four years since the Tech offense has been even decent. The line has been consistently unsuccessful, there has been endless turnover at running back, and of the 20 Tech losses of the last four years, the Hokies scored 12 or fewer points in nearly half.

Beamer is 68 years old. Speculation is pointless, but he isn't going to be coaching forever. It would be a lot of fun to see one more good Tech offense complement another great Tech D, just to see how far the Hokies can go, one last time.

2014 Schedule & Results

Record: 7-6 | Adj. Record: 9-4 | Final F/+ Rk: 33
Date Opponent Opp. F/+ Rk Score W-L Percentile
Performance
Adj. Scoring
Margin
Win
Expectancy
30-Aug William & Mary N/A 34-9 W 91% 31.7 100%
6-Sep at Ohio State 1 35-21 W 93% 35.1 80%
13-Sep East Carolina 61 21-28 L 54% 2.1 12%
20-Sep Georgia Tech 8 24-27 L 85% 24.7 76%
27-Sep Western Michigan 56 35-17 W 92% 32.6 91%
4-Oct at North Carolina 70 34-17 W 75% 16.1 87%
16-Oct at Pittsburgh 43 16-21 L 44% -3.4 7%
23-Oct Miami 31 6-30 L 8% -33.1 0%
1-Nov Boston College 36 31-33 L 50% -0.1 15%
15-Nov at Duke 51 17-16 W 78% 18.1 66%
22-Nov at Wake Forest 101 3-6 L 35% -8.7 35%
28-Nov Virginia 39 24-20 W 75% 16.0 69%
27-Dec vs. Cincinnati 47 33-17 W 79% 19.1 64%

Category Offense Rk Defense Rk
S&P+ 25.8 85 16.9 10
Points Per Game 24.1 96 20.2 14

2. Couldn't fend off the funk

In Virginia Tech's biggest win in a long time, the offense averaged 4.2 yards per play.

The Hokies' win over eventual national champion Ohio State was a master class in timely offense and a defense taking advantage of youth. Tech did very little damage but converted nine of 17 third downs, played keep-away (time of possession in Q1 and Q4: VT 18:52, OSU 11:08), and made a brilliant young quarterback impatient. Ohio State's J.T. Barrett rushed 17 times for 124 yards (not including sacks) but completed just nine of 29 passes with seven sacks and three picks, and with the Buckeyes driving for a potential tying score, a Donovan Riley pick six sealed an incredible result.

The problem with timely offense over good offense is that it stops being timely. The week after, Tech went a decent 8-for-19 on third downs but created just five scoring opportunities to East Carolina's eight and lost, 28-21. The next week against Georgia Tech, the Hokies went 8-for-14 on third downs but settled for four field goals in six scoring opportunities and lost, 27-24.

Because of defense, Virginia Tech started the season 4-2. And because of offense (and a defensive glitch against Boston College), Tech lost four of the next five. Your defense can only save the world for so long.

  • Average Percentile Performance (first 6 games): 82% (~top 25 | record: 4-2)
  • Average Percentile Performance (next 5 games): 43% (~top 75 | record: 1-4)
  • Average Percentile Performance (last 2 games): 77% (~top 30 | record: 2-0)

In a must-win against Virginia (following a humiliating scoreless-in-regulation loss to lowly Wake Forest), the Hokies put together maybe their best offensive performance of the season, gaining 433 yards (5.8 per play) against a good, if fading, defense. And in the bowl, Tech clinched another winning season by riding defense to a comfortable win.

Offense

FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.73 119 IsoPPP+ 84.4 104
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 38.6% 99 Succ. Rt. + 93.8 93
FIELD POSITION Def. Avg. FP 33.2 122 Def. FP+ 95.0 117
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.9 98 Redzone S&P+ 93.6 83
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 23.6 ACTUAL 26 +2.4
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 99 101 96 104
RUSHING 89 108 96 112
PASSING 77 86 88 88
Standard Downs 84 73 95
Passing Downs 116 116 113
Q1 Rk 113 1st Down Rk 102
Q2 Rk 108 2nd Down Rk 82
Q3 Rk 101 3rd Down Rk 95
Q4 Rk 25

3. The power of identity

We talk a lot about identity in these previews. Basically, "identity" boils down to knowing how you're going to move the ball when you need to and knowing how to leverage your strengths and minimize your obvious weaknesses.

Identity is obvious in some offenses -- the Mike Leach air raid, the Paul Johnson spread option. When you understand a specific philosophy inside and out, offense almost becomes like a checklist. Defenses are doing this? Then we will do this.

