2012 could be a big year for the Virginia Tech Hokies.
They return junior quarterback Logan Thomas and all but two starters on an already very good defense. The Hokies have excellent depth at linebacker and all across the defensive line.
But, on offense, the Hokies will be replacing eight starters.
Four of those starters are offensive linemen.
On Friday, we looked at why Virginia Tech fans should be confident in head coach Frank Beamer, now we will take a look at how the 2012 season could be a disastrous one for Beamer and his Hokies.
More than any other unit on the football field, offensive line play is built on cohesion. Cohesion of course can take time. Often it takes several weeks and games for a unit to develop the type of cohesion necessary for success.
The Hokies will replace four starters from their 2011 offensive line.
Senior Nick Becton will play left tackle. Becton has started several games in his Virginia Tech career and was often more successful than the man he replaced, Andrew Lanier.
Right tackle Vinston Painter, also a senior, is finally a starter after years of high expectations. Painter is massive, but the most impressive thing about Painter is the athletic ability for a man of his size.
If Becton and Painter perform admirably, the Hokies should be in good shape.
If either player is injured or inconsistent, it could spell big trouble for the entire Hokies' offense.
David Wilson is long gone.
Logan Thomas' first year as starting quarterback was largely successful because of Wilson.
Over the years, the Hokies have never had a problem replacing a star tailback. Wilson himself replaced record-setting running backs Darren Evans and Ryan Williams.
The Hokies will be counting heavily on two freshmen, Michael Holmes and J.C. Coleman.
Holmes and Coleman both offer different styles and there is little doubt they will be successful at Virginia Tech. But, the Hokies will need the pair of freshmen runners to prove early they are capable of replacing the big shoes of Wilson.
If the Hokies' running game struggles, that could spell big problems for Beamer.
Will Beamer adjust accordingly?
Frank Beamer's record against Top-Five opponents is well-documented. Beamer is 1-19 all-time at Virginia Tech against opponents ranked in the Top Five.
In 2011, Beamer's Hokies faced Clemson twice and were beaten badly on both occasions. While the Tigers weren't in the Top Five either time they played the Hokies, they were the top opponent for the Hokies in the ACC.
Beamer has not only struggled against Top-Five opponents, but also against ranked opponents in bowl games. Specifically, Beamer is 8-11 in bowl games at Virginia Tech.
The Hokies have games against Clemson and Florida State in 2012. They appear to the biggest games on the schedule and could predetermine the ACC season.
Will Beamer have the Hokies ready for the Tigers and Seminoles?
If he doesn't, it could ruin the Hokies season, and Beamer will have to hear about his struggles against top competition for another season.
Beamer built his national reputation on special teams.
A season didn't go by where the Hokies weren't blocking field goals or punts. In recent years that trend has slowed, considerably.
Also, Beamer is concerned about both kicking positions.
Cody Journell, the first scholarship kicker in years at Virginia Tech, was kicked off the team in December for his role in a home invasion.
After agreeing to a plea deal, the Hokies reinstated Journell to the team. Will he return to the form that had him poised to be All-ACC in 2011? Or will his off-field struggles carry into the season? Placekicking is as much mental as it is physical.
Beamer is counting on Journell to make the most of his second chance.
Will sophomore punter Michael Branthover finally end the Hokies' punting woes? He was terribly inconsistent in 2011, as was fellow sophomore Scott Demler. Departed wide receiver Danny Coale was the Hokies' best punter in 2011.
Possessing an outstanding defense, the Hokies will be leaning heavily on Branthover in the game of field position.
If Beamer improves the entire special teams unit, the Hokies should be pretty good.
If he doesn't, the Hokies may not have enough on offense to overcome numerous special teams' mistakes that plagued the Hokies in 2011.