Virginia Tech Football: 5 Most Important Takeaways from September
The first month of the college football season is in the books, and the Virginia Tech Hokies are sitting in a good position. With last week's win over Georgia Tech, the Hokies improved to 4-1 on the season and 1-0 in the ACC.
Considering how inconsistent the offense was in September, Virginia Tech has to feel very good about where they are. Quarterback Logan Thomas eased several concerns, at least for one week, with his performance against the Yellow Jackets.
The defense is outstanding, but we expected that. The special teams, not so much.
Here are the five biggest takeaways from the Hokies' first month of the season.
Freshman Defensive Backs No Longer a Concern
There was a lot of concern heading into the 2013 season about the depth of the secondary. Antone Exum's January injury led many to question who would start at corner opposite of Kyle Fuller early in the season.
Donovan Riley and Donaldven Manning, both sophomores, competed for the spot in the spring. When fall camp arrived in August, Riley was a backup on the depth chart and Manning decided to transfer.
Two true freshmen, Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson, impressed coaches enough that Manning knew his playing time would be limited.
Against Alabama, both Kendall Fuller and Facyson played well. Fuller was often lined up against Alabama star Amari Cooper and held his own. Facyson leads the team with four interceptions; Fuller has two.
Most expected Fuller to be good from the beginning. Facyson's play has surprised everyone except for Bud Foster. Facyson is always around the ball and both he and the younger Fuller look like the next great Virginia Tech defensive backs.
Special Teams Not so Special
Whether it is giving up two return touchdowns in the season opener or missing multiple short field goals, the Hokies' special teams units have been anything but special.
In each game this season, VT has suffered from a mistake on special teams. Against East Carolina, senior kicker Cody Journell missed two field goals and an extra point. A third field goal was wiped out due to a penalty. Ethan Keyserling, Tech's backup kicker, missed three field goals against Marshall the following week.
Journell missed another short attempt against Georgia Tech last week. Frank Beamer can't have too much faith in his kicking game at the moment. On a team that plays outstanding defense, the Hokies will be in several close games. They need Journell to figure this out in a hurry.
In some good news, Virginia Tech did block a punt and a kick versus Marshall in Week 4.
Logan Thomas Is Slowly Getting Better
In all fairness, Logan Thomas was not good in the season opener against Alabama. Thomas completed just five of 26 passes for 59 yards and an interception.
The final box score doesn't tell the true story as the Hokies had at least 10 drops in that contest. But with each passing game, Thomas continues to improve.
Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler is incorporating more crossing routes into the offense, and Thomas continues to build trust in his receivers. Sophomore Demitri Knowles is slowly becoming Thomas' go-to guy, and as the two become even more comfortable with one another, expect more downfield shots as Knowles has the speed to take the top off of the defense.
This team will go as far as Thomas can take them.
The Running Game Is Still a Mess
Virginia Tech's running game got off to a great start against Alabama when freshman running back Trey Edmunds ran for 135 yards and a touchdown. While Edmunds did finish with over 100 yards, 77 of those came on one run.
For the year, Edmunds has 84 carries for 367 yards and three touchdowns. He had just six yards against Georgia Tech on six attempts. His performance has been too inconsistent thus far. However, much of that hasn't been his fault.
J.C. Coleman's injury in fall camp has hurt this team more than most realize. Coleman led the team in rushing last season and is capable of scoring from anywhere on the field every time he touches the ball. He has played just two games thus far and should be fully healthy for North Carolina this weekend.
The offensive line's struggles continue to play a part in why the Hokies cannot consistently run the ball. Coleman's return should help things. He and Edmunds could be a dynamic combination if they get some help from the offensive line.
Defense Is Terrific
After five weeks, the Hokies rank No. 4 in total defense. They are allowing just 241 yards per game. They've forced 13 turnovers, including 11 interceptions, and have 17 sacks.
VT got everyone's attention with its performance against Alabama in the season opener. The Hokies held the Tide to just 206 total yards.
They've continued that momentum with strong performances against East Carolina, Marshall and Georgia Tech. Each of these teams play a different style of offense, and the Hokies had just three days to prepare for GT's flexbone option offense.
Bud Foster is no doubt one of the best defensive coordinators in college football over the last 15 years. This may be one of the more talented groups he has ever coached. Virginia Tech has terrific depth along the defensive line and can easily go eight deep with little drop-off.
Regardless of what happens on offense, this group has the ability to keep the Hokies in every game. Unless the Hokies slip up in the coming weeks, the Coastal Division should be decided in early November when they travel to Miami to face the Hurricanes.