Not all coaches have a definable system, and that's okay to some degree. New Pitt offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is one of my favorite offensive coaches in the country, and in the last three seasons he's had success with a spread-esque Tennessee offense that leaned on two receivers and a power-oriented Arkansas offense that utilized a run-and-run-again approach. If you have a grasp of tactics and a flexible offense, you can make big changes from year to year based on the strength of your personnel.

Virginia Tech coordinator Scott Loeffler hasn't led a good offense in a while; his 2011 Temple offense ranked 64th in Off. S&P+, his 2012 Auburn offense ranked 93rd, and his two Tech offenses have ranked 71st and 85th, respectively. Changing jobs almost every year can't help; it's hard to know your personnel when you're getting a brand new roster every year. In 2014, with Loeffler finally staying in the same place for a full offseason, injuries and youth forced him to again work with new skill position weapons across the board.

Tech had a transfer at quarterback, a freshman running back, and three freshmen leading the receiving corps. That's rarely going to produce a good offense, no matter the coordinator.

So we can say Loeffler gets a double-mulligan for the way his Tech tenure has started. But the slack ends this year. With eight starters returning, plus key injury returnees at running back, receiver, and tight end, he needs to figure out what Tech can actually be good at.

Quarterback

Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.

Player Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Comp Att Yards TD INT Comp
Rate
Sacks Sack Rate Yards/
Att.
Michael Brewer 6'0, 200 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8565 262 441 2692 18 15 59.4% 30 6.4% 5.1
Mark Leal
6 9 77 1 0 66.7% 0 0.0% 8.6
Brenden Motley 6'4, 228 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8498 1 3 17 0 0 33.3% 1 25.0% 4.0
Chris Durkin 6'4, 242 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8866
Andrew Ford 6'3, 198 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8446
Dwayne Lawson 6'6, 207 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9127

Running Back

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Rushes Yards TD Yards/
Carry
Hlt Yds/
Opp.
Opp.
Rate
Fumbles Fum.
Lost
Marshawn Williams TB 5'11, 220 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8778 125 496 4 4.0 6.3 25.6% 2 1
J.C. Coleman TB 5'7, 190 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9085 107 533 3 5.0 5.8 36.4% 2 2
Shai McKenzie TB
53 269 3 5.1 4.0 43.4% 0 0
Michael Brewer QB 6'0, 200 Sr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8565 50 280 2 5.6 5.0 42.0% 4 3
Sam Rogers FB 5'10, 220 Jr. NR NR 32 144 0 4.5 2.5 43.8% 2 0
Joel Caleb TB 6'2, 200 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9471 22 96 0 4.4 4.7 31.8% 1 1
Trey Edmunds TB 6'1, 225 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8898 21 97 0 4.6 5.1 33.3% 0 0
Deon Newsome WR 5'11, 186 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8482 19 93 0 4.9 3.4 52.6% 1 1
Brenden Motley QB 6'4, 228 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8498 13 73 0 5.6 3.8 53.8% 1 1
Bucky Hodges TE 6'6, 249 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9049 7 20 0 2.9 0.5 14.3% 0 0
Jerome Wright FB 6'2, 231 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8500 6 12 0 2.0 0.5 16.7% 1 1
Travon McMillian TB 6'0, 194 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8921
D.J. Reid TB 6'0, 232 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8778
Deshawn McClease TB 5'10, 185 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8711

