Virginia Tech Football: 3 Ways the Hokies Can Salvage Their Season
For the better part of the past eight years, the Virginia Tech Hokies have dominated the Atlantic Coast Conference, in particular, the Coastal Division. Eight games into the 2012 season, the Virginia Tech Hokies are 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the ACC.
As mediocre as that record is, the Hokies still have chance to win the Coastal Division and compete in the ACC Championship Game. All four remaining games are against conference foes including an all-important matchup with Miami next Thursday night.
To say the least, this season hasn't gone quite as expected. Before the season started, there were obvious concerns on the offensive side of the ball. How would the Hokies replace nine starters, including four on the offensive line?
The frustrating part of this season is the Hokies' inconsistencies in all phases of the game.
The defense has improved tremendously over the past two weeks, but arguably, it cost the Hokies two games. Offensive struggles have happened in Blacksburg before, and the defense always bailed the team out.
That hasn't been the case in 2012.
Here are three keys to the Hokies salvaging the rest of their season.
Keep J.C. Coleman at Tailback
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Sure, Coleman had his struggles in last week's loss to Clemson. He had 12 carries for only 24 yards. And on his one reception, he lost three yards.
But how much of that was Coleman's fault?
The struggles of the offensive line have been well documented on a weekly basis. Not only have the starters struggled, but they have had numerous injuries along the interior of the offensive line and are now on their third center.
All season long, Coleman has showed flashes of big-play potential. Against Duke, Coleman had a career day finishing with 183 yards including a 76-yard touchdown run.
He is clearly the most talented back of the four who have played. His speed and patience are perfect for a team struggling to open up many running lanes. Coleman has the ability to take it the distance every time he touches the ball.
If the Hokies continue to show patience with Coleman, he will reward them.
Feature the Wide Receivers
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This is the strongest positional group on offense for the Hokies. The wideouts are led by talented seniors Marcus Davis, Corey Fuller and Dyrell Roberts.
Davis has made big plays all season even with Logan Thomas' struggles. Davis has also had issues with drops. He presents a physical mismatch for just about any defensive back in college football.
Fuller has been a very consistent weapon for the offense in his first season of significant playing time.
Freshman Demitri Knowles has shown dynamic ability every time he has touched the football. While he doesn't possess the size of Davis, his downfield ability is impressive.
Thomas has struggled mainly in the intermediate game. With players like Davis, who can break tackles and pick up big gains after the catch, it is important to involve them early in the game. The short passing game opens up the deep ball, which is something Thomas has the ability to throw consistently.
For the Hokies to have a chance at winning out, they have to get the ball in the hands of their top playmakers. The coaching staff needs to make sure this happens early and often.
Continue Defensive Improvement
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Whatever changes defensive coordinator Bud Foster has made in the past two weeks, it has worked.
The entire defense was inconsistent through the first six weeks of the season. After getting behind 20-0 to Duke, mainly because of the offense, this group has turned the corner.
After getting only eight sacks through the first six games, the defense has gotten 10 over the last two.
Defensive tackle Luther Maddy has led the way with four. Maddy's ankle injury played a large part in the overall struggles of the defense. His return to full health has been a tremendous boost for junior defensive end James Gayle.
The secondary, much-maligned after the Cincinnati game, has improved steadily over the past few weeks. Antone Exum has seemingly put his struggles behind him. Kyshoen Jarrett looks like a future star at rover.
The only way the Hokies can win their remaining games is if the defense continues to play at the pace it has been going at in the past two weeks. The front line has been getting a lot of pressure on the quarterback, and if that continues then the turnovers will come, too.