Friday, June 8, 2012
#13 Virginia Tech
The Virginia Tech Hokies were a great team last year that could never figure out how to stop Clemson. Both losses to the Tigers were by 20-plus points and kept them out of the talk for a shot at the BCS Title. They instead went to the Sugar Bowl and played Michigan in a classic college slugfest. The Hokies were down to their third string kicker due to discipline issues and he was unable to rise to the occasion. With those three defeats fresh in their minds, look for the Hokies to make another run at the ACC Title.
The Virginia Tech offense loses 8 starters including both tackles and guards on the offensive line. The Hokies finished 35th in total offense last year. The passing game was 66th in the nation and the running game was 28th. Junior quarterback Logan Thomas will be leaned on heavily to lead the offense. Thomas threw for over 3,000 yards last year as well as running for 469 while accumulating 30 touchdowns in his first season as the starter. Running Back David Wilson will be leaving and redshirt freshman Michael Holmes looks to be the leader to replace him. Center Andrew Miller will be the anchor of a very inexperienced offensive line that will try to duplicate the offensive success from last year. The lone returning starting wide receiver is Marcus Davis who was fourth in receptions for the team last year but tied for first in touchdowns. Jarret Boykin and Danny Coale have moved on and left a young wide receiving corps. If the offensive line can come together to create holes for the running game and protect Logan Thomas, this offense can be very potent once again.
Beamer Ball has been defined as a solid running game, a great defense, and great special teams. This defensive unit returns 9 starters from a group that finished ranked 10th in total defense. They were responsible for 23 turnovers last year but surprisingly no blocked kicks or punts. They finished ranked 14th against the run and 31st against the pass. Cornerback/Safety Antone Exum led the team in tackles with 89 last year and was a ballhawk. Exum and cornerback Kyle Fuller, Jr. will lead a secondary unit that features two new starters at safety and corner. Fuller led the Hokies in tackles for loss last year with 14.5 The linebacking corps will have plenty of experience as several starters return from injury. Tariq Edwards played incredibly well in his first season at linebacker registering 11.5 tackles for loss, 71 tackles, and 3.5 sacks. Defensive End James Gayle led the team in sacks with 7 and had 12.5 tackles for loss. He anchors a defensive line that returns all four starters. This defense has a lot of great part coming back and looks to be one of the top defenses in the nation.
The Hokies' schedule is a moderately difficult one. The open up the season in a Monday night game against Georgia Tech at home on Labor Day Night. They then get a cupcake in Austin Peay at home before going to visit Pittsburgh. They then come home to play Bowling Green before heading to Fed Ex Field to play Cincinnati. They then travel to Chapel Hill to play UNC before coming home for Duke. The biggest test for the Hokies is their October 20th game at Clemson. As mentioned earlier in this piece, Clemson thoroughly embarrassed the Hokies last year twice on national tv. They will be looking for payback in a tough environment. After a bye, they play back to back Thursday night games at Miami and then home for Florida State. They then finish the season by going to Boston College and home for Virginia in the battle for the Commonwealth Cup. I really like the chances of Virginia Tech to go 10-2 this year. The only problem is that their two losses will be to Clemson and Florida State with no real significant victory to propel them into the top 10. Virginia has a lot going for them on defense and that will carry them through the growing pains of the offense.