Receiving Corps

Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Targets Catches Yards Catch Rate Target
Rate
%SD Yds/
Target
NEY Real Yds/
Target
RYPR
Isaiah Ford SE 6'1, 180 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8816 90 56 709 62.2% 22.1% 62.2% 7.9 28 7.9 80.2
Demitri Knowles (2013) FL 6'1, 177 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8322 78 45 641 57.7% 19.4% 40.3% 8.2 64 8.9 79.8
Bucky Hodges TE 6'6, 249 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9049 75 45 526 60.0% 18.4% 54.7% 7.0 -25 7.1 59.5
Cam Phillips FL 6'1, 196 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8755 65 40 498 61.5% 15.9% 49.2% 7.7 10 7.7 56.3
Willie Byrn FL
64 47 388 73.4% 15.7% 54.7% 6.1 -167 6.1 43.9
Kalvin Cline (2013) TE 6'4, 245 So. NR NR 39 26 321 66.7% 9.7% 66.7% 8.2 12 8.3 40.0
Ryan Malleck TE 6'5, 245 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8339 39 24 195 61.5% 9.6% 51.3% 5.0 -98 4.9 22.1
Sam Rogers FB 5'10, 220 Jr. NR NR 27 20 230 74.1% 6.6% 48.1% 8.5 -6 9.1 26.0
Joshua Stanford SE
12 7 64 58.3% 2.9% 50.0% 5.3 -22 5.2 7.2
Deon Newsome FL 5'11, 186 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8482 8 7 19 87.5% 2.0% 100.0% 2.4 -61 N/A 2.2
Joel Caleb TB 6'2, 200 Jr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9471 6 6 61 100.0% 1.5% 66.7% 10.2 -7 9.9 6.9
J.C. Coleman TB 5'7, 190 Sr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9085 6 4 -1 66.7% 1.5% 16.7% -0.2 -49 -0.1 -0.1
Marshawn Williams TB 5'11, 220 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8778 4 4 18 100.0% 1.0% 0.0% 4.5 -27 N/A 2.0
Trey Edmunds TB 6'1, 225 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8898 2 2 -5 100.0% 0.5% 50.0% -2.5 -28 -2.4 -0.6
Kevin Asante SE 6'0, 185 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7759
David Prince WR 6'1, 180 So. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8600
Xavier Burke TE 6'3, 261 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8818









4. Freshmen become sophomores

Brewer can be good!

The amount of youth was impressive last year. Running back Trey Edmunds wasn't yet full-speed after suffering an ugly leg injury late in 2013, and freshman Shai McKenzie tore his ACL early in 2014, leaving another freshman, Marshawn Williams, to carry the heaviest load. He showed promising explosiveness, but he rarely found the open field. And then, naturally, he tore his ACL.

Meanwhile, 2013's No. 2 receiver Demetri Knowles battled injuries and the dog house, and emerging sophomore tight end Kalvin Cline injured his knee in the offseason. The result: freshman Isaiah Ford led the team with 90 targets, freshman tight end Bucky Hodges was second with 75, and freshman flanker Cam Phillips was third with 65. That the three combined to average 7.5 yards per target wasn't awful, considering the inexperience.

Now Ford, Hodges, Phillips, and a healthy Cline are sophomores. Knowles is healthy and had a decent spring. McKenzie is gone, but Williams and Edmunds (a wise old junior) should be ready to go this fall. Plus, J.C. Coleman returns for what feels like his 14th year in Blacksburg. The skill positions have more experience and quite a bit of upside.

It's up to quarterback Michael Brewer to cut down on mistakes. The young supporting cast didn't help, but Tech's offense won't improve unless Brewer's 6.4 percent sack rate and 3.4 percent interception rate come down.

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 93.7 2.77 2.7 36.4% 60.9% 20.9% 80.0 3.8% 11.0%
Rank 98 90 109 93 108 90 102 41 113
Player Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. Career Starts Honors/Notes
David Wang C 36
Caleb Farris RG
29
Jonathan McLaughlin LT 6'5, 310 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8400 22
Laurence Gibson LT
19
Augie Conte RT 6'6, 297 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8402 10
Wyatt Teller LG 6'6, 295 So. 4 stars (6.0) 0.9301 6
Wade Hansen RT 6'5, 300 Sr. NR NR 3
Alston Smith LG 6'2, 294 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8191 0
Jack Willenbrock RG 6'3, 243 Jr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8233 0
Parker Osterloh RT 6'8, 343 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8435 0
Eric Gallo C 6'2, 293 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8433 0
Kyle Chung C 6'3, 285 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8291 0
Darius Redman LT 6'4, 285 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8227 0
Colt Pettit RG 6'3, 291 RSFr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8600
Braxton Pfaff RG 6'5, 304 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8697
Billy Ray Mitchell RG 6'3, 284 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8482
Austin Clark RT 6'6, 300 Fr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.8999
Tyrell Smith C 6'4, 280 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8406
Mike Arnold OL 6'5, 280 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8514

5. It's been a while since Virginia Tech had a good line

One area that didn't have injury-related reasons for its struggles: offensive line. There was a little bit of shuffling, sure, and youth was also an issue -- as you see, 38 of the 41 returning career starts belong to two juniors and a sophomore.

Still, the Tech line has been shaky long enough to lose all benefit of the doubt. Tech ranked first in Adj. Line yards in 2005 and only once ranked outside the top 30 between 2005 and 2011 but has ranked 102nd, 106th, and 98th the last three years. Shaky running back play can contribute to that, but three years is a track record.

