The Virginia Tech Hokies are highly regarded as one of the ACC's most successful programs since coming over in 2004, having won four conference championships and being widely considered as the team to beat in the Coastal Division.
The Hokies won the ACC title last season and qualified for the BCS's Orange Bowl but were steamrolled by Andrew Luck and the No. 4-ranked Stanford Cardinal 40-12, thus abruptly ending a Tech season that began with losses to James Madison and Boise State but ensued with an 11-game win streak, culminating in the team's fourth ACC championship.
The Hokies saw RB Ryan Williams, QB Tyrod Taylor, and CD Rashad Carmichael selected in the 2011 NFL Draft, and they will look to replace those now-departed stars with the next faces of the team.
Here are five things that are on the Hokies' 2011 summer to-do list:
Former Hokies' QB Tyrod Taylor was drafted in the 6th Round, Pick 180 by Baltimore.
Tyrod Taylor had been the starting quarterback for the Hokies since the beginning of the 2008 season taking over for Sean Glennon. Taylor was supposed to have red-shirted coming into his sophomore season, but after Tech dropped a game to East Carolina, Taylor remained Glennon's back-up.
Taylor, since taking over the starting position, has compiled a 23-5 career record, the second-most wins all-time in school history.
Taylor was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the sixth round as the 180th pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, and his departure means the Hokies must find a serviceable replacement.
Logan Thomas seems to be the answer, as he was heaped with praise after overcoming a slow start in spring scrimmages. He compiled a stat line of 50 of 91 for 743 yards, throwing six touchdowns and only three interceptions. Receiver Danny Coale had this to say about Thomas: "He said earlier that he hoped to gain our confidence, I can say he definitely has. He's been really special." (PilotOnline.com)
Junior QB Ju-Ju Clayton, and redshirt freshmen Mark Leal and Ricardo Young will be behind Thomas and vie for time to become the clear-cut No.2 quarterback.
A focal point of Tech's offense is to control the game with a grind-it-out approach and to control the time of possession with a powerful running game headlined by a workhorse running back.
Last season, Ryan Williams was the focal point of the running game, amassing 1,655 yards on 293 carries and scoring 21 touchdowns, setting team and ACC records for most rushing yards and rushing touchdowns in a season.
When teams come to Lane Stadium they can expect one thing: the Hokies will control the clock and play keep-away with your offense. Virginia Tech has had success in running the football, and that success has seen such Tech alumni as Mike Imoh, Brandon Ore, Lee Suggs, Kevin Jones and Williams go into the next level in the NFL.
David Wilson is now the leading candidate to take over the starting running back position in Blacksburg. "In limited action over the course of last season, Wilson gained 619 yards on 113 carries and had two kickoff returns for touchdowns." (YardBarker.com)
If Wilson even comes close to producing like Williams and Darren Evans, then the Hokies should be just fine at the running back position.
Another strong point for the Hokies is their opportunistic defense, which Bud Foster has been in charge of since Frank Beamer took over in 1987. The Hokies have always had a strong defense, led by current and former NFL stars Vince Hall, DeAngelo Hall, Xavier Adibi, Jason Worilds, and Brandon Flowers.
Virginia Tech's defense is highly aggressive. When they attack an opposing offense, they disguise their looks to confuse opposing quarterbacks, and they blitz, stunt, and twist with their always exceptional defensive line. Their cornerbacks and safeties are good enough most of the time to take anything away in the middle and deep down the field.
Led by All-America CB Jayron Hosley, the Hokies' defense will look to find a replacement for the departed Rashad Carmichael.
Virginia Tech won their fourth ACC championship in seven years and were invited to the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl. Their opponent was the red-hot No.4 Stanford Cardinal, who had never won a BCS bowl game in school history.
The Hokies were mauled by the Cardinal, led by Andrew Luck, by a score of 40-12. Luck was voted the game's MVP behind a monster performance, going 18 of 23 for 287 yards and 4 touchdowns.
The Hokies have been successful in the postseason, most notably having played once for the national championship in 2000, but losing to Florida State.
Lessons were learned in the aftermath of the loss, and I don't expect any kind of hangover for the upcoming season.
After the season was over, both teams had to endure coaching changes. Virginia Tech had moved around several assistant coaches, with the most notable being the coach's son, Shane Beamer, taking over as running backs coach, and that offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring was removed from play-calling.
Whenever a team changes coaches, it is because the team feels that certain coaches cannot get the job done in their current position.
No one knows if it will have any effect on the team, and I believe that the upcoming season will be a telltale sign.
Head Coach Frank Beamer has always demanded a consistent kicking game. When you have consistency from both the kicker and punter, you control field position.
Virginia Tech has offered a scholarship to Cody Journell, but Beamer wants a consistent answer at kicker. Receiver Danny Coale may take the job at punter, but nothing has been decided as of yet.
I expect a competition at both positions, and I expect that the Hokies will have this question answered in time for the fall.