Virginia Tech: Top Concerns Heading into Boise State Season Opener
Virginia Tech is set to take in Boise State at FedEx Field in just over a week. Saturday, the coaching staff held their final open scrimmage and the first team unit looked impressive.
QB Tyrod Taylor completed 16-of-17 passes for 319 yards and three scores, and his performance had head coach Frank Beamer gushing about his senior quarterback. “I’ve said it all along. I feel the same way with him out there as I did with Michael Vick," said Beamer. "The next play could be a big play. Any play has a chance of going a long way, and Tyrod gives you that same element.”
High praise from Beamer, and it's definitely good for Hokie fans to hear that heading into the season. However, the same success from Saturday's scrimmage has led to a few concerns. Add injuries to the mix, and it's evident the Hokies have a few questions they need answered in the next eight days.
Here are the top five concerns for Virginia Tech heading into their season opener with Boise State.
Left Side, Strong Side?
Nick Becton was named the starting left tackle for the Hokies heading into summer practice, but he's been hampered by a nagging turf toe injury.
The injury has caused him to miss a significant amount of time, and he only got a few reps in Saturday's scrimmage. The injury has given redshirt-junior Andrew Lanier time to get settled into the position, and the coaching staff is expecting Lanier to start against Boise State.
This could be the Hokies biggest worry heading in to their matchup with the Broncos, because the left tackle position blocks the Taylor's blind side. It's an incredibly important position, and one that can affect the outcome of the game.
The coaching staff does expect Becton to play, so if Lanier is struggling the Hokies will have options. However, it's obvious Becton will not be at full strength.
Lanier will need to have a great week practice and the coaching staff will have him ready to go by Labor Day. It's up to Lanier to execute on the field, and he may be the biggest wild card for the Hokies heading in to the opener.
The Hokies have blocked a number of punts this offseason, which is good and bad. It means one unit is doing their job and the other is not. Saturday was no exception.
The first team punt coverage unit blocked a punt in the scrimmage on starting punter Brian Saunders. Redshirt-sophomore Marcus Davis blocked the punt and senior Zach Luckett picked it up and took it in for six.
Blocking punts is always good when their against another team. They were up against the second unit, and you would like to see the second team unit play better as a group.
If anything, blocking punts should be a good sign for the Hokies, but you do want to see better protection, and when the blocked punt comes against the starting punter there's always room for concern.
The good news, Luckett, who's a special teams standout, looks like he's recovering nicely from his season-ending injury last year and he can really give the Hokies a boost in their Beamer Ball mentality.
Crowded Backfield: Who will carry the load?
Worrying about which 1,000 yard rusher is going to receive the brunt of the work is always a great problem to have. However, managing the situation can cause a distraction.
Running back's coach Billy Hite has been on record saying which ever back is hot is going to receive the majority of the carries. It makes plenty of sense, but it's also hard for a running back to his stride when he's coming off the field every three plays or so.
Hite has said that there will be formations with both Darren Evans and Ryan Williams in the backfield at the same time, which will be great fun for opposing defensive coordinators to plan for.
Having a great running game will be key to the Hokies success this year, and trying to manage the amount of carries each player is receiving should get easier as the season wears on.
Plus, it's a long season. Guys are going to get injured and not be at full-strength, and having two capable backs should limit the ware on each player.
But that leads in to another concern for Virginia Tech. The coaching staff feels they have three capable backs, and they're not sure what to do with their speedy sophomore rusher.
Where Does Wilson Stand?
David Wilson has the potential to be the next great back at Virginia Tech, and many think that he will be. The sophomore wasn't redshirted last season, and saw limited action.
Wilson had 334 yards rushing on 59 attempts. That's a 5.7 yards per carry average, and he added four scores. Wilson also contributed on special teams, averaging 19 yard per return on kickoffs.
The coaching staff wants to redshirt Wilson for one reason. They don't want him to lose a year of eligibility if he's only going to see limited action. Wilson probably should have been redshirted last season, but he wasn't. This is making it even harder on the coaching staff to place the tag on him in 2010.
Wilson is known for his freak athletic ability and his lightning fast speed. He's also a member of the Virginia Tech Track and Field team, which is why his 4.29 40-time is tied for the highest on the team.
There's no doubt Wilson can contribute to this team right away, but will he get enough action over the course of the season to make it worth his time? That's the question facing the coaching staff right now, and if they're worried about Williams and Evans getting enough carries, it's going to be difficult to add Wilson to the mix.
However, Wilson has performed at a high level in all of the summer scrimmages adding to the most controversial question facing the coaching staff this offseason.
A Rare Defensive Concern in Blacksburg
“Our expectations aren’t going to change just because we’ve got seven new starters." That's what Bud Foster had to say about one of the youngest defensive units he's had to coach up in over a decade.
There will be seven new starters on the Hokies defense, and probably eight if you add in the fact that Barquell Rivers likely won't see the field in the opener.
The Hokies have had success with young defenses in the past, and the defense should have a good season in 2010. But the question isn't how the defense will perform for the upcoming season. The big question is how the defense will perform in the season opener.
Huge expectations, an even bigger matchup and the game is on a national holiday on Monday night. This matchup is likely to log a pretty big rating, and all of the media hype surrounding the game can be overwhelming for young players.
That shouldn't be a huge problem. Most of the guys who will start on defense have seen a lot of game action in the past. The spotlight shouldn't affect them, but how these guys play as a unit could.
The first team defense didn't allow the second team offense to score a single point in Saturday's scrimmage, which is a good sign. Boise State's offense is going to be a different monster, but you can't ask for more than shutout from a unit in any situation.
The Hokies' defense has experience, just not a lot of starting experience. How they play as a unit will be key, but if there's one coach in college football who will have them prepared in time for the opener it's Bud Foster.