And while the quarterback has a big role to play in sack rates, the fact that Brewer was sacked more than 6 percent of the time while throwing mostly short passes is damning for everybody, from the QB to the receivers to the line.

We can talk about how experience might help the skill position players, but unless it helps the line, nothing else really matters.

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Defense

FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE
Raw Category Rk Opp. Adj. Category Rk
EXPLOSIVENESS IsoPPP 0.91 100 IsoPPP+ 128.6 10
EFFICIENCY Succ. Rt. 32.4% 3 Succ. Rt. + 143.3 2
FIELD POSITION Off. Avg. FP 29.1 91 Off. FP+ 103.0 30
FINISHING DRIVES Pts. Per Trip in 40 3.0 2 Redzone S&P+ 145.2 2
TURNOVERS EXPECTED 22.8 ACTUAL 22.0 -0.8
Category Yards/
Game Rk
S&P+ Rk Success
Rt. Rk
PPP+ Rk
OVERALL 21 4 2 10
RUSHING 39 16 6 41
PASSING 26 2 2 5
Standard Downs 3 2 9
Passing Downs 10 3 21
Q1 Rk 23 1st Down Rk 16
Q2 Rk 7 2nd Down Rk 17
Q3 Rk 2 3rd Down Rk 27
Q4 Rk 25

6. Should you be able to make the Hall of Fame as a coordinator?

As frustrating as the offense has been, it becomes doubly frustrating when you realize how it's managed to undo some incredible defensive play.

After falling to 35th in Def. S&P+ in 2010, with debates about whether the rise of the spread has neutralized some of the speed advantages in Foster's famed defense, the Hokies rebounded to 18th in 2011, then spent the next three years in the top 10. They've done this despite a level of injury luck similar to the one that took the offense down last year.

Leading defensive tackle Luther Maddy, the only 2013 starter returning up front, played in only four games in 2014. Stud cornerback Brandon Facyson played in just three. Linebacker Chase Williams, the only senior in a unit that lost both starters, played in nine. Linebacker Ronny Vandyke didn't appear to be quite full-speed after returning from a 2013 injury.

No worries! Tech still ranked second in Success Rate+ and 10th in IsoPPP+ and shut down scoring opportunities as well as anybody. Four linemen recorded at least 9.5 tackles for loss in Maddy's absence, then-freshman Andrew Motupuaka became a nice weapon without Williams, and then-sophomore Chuck Clark became a star without Facyson.

In nearly two decades as a renowned coordinator, Foster has adapted. His defense faced the evolving sport, then got even better. Sure, recruiting has helped; he's not exactly running a two-deep full of two-stars (then again, Maddy was a Rivals two-star, and breakout pass-rushing star Dadi Nicolas was unrated). But Foster continues to figure out ways to thrive.

And he welcomes back an embarrassment of riches. Only injuries will keep Tech out of the Def. S&P+ top 5, and as we learned last year, even injuries will only drop the Hokies to 10th or so.

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 122.3 2.60 2.34 35.3% 48.6% 22.9% 188.2 10.7% 11.1%
Rank 7 25 8 28 2 19 1 3 15
Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Dadi Lhomme Nicolas DE 6'4, 236 Sr. NR NR 13 52.0 7.6% 18.0 8.5 0 1 0 0
Luther Maddy (2013) DT 6'1, 293 Sr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8019 13 41.5 6.7% 13.5 6.5 0 2 0 0
Ken Ekanem DE 6'3, 243 Jr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9223 13 40.5 6.0% 15.5 10.5 0 1 1 0
Corey Marshall DT 6'2, 262 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9014 12 28.0 4.1% 9.5 2.5 1 1 0 0
Nigel Williams DT 6'2, 288 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8672 13 24.5 3.6% 9.5 4.5 0 0 0 1
Dewayne Alford DE
13 6.5 1.0% 1.5 0.0 0 0 1 0
Ricky Walker DT 6'3, 286 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8818 11 5.0 0.7% 1.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Seth Dooley DE 6'5, 242 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8181 13 4.0 0.6% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Woody Baron DT 6'1, 265 Jr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8667 12 4.0 0.6% 1.0 0.5 0 0 0 0
Melvin Keihn DE 6'1, 211 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8770 13 1.5 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Vinny Mihota DT 6'5, 270 RSFr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8580
Steve Sobczak DT 6'2, 315 RSFr. 2 stars (5.3) 0.8200
Tim Settle DT 6'3, 315 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9509
Yosuah Nijman DE 6'7, 265 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8992
Trevon Hill DE 6'4, 220 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8766
Darius Fullwood DE 6'4, 240 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8711
Harry Lewis DT 6'2, 260 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8514
Eric Whitehead, Jr. DT 6'1, 300 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8488
Houshun Gaines DE 6'4, 220 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8419

