Virginia Tech enters 2010 as the favorite in the ACC and a dark horse national title contender. Frank Beamer’s club does not waste any time getting their title run started with an opening game against Boise State at FedEx Field the first weekend of the year.
To get a more in-depth look at the Hokies, I contacted Virginia Tech Fan for their take on the upcoming season.
Q: Not many fans realize that Virginia Tech has won 10 or more games, six seasons in a row. What has been the key to keeping the Hokies at a high level?
A: Hokie fans would probably say a few things:
1) Stability of the Coaching Staff: Frank Beamer has had the kind of consistency in his staff that you simply don’t see any more in college football. I won’t go through them all but the Offensive and Defensive Coordinators have been around forever, and he’s really only made a handful of coaching changes in 10 years.
Of course the benefits of this manifest themselves in many ways: recruiting (VT owns the state of Virginia), game preparation, consistency in style of play, gameday coordination, on and on.
2) Defense. Another impressive stat about Virginia Tech is that they have had a top 10 defense in five of the last six years. Again, much of it goes back to coaching, because while the Hokies get great athletes on defense, I’m convinced you can give D-coordinator Bud Foster 11 no-names and he’ll have them wreaking havoc by the first game of the season.
When you are consistently good on defense, you are consistently good.
Q: How is Virginia Tech planning on using their dynamic duo at running back: Darren Evans and Ryan Williams?
A: Over the years, Virginia Tech traditionally has had many running back duos that share time and it has worked. Frank Beamer and RB coach Billy Hite like to have two runners they can count on, and each will get carriers in the first half.
Whoever has the “hot hand” usually plays more in the second half. They must be licking their chops at those possibilities this year.
Of course with a serious knee injury, I don’t think you can ever be convinced a player is ‘back’ until he proves it, so I expect Darren Evans to be watched closely early on.
Plus, given how explosive Ryan Williams was last year, I can still see him getting most of the carriers early on. But don’t be surprised if they alternate drives.
Don’t expect to see a bunch of creative formations with both of them on the field at the same time. That’s not really VT’s forte.
Q: Virginia Tech is known for their defense, but last year they had an outbreak on offense ranking 50th nationally with their highest yards per game since 2003. What will it take for VT to match this performance?
A: Simple: offensive line. All the talent at the skill positions is back and better. Ryan Williams, QB Tyrod Taylor, and too many WRs to all get on the field. It will all come down to 2-3 new OL starters performing well and staying healthy. Otherwise, just make sure they all get on the bus on gameday.
Q: With a little more depth at QB this year, can we expect Tyrod Taylor to run more this season?
A: I doubt many VT fans would feel too much better about the "depth" at QB. It’s still a situation where it's Tyrod, then a huge drop-off; maybe less than last year, but still huge.
He’ll run, but not much more. There are plenty of other VT athletes on offense who can run with the ball, and not many that can throw.
I expect big, big things from Taylor this year.
Personally, I think you could see a monster year from Tyrod Taylor; I wouldn’t be surprised if he is a top five QB in the country by end of year. He’s not getting quite that much pub right now, but talent, experience, complimenting players, it’s all lining up for him.
Q: I read a quote from defensive line coach Charley Wiles saying his unit had a long way to go. What area does the line need to improve the most?
A: Defensive line is easily the thinnest unit on the team. There’s no depth at DE or DT. Wiles probably has a three-man rotation at both, then its walk-ons and no-experience guys. It’s a concern, but somehow this defense always gels.
Q: I also read where vaunted defensive coordinator Bud Foster visited Iowa in the off season. What was the reason for the visit and do you know what he got out it?
A: The Virginia Tech vs. Georgia Tech rivalry is growing and developing into one of the most important for the Hokies. I believe the winner of the VT vs GT game has won the Coastal Division of the ACC the last four years.
Not only that, but also the Bud Foster vs. Paul Johnson sub-rivalry is also growing as Bud tries to figure out how to solve the GT option offense. Iowa obviously did a good job of it in the Orange Bowl last season, so presumably he was visiting there to find out what worked.
Do coaching staffs ever learn anything from these off season visits?
Q: Frank Beamer always has good special teams, but both kickers have to be replaced. How much concern is there?
A: I’m nervous. We’ve been spoiled with experienced and exceptional kickers and punters for three plus years and now the bill is due. FB usually has them ready, but Hokie fans will really be hoping that Boise State game doesn’t come down to a last second 45-yarder.
Q: How serious are Hokie fans taking Boise State in the opener?
A: I would say pretty seriously, but given we’ve had openers (or early season match-ups) against No. 1 Alabama in 2009, No. 2 LSU in 2007, and No. 1 USC at the same FedEx Field in 2004, there are probably some Hokie fans taking Boise State a little less than those.
Most of us have heard the "21 of 22 starters returning from last year’s undefeated team" enough to know it will be a tough game.
I do like the Hokies in that game, mainly because teams that haven’t played Bud Foster’s defense before tend to struggle. The very smart coaches who’ve played VT repeatedly have had more success.
Q: Which of the three November Coastal Division games (v.GT, @UNC, @Miami) makes or breaks the Hokies' ACC chances?
A: Well, I’ve already mentioned the importance of the GT game based on recent history, but my guess VT and Miami will go into their game on November 20th undefeated in the ACC with the Coastal on the line. ESPN prime time game.
Q: What is the key to Virginia Tech competing for a national title this season?
A:Predicting BCS scenarios in November is hard enough, but how’s this:
1)Win the ACC
2) Hope the SEC Champ has two loses
3) Hope Ohio State has one bad loss.
Give me those three and I’ll take my chances.
Q: Describe a successful season this year in Blacksburg. Describe a disappointing season.
A: A lot of Hokies would give you the same answer for both. Successful season is winning the ACC and going to a BCS game.
Failure to do that is a disappointing season (given the ACC has never gotten two BCS teams leaves little room from alternate scenarios).
All that National Championship stuff is gravy to most, though this is one of the years some fans are gunning for it.
Q: What is your prediction for the season?
A: How about 11-2. Loss to Miami, second place in the Coastal, no BCS, nice Bowl Game, and another loss somewhere in there, possibly the bowl (VT is ~.500 in bowls).
My Take on Virginia Tech…
The Hokies have become the bell cow program of the ACC due to their consistent high level of play.
In an unusual turn this preseason, people are talking more about VT’s offense than defense. Keeping Foster as DC was bigger than any recruit they got. You saw his ability to coach after the defense struggled out of the gate last season, and he was able to right the ship by the end.
I expect opposing defenses to stack the box and make Taylor beat them with his arm. I think the offense’s success comes down to how much he has improved throwing the ball.
Va. Tech is the ACC’s best chance to get into the BCS Title Game this year because of where they start and whom they play, so the opener against Boise is crucial to the league as well.
If the Hokies falter you will have many people laughing at the ACC and its ability to ever field an elite team.
The Coastal will come down to three teams: Miami, Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech. The Hokies have one at home and one on the road, but also must face UNC on the road like Ga. Tech. Their Atlantic draw is manageable with road games at BC and NC State, with a home game against Wake Forest.
I see the Hokies as underdogs in only one game this season, but several other games will be toss ups preventing them from going undefeated.
10-2, T1st Coastal Division
Thanks again to Virginia Tech Fan for their insight.