A most valuable player honor is one that is difficult to classify. Is it the best player, the leader, the person who comes up big in crunch time or simply a statistically fueled award given to a player with superior stats?
The simple answer is that you can’t choose one focus area but rather have to evaluate each player on a case-by-case basis.
The Hokies had an incredible season. They finished with a record of 11-2 and are heading to New Orleans to play in the Sugar Bowl. The majority of that success falls on four players: David Wilson, Danny Coale, Kyle Fuller and Logan Thomas. The question now is which of these four young men was Virginia Tech’s most valuable player during the 2011 campaign.
David Wilson seems the obvious choice for this title, but it isn’t necessarily that simple. Wilson racked up the yards and the awards in 2011. He ran for 100 yards in 10 of the Hokies' 13 games (tying an ACC record). He was honored as the ACC Player of the Year and the Overall Player of the Year. The running back was Virginia Tech’s offense during the first five weeks of the season.
The only drawback for Wilson is that he came up small in the biggest game. In the ACC Championship game, Wilson carried the ball 11 times for 32 yards. It was, by far, his worst game of the season. The other drawback for Wilson was his touchdown production. He scored nine touchdowns all season. Considering he ran for 1,627 yards this season, that touchdown total seems low.
Wilson was the backbone of the Hokies offense, but it always seemed that Danny Coale was the heart. Coale is one of the few senior Hokie skill players. He came up big in big situations and showed himself to be the most versatile player on the team. Coale was a starting wide receiver, punt returner and punter (later in the season). Honestly, how many wide receivers can you think of that turned out to be dependable punters?
Coale had 52 receptions this year for 787 yards and three touchdowns. The receiver also averaged over 45 yards a punt. Coale’s punting filled a huge void for the Hokies. Virginia Tech used two punters before Coale and both were inconsistent. Coale was a leader on this team, and his versatility was a huge reason for the Hokies’ success.
Coale was the whole package on the offensive side of the ball, but the defense had their own versatile player. Cornerback Kyle Fuller was one of the main reasons that the defense was able to return to form in 2011. Fuller started the season as the field corner opposite of Jayron Hosley, but due to injuries around the defense he had to move to different positions throughout the year.
Fuller had to fill in at the boundary corner at times for Hosley. He also played nickel back and linebacker. Fuller’s linebacker stint started against Georgia Tech because Alonzo Tweedy was injured. His speed made Fuller a mismatch. He could rush the passer, stop the run and drop back in coverage. He totaled 64 tackles, 4.5 sacks and an interception. He showed himself to be MVP of the defense, but was he the MVP for the team?
The production of Wilson and Coale was expected. Fuller’s success was a surprise, but the play of Logan Thomas was a huge surprise and an offensive boost for a team that needed another offensive threat.
Thomas started out the season inconsistently. It was expected, being that Thomas is a first-year starter. The quarterback was able to turn things around in Week 6 against Miami. He completed 23-of-25 passes, threw three touchdowns and scored the go-ahead touchdown with 56 seconds left on a 19-yard run. He became a dependable QB after that.
Thomas ended the regular season with 19 passing touchdowns, nine rushing touchdowns and a total of 2,799 passing yards. Not too shabby considering his relative inexperience coming into the year. The drawback for Thomas this season was that he came up small in the Hokies' two biggest games this year (both against Clemson).
In the first Clemson game, Thomas only threw for 125 yards and one interception. In the ACC Championship game, he threw for 274 yards on 44 pass attempts. He did throw for one touchdown, but countered that with two interceptions and a lost fumble.
After analyzing these four players, I have come to two finalists for the Hokies MVP: Wilson and Fuller.
Wilson ran the offense, but Fuller’s play and versatility made the defense what it was. The defense is the main reason that the Hokies ended the season at 11-2. The Hokies may have been an eight-win team with an average defense, but luckily the defense was much better than average.
Virginia Tech can attribute this season to both Wilson and Fuller, but the eye test gives the MVP to Kyle Fuller. David Wilson was the Hokies' best player, but Kyle Fuller was Virginia Tech’s most valuable.