7. Almost everybody back, plus Maddy

Including Maddy's 2013, Tech returns five players who had at least 9.5 tackles for loss in their previous seasons and four who had at least 4.5 sacks. They have two four-star sophomores waiting for a turn, and they signed three four-star freshmen. Tech was strong enough to rank second in power success rate and fast enough to have the best pass rush in the country.

I don't even know what to say. Find a weakness. I dare you. If you want to worry about the linebackers, I guess you can. If you somehow found a downfield opportunity running the ball, you were occasionally able to get somewhere with it, but the opportunities were few and far between. This was even more of a "break-don't-bend" defense than Michigan State's last year.

Linebackers

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Chase Williams LB
9 52.5 7.7% 9.0 3.5 0 2 1 0
Deon Clarke LB 6'2, 213 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8849 13 52.0 7.6% 11.0 5.0 1 1 1 0
Andrew Motuapuaka LB 6'0, 223 So. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8532 12 40.5 6.0% 4.0 2.0 0 0 0 1
Derek Di Nardo OLB
13 25.5 3.8% 5.0 3.0 1 1 0 1
Ronny Vandyke LB 6'4, 219 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8755 13 6.5 1.0% 0.0 0.0 0 0 1 0
Sean Huelskamp LB 6'1, 202 So. NR NR 2 1.5 0.2% 0.0 0.0 0 0 0 0
Deon Clarke OLB 6'2, 213 Sr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8849
Jamieon Moss OLB 6'1, 211 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8247
Holland Fisher OLB 6'1, 180 RSFr. 4 stars (5.9) 0.9461
Raymon Minor OLB 6'2, 219 RSFr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.9041
Carson Lydon LB 6'2, 241 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8454
Tremaine Edmunds LB 6'4, 220 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8760








Secondary

Name Pos Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Rivals 247 Comp. GP Tackles % of Team TFL Sacks Int PBU FF FR
Kyshoen Jarrett ROV
13 70.0 10.3% 3 0.5 3 5 1 0
Chuck Clark CB 6'0, 206 Jr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8542 13 61.5 9.0% 8.5 1.5 1 11 0 0
Detrick Bonner FS
13 56.0 8.2% 6 3 1 4 1 0
Donovan Riley ROV 5'11, 210 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8206 13 45.5 6.7% 1 1 2 2 1 0
Kendall Fuller CB 6'0, 197 Jr. 5 stars (6.1) 0.9920 13 43.0 6.3% 4.5 2 2 15 0 0
Brandon Facyson (2013) CB 6'2, 184 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8737 12 23.5 3.8% 2 0 5 8 1 0
C.J. Reavis FS 6'1, 205 So. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8740 12 6.0 0.9% 0.5 0 0 0 1 0
Greg Stroman CB 6'0, 160 So. 2 stars (5.4) 0.8229 13 2.5 0.4% 0 0 0 1 0 0
Der'Woun Greene FS 5'10, 189 Jr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8767 9 2.5 0.4% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Desmond Frye FS 6'2, 196 Sr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8564 2 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Anthony Shegog ROV 6'2, 212 So. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8344 6 2.0 0.3% 0 0 0 0 0 0
Terrell Edmunds ROV 6'2, 195 RSFr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8361
Shawn Payne CB 6'2, 191 RSFr. 2 stars (5.4) 0.7983
Mook Reynolds CB 6'0, 172 Fr. 3 stars (5.7) 0.8768
Adonis Alexander ROV 6'3, 193 Fr. 3 stars (5.5) 0.8426
Jahque Alleyne S 6'1, 180 Fr. 4 stars (5.8) 0.8646
Adonis Williamson S 6'1, 190 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8600
DuWayne Johnson CB 6'1, 160 Fr. 3 stars (5.6) 0.8585

8. Just don't throw

With two safeties gone, one could wonder if the secondary might have a couple of holes. Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner were stalwart playmakers who combined for nine tackles for loss and 13 passes defensed. Senior Donovan Riley is back, and four-star sophomore C.J. Reavis looks the part, but there will be youth at safety.

