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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|
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
|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%|
|4-Oct||at North Carolina||70||34-17||W||75%||16.1||87%|
|22-Nov||at Wake Forest||101||3-6||L||35%||-8.7||35%|
|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.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|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|
|Q1 Rk||113||1st Down Rk||102|
|Q2 Rk||108||2nd Down Rk||82|
|Q3 Rk||101||3rd Down Rk||95|
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.
Note: players in bold below are 2015 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Michael Brewer||6'0, 200||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8565||262||441||2692||18||15||59.4%||30||6.4%||5.1|
|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|
|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|
|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|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|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|
|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|
|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!
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.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Jonathan McLaughlin||LT||6'5, 310||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8400||22|
|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.
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|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|
|Q1 Rk||23||1st Down Rk||16|
|Q2 Rk||7||2nd Down Rk||17|
|Q3 Rk||2||3rd Down Rk||27|
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.
|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|
|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.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|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|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|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|
|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.
|A.J. Hughes||6'1, 195||Sr.||83||39.9||4||20||22||50.6%|
|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%|
|Joey Slye||5'10, 221||So.||33-34||16-18||88.9%||4-10||40.0%|
|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|
|Special Teams F/+||42|
|Field Goal Efficiency||63|
|Punt Return Efficiency||60|
|Kick Return Efficiency||122|
|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
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk|
|26-Sep||at East Carolina||80|
|31-Oct||at Boston College||49|
|12-Nov||at Georgia Tech||19|
|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"
Scouting the enemy
Scouting the enemy
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.