Virginia Tech Football: Midseason Grades for Players and Coaches
The Virginia Tech Hokies defeated Pitt on Saturday to improve to 6-1 on the season. It was the Hokies' third straight conference win as they finally get a much-needed week off.
The season started off as expected with a loss to No. 1 Alabama. Tech's defense allowed only 206 total yards against the Tide and have continued to improve each week. VT is currently No. 4 in the country in total defense and lead all of college football in sacks and interceptions.
On offense, though, things haven't gone quite as smoothly. Much of that hasn't been quarterback Logan Thomas' fault, however. He has gotten better with each passing week and continues to carry an anemic offensive unit.
How has each individual unit fared this season?
Here is a look at midseason grades for each positional unit, including coaches.
Frank Beamer coaches special teams, and this unit has cost the Hokies a lot in 2013. Whether it is bad coverage, poor kicking or lack of returns, special teams is a problem at the moment.
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster's performance raises this group's grade. The defense has been outstanding, but with Foster, that is to be expected. This could be one of his best groups ever, though.
New offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler has been uneven thus far. The offense cannot run the ball. The Hokies have ran for 823 yards through seven games at just 3.3 yards per rush. There isn't much hope of it getting better this year.
Loeffler's work with Thomas has paid off. The senior is doing a better job of going through progressions, and Loeffler deserves credit for designing a passing game that Thomas is comfortable with.
New offensive line coach Jeff Grimes must get his unit to play better. They are the team's weakest link.
Before you think Thomas' grade is too high, consider how much of the load he carries for this team each week.
Not only is Thomas the team's quarterback, he is often the team's leading rusher. After he carried the ball too much last season, Loeffler's hope was that Thomas would run less this season. That hasn't been the case as Thomas has already ran the ball 77 times, second on the team.
Since his ugly performance against Alabama, Thomas has completed well over 60 percent of his passes. He is at 55 percent on the season. He has not thrown an interception in three weeks and carried the team throwing the football in each of those games.
This group's grade would be worse, but offensive line woes have played a big part in the running game struggles.
Freshman Trey Edmunds started off the season well, running for 132 yards against Alabama. It has been tough sledding since then for Edmunds. He has 87 carries for 323 yards in the six games since. He is a big, explosive runner, but sometimes he dances a bit in the backfield before hitting the hole. That will get better with experience.
J.C. Coleman has only played in four games due to nagging ankle injuries. Since he has returned to the lineup, Coleman has just 21 carries for 89 yards. He figures to be more involved after the bye.
Chris Mangus added another dimension to the backfield. Clearly an outside runner, Mangus has the potential to take it the distance every time he touches the ball. He needs more opportunities, too.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends
The performance by this group against Alabama was enough to give it a failing grade for the entire first half. They dropped at least 11 passes against the Crimson Tide and short-armed two more. However, they've steadily improved since that game.
Sophomore Demitri Knowles is VT's top receiver. He has 29 catches for 346 yards and two touchdowns. His route running is much better from a year ago. He is an excellent deep threat, too.
For as much as D.J. Coles has struggled catching the ball and shying away from contact, he still leads the team with five touchdowns on just 11 catches. That's a pretty impressive ratio.
Keep an eye on freshman tight end Kalvin Cline. He is getting more comfortable each week and looks like a future star for the Hokies.
The running game has found no room all season. Edmunds ran for 132 yards against Alabama; however, 77 of those yards came on one run. The Hokies cannot create holes for the running backs, regardless of who's in the backfield.
One bright spot on this line is freshman Jonathan McLaughlin. Asking a true freshman to play left tackle, protecting your star quarterback's blind side, is a tall order. McLaughlin has risen to the challenge. He has needed help at times, but for the most part, he has been on an island and succeeded. He has a bright future.
It's tough to blame Jeff Grimes for this mess. It would be nice to see the Hokies stick with the same five linemen for more than one game, but if these players would win individual matchups, they wouldn't be in danger of being replaced.
Has Virginia Tech ever had a defensive line this deep? That would be a good question for Foster, but it sure seems like the Hokies can go eight deep on the defensive line with little drop in productivity.
They stop the run, as they are currently No. 12 in run defense, allowing just 91 yards per game. They get after the passer, with 22.5 of the team's 27 sacks coming from the defensive line. Those 27 sacks lead the country.
What can this group not do?
Senior James Gayle may be the VT's most talented pass-rusher, yet he only has three sacks. That's how good they are up front.
Both starting defensive tackles, Derrick Hopkins and Luther Maddy, can, and have, taken over games.
Senior Jack Tyler is the team's leader. He also leads the team in tackles and is second on the team in tackles for loss and has three sacks. Tyler is easily headed for a second straight All-ACC selection.
The biggest boost for this group has been the return to health for senior outside linebacker Tariq Edwards. Edwards had an outstanding sophomore season but struggled with injuries all of last year. His return was a big boost for the entire defense. He is active in all phases of the game and is also having an All-ACC type of season.
An injury to starting whip linebacker Ronny Vandyke in fall camp concerned Foster. He wasn't sure who'd fill Vandyke's shoes, but a combination of Josh Trimble and starting cornerbacks, Kyle and Kendall Fuller, have played the position well when called into duty.
What more can you say about this group? Not only did it lose, arguably, its top player in Antone Exum, it has also started two freshmen all season.
Of course, Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson aren't your typical freshmen. Fuller was born to play cornerback in Blacksburg, while Facyson is always around the ball. Both are not only great in coverage, they tackle well, too.
Facyson leads the team with four interceptions, and the Hokies are tied for the national lead in picks with 13.
And we haven't even discussed Kyle Fuller yet. Kendall's big brother is playing the position as well, if not better, than anyone in the country. If the season ended today, he should be a first-team All-American.
At safety, Kyshoen Jarrett has been excellent, while Detrick Bonner has struggled at times.
More good news is on the horizon for the Hokies as Exum will return October 26 against Duke.
The special teams have been anything but special for the Hokies.
In the season opener, they made Christion Jones a star. Jones single-handedly beat the Hokies with two returns for touchdowns.
Senior kicker Cody Journell, a former All-ACC selection, struggled mightily until last week's game against Pitt. On the year, Journell and Ethan Keyserling have combined to make just seven of 14 field goals. Journell also missed two extra points.
Tech is terrible in the return game as well. It is averaging just 17 yards per kick return and less than six yards per punt return.
With a suffocating defense and questionable offense, Beamer needs this group to start making plays.