Virginia Tech Football: 7 Keys to Winning the Georgia Tech Game
Virginia Tech fans, the wait is over. In just five days the Hokies finally open the 2012 season at Lane Stadium against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
The Hokies will play on a Monday night for the second time in three seasons as the 2010 squad opened against Boise State, but that game was played in Landover, Maryland.
Since entering the ACC in 2004, this will be the second time the Hokies open against a conference opponent. In 2005, the Hokies defeated N.C. State.
Georgia Tech has been a thorn in the Hokies' side in recent seasons. While the Yellow Jackets have only one win against the Hokies since head coach Paul Johnson took over in 2008, they have found a way to run the ball on Bud Foster's defense.
Here are seven keys to the Hokies opening the 2012 season successfully next Monday night.
Slow Down Georgia Tech's Option Offense
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Paul Johnson's triple-option offense is something of a rarity on college football these days. But he has found a way to be successful with it, including winning the ACC in his second season as coach.
In four games against the Hokies, Johnson's Yellow Jackets have rushed for an average of 293 yards per game. Against a Bud Foster-coached defense, those are ridiculous numbers. Foster prides his unit on stopping the run above all else.
The Jackets have some offensive weapons. Orwin Smith and David Sims return in the backfield. Smith, a senior, is a proven player.
Senior quarterback Tevin Washington enters his second season as the full-time starter. He runs the offense well.
Keep Georgia Tech's Passing Game in Check
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Georgia Tech doesn't throw the ball much, but when the Yellow Jackets do, they look for big plays.
The Jackets have little experience at the wide receiver position in 2012 after the departure of Stephen Hill. It wouldn't be a surprise if Johnson featured the running backs more in the passing game.
Washington's ability as a passer is questionable as well. While he possesses a strong arm, he didn't throw a touchdown pass in the final seven games of the 2011 season.
If the Hokies limit the passing game, they shouldn't have a problem.
Establish Running Game Early
David Wilson's departure opened the door for a pair of freshman running backs.
Michael Holmes and J.C. Coleman should see the bulk of the carries on Monday night. Holmes will be the starter while Coleman may see third-down action because of his speed and playmaking ability.
Martin Scales and Tony Gregory could also figure into the mix.
The Hokies have always been a run-first team, and even with a talented passer like Logan Thomas, they still figure to run the ball often.
If the Hokies establish the run early, the passing game becomes even more effective and gives a young backfield confidence.
Get Marcus Davis Involved
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Senior receiver Marcus Davis will be the Hokies most important player on offense outside of Logan Thomas this season.
Davis, a 6'4" and 232-pound specimen, finally has a starting job. Stuck behind Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin for three years, Davis shined in 2011 finishing with 30 receptions for 510 yards and five touchdowns. Davis led the team averaging 17 yards per catch.
Davis has shown the ability to be a vertical threat while still able to haul in short passes, break tackles and score from anywhere on the field.
Getting Davis involved early is important for the Hokies' running game.
Keep Kyle Fuller at Cornerback
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With starting linebacker Tariq Edwards set to miss the opener, there is a temptation to move Fuller to linebacker during key situations.
In 2011, Fuller started seven games at the whip linebacker spot, but Jeron Gouveia-Winslow returns to that spot. However, there will be a temptation to move Fuller to that spot on specific downs in order to get him closer to the ball.
Fuller has the potential to be an All-American at cornerback. And the Hokies are thin at corner. Virginia Tech can ill-afford an injury to Fuller and he is too important to the defensive backfield.
Look for Bud Foster to keep Fuller at corner as he has good depth at the linebacker position.
Protect Logan Thomas
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The Hokies' season is predicated on Thomas being healthy. At 6'6" and 260 pounds, Thomas can sustain hits better than most. But, with four new linemen in front of him, he cannot afford to take too many hits.
Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring and play-caller Mike O'Cain showed a willingness to throw the ball more in 2011 to take advantage of Thomas' arm.
In 2012, the Hokies will look to Thomas to make quick throws to keep the defense off balance and set up some vertical routes later in the game. Limiting Thomas to three- and five-step drops is important for the Hokies as they break in a new offensive line.
Georgia Tech outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu returns, and he is a fine player. The Jackets also return Brandon Watts on the other side of Attaochu. Both players can rush the passer. They will be a good test for Hokies tackles Vinston Painter and Nick Becton.
Limiting Special Teams' Mistakes
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After an uncertain offseason, junior Cody Journell returns as the kicker for the Hokies. That is great news as he was blossoming into a good kicker before his suspension last December.
The situation at punter is murkier. The Hokies had three players punt last season and didn't solve the position until Danny Coale took on double-duty. Coale is gone, but sophomore Michael Branthover returns.
Branthover had a difficult time separating himself from the competition so freshman Hunter Windmuller is now the top punter. As a high school senior, Windmuller averaged more than 47 yards per punt. The Hokies are counting on him to solidify this position.
The Hokies have always prided themselves on terrific special teams play. In recent reasons, though, the opposition has blocked more kicks than the Hokies have. It will be important for the Hokies to limit their mistakes this season and get back to winning the battle on special teams.