Forgive me if I can't get too concerned. Young safeties can be a problem, but the problem will be minimized by the country's best set of cornerbacks. Including Facyson's 2013, he, Kendall Fuller, and Chuck Clark combined for 15 tackles for loss, eight interceptions, and 34 break-ups in their last seasons. The third-best corner in this unit (and I'm not even sure who that is) would be the best on almost any other team in the country.

Special Teams

Punter Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Punts Avg TB FC I20 FC/I20
Ratio
A.J. Hughes 6'1, 195 Sr. 83 39.9 4 20 22 50.6%
Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Kickoffs Avg TB OOB TB%
Mitchell Ludwig 5'11, 194 Jr. 34 60.1 9 1 26.5%
Joey Slye 5'10, 221 So. 27 60.2 5 1 18.5%
Place-Kicker Ht, Wt 2015
Year
PAT FG
(0-39)
Pct FG
(40+)
Pct
Joey Slye 5'10, 221 So. 33-34 16-18 88.9% 4-10 40.0%
Returner Pos. Ht, Wt 2015
Year
Returns Avg. TD
Demitri Knowles KR 6'1, 177 Sr. 15 18.0 0
Deon Newsome KR 5'11, 186 So. 11 19.9 0
Greg Stroman PR 6'0, 160 So. 36 6.9 0
Kyshoen Jarrett PR 6 10.3 0
Category Rk
Special Teams F/+ 42
Field Goal Efficiency 63
Punt Return Efficiency 60
Kick Return Efficiency 122
Punt Efficiency 43
Kickoff Efficiency 7
Opponents' Field Goal Efficiency 6

9. BeamerBall needs some return men

It's been almost cruel. Every team in the country suffers special teams miscues, but every time it happens to Virginia Tech, it's accompanied with "... what's happened to BeamerBall??" exasperation. The Hokies set the bar ridiculously high.

That said, there have been more miscues. Tech ranked first in special teams efficiency in 2007 and 2010 but has ranked 69th, 61st, 75th, and 42nd in the last four years. Last year was an improvement, as the kick and punt coverage were nearly as good as the pass coverage, and then-freshman Joey Slye was solid at kicks under 40 yards. (The biggest issue with Slye: he was asked to kick 28 field goals. Again, the offensive issues hurt in a variety of ways.)

Tech still needs an old-school return man. Greg Stroman didn't show much explosiveness on punts, and Hokie kick returns were some of the least efficient in the country. With good returns, this is a top-30 unit. But there's no evidence the Hokies will get them.

2015 Schedule & Projection Factors

2015 Schedule
Date Opponent Proj. S&P+ Rk
7-Sep Ohio State 2
12-Sep Furman NR
19-Sep at Purdue 74
26-Sep at East Carolina 80
3-Oct Pittsburgh 38
9-Oct N.C. State 48
17-Oct at Miami 28
24-Oct Duke 54
31-Oct at Boston College 49
12-Nov at Georgia Tech 19
21-Nov North Carolina 44
28-Nov at Virginia 46
Five-Year F/+ Rk 24.1% (24)
2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk 26 / 25
2014 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin* -4 / -0.8
2014 TO Luck/Game -1.2
Approx. Ret. Starters (Off. / Def.) 16 (8, 8)
2014 Second-order wins (difference) 7.0 (0.0)

10. "A top-25 team might go 10-2"

Last year, I wasn't high on Virginia Tech, at least by Tech standards, but noted that the Hokies' schedule was a friendly one if they could get to a top-25 level. That might have been the case. Instead, they ranked in the mid-30s, lost five games by a combined 20 points, and finished 7-6.

I see a similar standard. There are plenty of decent teams on the schedule, but with only one home opponent projected better than 38th and two road opponents projected better than 46th, the Hokies are again in a situation where, if they can climb back up to the top 20 or 25, they could be looking at double-digit wins for the first time in four years. Lose to Ohio State, split against Georgia Tech and Miami, have an offense good enough to avoid some stupid upset, and voila.

I might hedge and predict 9-3, but I think Tech gets back to around 25th, maybe a bit better. The defense can't improve very much but won't regress, and the offense, with fewer injury issues (you almost can't have more) and sophomores instead of freshmen, could improve enough to get out of the way.

Beamer has done amazing things in Blacksburg; the easiest current proof is the dismay a few seven- or eight-win seasons has brought. With another incredible defense and an offense that can keep a base lineup on the field, his Hokies should break past eight wins. Considering the high-upside youth, a good 2015 would set the table for a great 2016.