We here at From The Rumble Seat have a great relationship with many of our ACC competitors and that allows us to do awesome things like having discussions before big games with other great blogs at SB Nation. I was lucky enough to have a Q&A session with Chris from Gobbler Country. Chris had some great questions for me (those and my responses can be seen here) and had some extremely insightful answers here as well. To get started on the full interview follow the jump...
My questions are in Bold and Chris's answers are below each.
MM: Last year it seemed Virginia Tech employed the strategy of going smaller and quicker on the DL. For 3 quarters it didn't seem so effective but then once we lost momentum and became somewhat predictable in the 4th quarter they seemed to make huge plays (the 4th down stop in our own end and sacking Tevin multiple times). Is this an adjustment VT will continue to make or will they play the best rotation they have just like the other games?
CH: The only thing I have heard announced is that cornerback Kyle Fuller will be starting at whip linebacker in this game for the Hokies, a role he filled last year against Georgia Tech in an attempt to get the best players on the field. As for the defensive line, I think that move a year ago was done to make the line quicker, yes, but also to get the most experienced (particularly against GT's option) on the field. After all, the Hokies suffered a ton of injuries last year, many of which on a defensive interior that wasn't very deep. So it was a move out of necessity as much as anything else. As for this year, I cannot say if they will employ the same strategy, but I would bet they will be confident enough in their defensive tackles to play Collins on the outside this year.
MM: There have been some rumblings in the blogosphere that Virginia Tech has suffered some recent injuries and suspensions to key players, can you update us on the status of the team for the game, will VT be at full strength?
CH: To my knowledge, there are only a few injuries and one suspension team wide. The suspension is to Dad Nicolas who is was arrested for the theft of a bike on campus. Nicolas redshirted a year ago, and was flirting with the two deep during the spring before his suspension (http://www.gobblercountry.com/2012/7/6/3131409/virginia-tech-hokies-football-dadi-nicolas
). I'm not too worried about that. As for the injuries to date (knocking on wood), both Tariq Edwards
our starting backer and D.J. Coles
our starting wide receiver have been hobbled by offseason surgeries required by their injuries suffered last year. Coles is looking promising for the GT game, but Edwards, who just went under the knife again in the past few weeks is all but ruled out. Mike linebacker Bruce Taylor will shift over to Edwards' spot, and backup Jack Tyler will start in his place.
Though Tyler isn't nearly as talented, his strength is defending the run. So I guess it's somewhat fortunate that this is the big game Edwards will miss. Backup offensive lineman Nick Acree
tore his ACL and will be out for the season, but I don't think he was going to play a major part in the O-Line rotation. James Gayle
has continued to be plagued by ankle problems, but other than that, it's just been your regular dings and minor injuries associated with football.
MM: I know this has probably been discussed all summer between Virginia Tech fans and I am sure you are tired of it but, are you confident in VT's ability to replace all of the departed starters on offense, especially with such a big game as the opener?
CH: I am pretty confident in the Hokies ability to replace the departed starters on offense. Much has been made about the offensive line losing four starters, and on paper, I understand that. But I think that from a talent standpoint, this group trumps the group a year ago. Additionally, Nick Becton
was named the starter in 2010 before a nagging injury limited him all season. He has since taken around 40 percent of the snaps at left tackle, so he is experienced despite having never started. As for tailback, I am concerned to a degree. I like our depth at the position, which is important because there is no David Wilson (at least as of yet) in this group. So it will be by committee. As for wide receiver, I am very confident in our ability to replace Jarrett Boykin
and Danny Coale. While we will miss Boykin's sure-handedness (or at least over his first three years) and Coale's ability to get wide open, we have three experienced receivers (all redshirt-seniors) that have produced for us. Coles will be our sure-handed possession guy and Marcus Davis and Dyrell Roberts
will stretch the field for us.
MM: How does the Hokie fan base feel about the Virginia Tech-Georgia Tech rivalry? Is it a big deal or is it just another conference game?
CH: I think for Hokie fans it has become a big deal. While we have more natural rivals (UVA, WVU and Miami) I'd say of teams we play currently, the Georgia Tech game is probably our second-biggest "rivalry" game if you could call it that. I'm just not a believer in throwing around the term rival so loosely. Otherwise, we'd end up with 12 rivals on our schedule. But back to your question, it is a big deal. Georgia Tech has played the Hokies as tight as any team we play regularly. The winner has represented the Coastal Division seven straight years. That says it all. I think it's to the point where every Virginia Tech fan circles this game on their calender as soon as the schedule comes out. To a lot of Hokies, it's often the biggest game of the year. So rivalry or no, whatever you want to call, it's that.
MM: Does this game being the season opener hurt or help Virginia Tech this year?
CH: I think it hurts us, just like Boise, Alabama, USC etc. The Hokies haven't faired well against marquee teams to open the season, and just like Boise, I think moving the game up for TV reasons made me groan a little bit. Virginia Tech is often slow out of the gate, and at least for those three games above, they were up against non-conference opponents. This time, there is no margin for error. Lose, and recent history says that you will not be playing for the title game, and the season is an immediate failure (at least in most Hokie fans' eyes). I know it gives the Hokies extra time to prepare, but I'm more concerned about their pedigree of laying a dud Week 1.
