Which ACC Players Will Give the Hokies the Most Trouble in 2012?
Virginia Tech has a team picked by the media to win the ACC’s Coastal Division in 2012. Sure, the Hokies look like a formidable team capable of dominating ACC opposition, but they’ve been known to struggle against specific players, or a specific type of player in recent years.
In 2011, Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd was the Hokies’ biggest nemesis. Also, former Tigers’ defensive end Andre Branch gave last year’s Virginia Tech offensive line fits totaling eight tackles, five tackles-for-loss and three sacks in two games against the Hokies.
As the Hokies look to make a run at another ACC title, here are five players are poised to give the Hokies trouble in 2012.
Clemson Quarterback Tajh Boyd
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As mentioned earlier, Boyd and Clemson’s spread offense gave Bud Foster’s bunch problems in 2011.
Boyd threw for 444 yards with four touchdowns and one interception in the two meetings. Boyd also rushed for 56 yards and a touchdown.
Boyd, now a junior, will be even better in 2012. Can the Hokies solve Boyd?
If not, they won't be representing the ACC in the BCS again.
Clemson Wide Receiver Sammy Watkins
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Watkins was amazing as a freshman in 2011. He finished the season with 83 receptions for 1225 yards and 12 touchdown catches. He also rushed for 231 yards.
Fortunately for Clemson, Watkins has two seasons of eligibility remaining before he can enter the NFL Draft and he will be even better in 2012.
The Hokies have Kyle Fuller at corner to match-up with Watkins. But, talents like Watkins are hard to cover one-on-one and how Foster defends Watkins will likely determine how successful the Hokies are against Clemson this year.
Florida State Quarterback E.J. Manuel
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Manuel, a Virginia native, has only faced the Hokies once in his career. This year, the Hokies and Seminoles could see one another on two occasions if media projections turn out to be accurate.
Manuel progressed well as a passer in 2011. He only missed one game and cut down his turnovers. Also, Manuel didn’t have to split snaps with former quarterback Christian Ponder.
The Seminoles have a lot of talent around Manuel. If James Gayle and J.R. Collins don’t get pressure on Manuel early and often, it could be a long day when the two teams meet on the second Thursday in November.
North Carolina Running Back Giovani Bernard
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As a freshman in 2011, Bernard was third in the ACC in rushing yards and second in rushing touchdowns.
Bernard rushed for over 100 yards in seven of UNC’s 13 games. The Hokies held Bernard to 45 yards. However, he was running well until he was knocked out of the game with an injury.
The Tar Heels have played the Hokies well in recent seasons. If Bernard is healthy he could cause a lot of problems for Foster’s defense.
Virginia Quarterback Phillip Sims
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Okay, officially, he isn’t even the Cavaliers’ starting quarterback.
Junior Michael Rocco returns as the starter. But, many believe Sims, a former highly regarded recruit out Chesapeake, Va., will challenge Rocco for the starting job.
Sims’ transfer from Alabama appears to be more of a family matter rather than football-related.
While Rocco was better than advertised in 2011, Sims brings a different element to the Cavaliers. He is an elite talent who is a dual-threat at the quarterback position.
If Sims becomes the starter, he could be a thorn in the Hokies side for years to come.