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Alabama-Virginia Tech: What Crimson Tide Fans Should Know About the Hokies

Larry BurtonSenior Writer IAugust 3, 2009

Alabama fans like to think they know about sports. 

Here's what most 'Bama fans may know:

Frank Beamer is about as good a coach as any team could field.

The Hokies have a big swarming defense that by year's end could be one of the top five units in the nation. They are primarily a running team with a quarterback who throws more INTs than touchdowns. They have not only been picked to win the ACC by most pundits this season, but also to finish the season as one of the top teams in the country.

But there are things Alabama fans may not know that would make them happy:

Va. Tech will be starting a new center—Beau Warren, 6'3" and 280 pounds—against Mt. Cody. This junior will be starting his first game will be totally beaten up by the end of the first half.

Sergio Render will be playing his first game since having shoulder surgery—his first contest at left guard. He is moving over from right guard to help with the left side. He is expected to be 100 percent by the first game. He is the most experienced player on the line.

Guard Jaymes Brooks, while big enough for guard at 6'2" and 304 pounds, is likely the center, and Greg Nosal is possibly the other starting guard. They will be redshirt freshman rookies, leaving the entire center of the offensive line soft and inexperienced.

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Not that these three or any one of them are bad, but having such inexperience and people with past injuries in the middle of the offensive line could mean a long day for these boys—having to not only fight off Mt. Cody, but also the myriad of different schemes Nick Saban will throw at them, especially blitz packages.

To make the scenario even better for the Tide, right tackle Blake DeChristopher has only one year of experience and spent much of last year injured—as did starting left tackle Ed Wang.  

Should any starter go out, there is not a lot of depth behind them. In a contest of two teams with rebuilding offensive lines, it would appear that Tech comes up with the shortest straw on who's ahead at this point.

With Alabama returning all their defensive linemen, they should be able to wreak havoc on this new offensive line.

The second weakness that Alabama fans should know is that the Tech quarterback, Tyrod Taylor, has no real backup with any experience. 

Of course, the same could be said for the Tide.

Taylor has a history of ankle injuries and by all indications will take some hits because of the offensive line; any injury could simply end the day for the Hokies.

The backup apparently is a man named after a candy, Ju-Ju Clayton. Though he has promise, he has no experience to speak of at this level, and it would spell disaster to have to play him against this defense at this point in his maturity.

Now for the things the Tide should know that may make them unhappy—like a tight end at quarterback. 

In a game where any points could be precious, look for Beamer to go to his bag of tricks, one of which is the "Wild Turkey" play where tight end Greg Boone—a very decent former high school quarterback—is under center.

Beamer has already said he plans on continuing this play, and Boone himself has said that he plans on throwing more from it this year to keep defenses from only playing the run when he does it.

This and other trick plays that Beamer has in store could be trouble for a usually disciplined Alabama defense.

Secondly, Va. Tech's quarterback's mobility could be a problem for the Tide.

With a new offensive line, you can bet Taylor will work out of a moving pocket or a roll out most of the time. Should Alabama over-rush him, he can make pay them pay with his legs.

In the spring game, for example, Taylor scrambled for a 65-yard touchdown, and that was against the No. 1 defense.

Alabama may be surprised to find a quarterback this nimble and elusive.

Most 'Bama fans think the Hokies have a grind it out, run-oriented offense, but the 65-yard scramble was only one of three plays this spring that went for over 60 yards. 

Taylor also threw a strike to redshirt sophomore Danny Coale, who got behind redshirt sophomore Chris Hill for a 62-yard score. Redshirt freshman Ryan Williams took one up the middle and went untouched on his way to the 80-yard run.

So Alabama fans shouldn't expect Va. Tech to roll over and play dead on offense. They have weapons and won't be afraid to use them all.

Tech has some guys in the defensive secondary that can cause the Tide some problems with an errant pass. Last year they were ninth in the country in INTs.

Alabama was 39th.

Tech will show Alabama one of the toughest defenses they will see, and it may not be the type of secondary you want a quarterback to face in his first start. That secondary has the speed to return any pick to the house.

In the spring game, Eddie Whitley picked off a pass and took it back 61 yards for a touchdown. This would definitely not be the game for Saban and company to try to show what Greg McElroy can do.

Save that for Florida International or North Texas.

Lastly, if Alabama fans are expecting another Clemson clobbering, they could be in for a huge surprise. Tech is better coached, has a much better defense, and is used to playing in big games.

So in the end, the good and bad things they didn't know about Va. Tech may or may not give them the results they were hoping for.

That's why it's so fun to watch.

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