MM: Al Groh was Virginia's head coach for a long time, does this factor into the general feelings about the Georgia Tech game at all? Does it make you guys any more or less confident about attacking our defense?
CH: I don't really think Groh joining Georgia Tech really intensified the rivalry. I mean, maybe for the odd Hokie fan it did, but I think there is a large contingent of the fan base for whom this move went unnoticed. Some younger fans may not even know who Groh is. As for our confidence against Groh, let's just say I am completely unintimidated by an Al Groh defense.
MM: On a scale of "Thursday Night Game vs Miami in the early 2000's" to "Losing at Home to James Madison", how rocking will Lane Stadium be on Monday Night?
CH: I would lean heavily towards the former. Unless Georgia Tech's profile somehow drops to the level of JMU and then they pull an upset victory out of their hat, the stands will be rocking. It's a big game and we've been resting our voices and feet all summer for this.
MM: In your questions for us you seemed to insult the musical tastes of all Yellow Jacket fans by insinuating that we actually think "All The Way Turnt Up" is a good song. It's awful, we know it is, we aren't in denial. So for the GT fans visiting this weekend what kind of music will we be hearing at the tailgates? Down in Atlanta you could name 90% of the songs that will be played at each tailgate before the morning starts, how is it in Blacksburg?
CH: I guess I'm traditionalist in the sense that I like to tailgate with with sports on the TV and radio pre-game. There will be plenty of people who disagree with this, but I get into the game. I guess it depends where you are, but generally, expect college kids to play the current hits, 30-somethings to play an 80's/90's mix and the older folks to play country. There will probably be plenty of Don't Stop Believing and Wagon Wheel along the way.
MM: Hopefully The Jackets will have a big showing in Blacksburg this weekend, can you tell the fans the best places to eat or enjoy the city?
CH: The place I most recommend is Big Al's/Poor Billy's. Not many Georgia Tech fans will be coming up just to watch the game in a Blacksburg bar I surmise, but if I am mistaken or GT fans want to have a drink or two...or three in a bar setting, Big Al's is a great place to do it. Poor Billy's is the downstairs part of the building, and offers the best seafood West of the Piedmont region for my money. College kids complain about the price, but I think it's pretty fairly priced. Other Blacksburg favorites are PK's (pizza/subs), Cabo Fish Taco, Bourdreaux's (cajun themed) and Backstreet's (Italian), all of which are with or around a mile from Lane Stadium.
MM: From The Rumble Seat recently did a community win prediction poll and our readers think Georgia Tech will win between 8 and 9 games (We gave ourselves a 49% chance of winning Monday night). What do you think most Virginia Tech fans would predict? What are VT's expectations this season?
CH: Obviously to win 10 games to keep our current 10-win season streak alive, to win the ACC Championship and to go to a BCS bowl (only to win it this time). I think those are about the top of the expectations for realistic Hokie fans. Everyone always wants a national title, and I get it, but realistically, it's probably not in the cards for this group. Maybe winning a BCS bowl isn't either.
MM: Recently Bud Foster said the best way to stop the option is for your own offense to score a ton of points early, can this "advanced defensive strategy" work this week?
CH: I guess he's thinking that the further you put a running team behind early on the better the chances they scrap the running game and air it out. It can work if that's what Georgia Tech would do in that circumstance, and I think other teams have employed that strategy well in the past. It just depends on how many points are considered a ton. 14? Eh. 21? Maybe. 28? Almost definitely.
MM: Give us a surprise player for this game for VT? Who is going to show up that most casual fans wouldn't know?
CH: I will go with one guy on offense and one on defense. Defensively, I'm going to say Jack Tyler. Like I said above, Tyler is best-suited for playing against a running team, so he should thrive in this game. He's a hard-worker, but not really a talent. He's a backup mike linebacker who will start against GT so that Bruce Taylor can slide over to the backer position to start for an injured Tariq Edwards, but continually steps in at a moment of need and does an adequate job. On offense, if D.J. Coles misses the game, I'd look to Corey Fuller to step up in his place. If Coles does play, maybe Ryan Malleck? Malleck has shot up the depth chart at tight end this fall after an abysmal spring. He is currently looking like he will be Tech's number one passing option at the position, and if Georgia Tech works to take away Tech's big playmakers on the outside or gets in Logan Thomas' face, Malleck could be the recipient of a lot of check-down balls.
MM: Finally, who wins? Bonus points for a Beamer Ball reference.
CH: I think the Hokies win this game 28-17. Georgia Tech may jump out early, but I think the Hokies collect themselves, protect Thomas and allow him to pick apart the secondary and run the ball adequately enough to pull out the W. As for a Beamer Ball reference, all I can say is if we block a kick or punt, I'll be thoroughly surprised/shocked. Beamer Ball as it were is dead. I don't see it ever reaching the level that it did again, simply because teams devote so much time to special teams now, partly as a result of Beamer Ball. Is that enough Beamer Ball's for you?