I sat down with Chris (chicagomaroon) from Virginia Tech blog 'Gobbler Country' to discuss the upcoming game with Virginia Tech on Thursday night. You can find my answers to his questions here. I appreciate everyone's feedback on questions for them. Also, doing well with my 2-month old little girl!
Looking at VPI’s first 4 games, I think 3-1 was what most people would have expected. However, they’ve really had to work for it the last few weeks against mid-major competition, trailing in the 2nd half in each of the last 2 games. How is the mindset of the team right now heading into ACC Coastal play?
I think this team is straddling the line between being good and the iteration we saw last year. Unfortunately, there's no real indication that they'll be moving off that line anytime soon. The ECU's and Marshall's of the world are not what I would typically consider non-power conference quality teams, as I think both are going to be good this year, but you're right that Tech has struggled and probably shouldn't have in either. Offensively, it's just a mess. Tech fans are tired of seeing an offense that can't get out of its own way, and some of the players even alluded to that in today's (Monday) presser. I'm not sure if we'll see the offense break out of its funk and become something of value to the team or not, but I do know that we can't count on the defense to win EVERY game. At some point the guys on the other side of the ball are going to have to step up too.
How upset was Coach Beamer back in the spring when he found out he was going to have to play his first league road game (and it not be Duke or Wake Forest) on 5 days rest? Did the team do GT prep in camp to compensate for the lack of practice time?
I don't think he really had any complaints about that particular circumstance. The ACC jobbed the Hokies this year in the scheduling department because they had an additional conference home game scheduled (Pittsburgh), the back end of a home-and-home, which at the time it was scheduled, was not a conference game. Instead of just letting that detail slide, because it's not like the Hokies were privy to that information when scheduling it or trying to take advantage of the other teams in the conference, the ACC decided to completely alter the Hokies schedule, forcing Duke to make a return trip to Blacksburg, and the Hokies, FOR THE SECOND YEAR IN A ROW, have to travel to BOTH Boston College and Miami. Oh, and they have to do it in back-to-back weeks. Because that's fair, right? If Beamer is angry about anything, it should be that. As for practice, I doubt they did anything meaningful in camp regarding GT, but they have been using their last several Sunday practices to work on it, which is something new.
Logan Thomas really seems to be struggling as a passer, with a 5.7 YPA and 3 INTs in the last 2 games. In addition, in their 3 FBS games they’ve only converted 26% on 3rd down. And aside from one Trey Edmunds 77-yard TD run, it also seems to be affecting their running game. What’s been the missing ingredient(s) thus far, and what do you think might improve that unit? Any thoughts on Logan Thomas' plateauing from his hot start a few years ago?
- He doesn't have receivers who are ready to be in a college football game at this level, minus maybe one or two exceptions, and one of those guys plays just a handful of snaps a game due to injuries. At any rate, he certainly doesn't have a go-to guy, or a cast of consistent receivers. Also, his top tight end from a year ago was injured in the pre-season and lost for the year.
- Outside of the Alabama game, the offensive line has been underwhelming, which is an very slight improvement from last year's unit, but still, nothing to write home about.
- Lastly, his confidence may be completely shattered inside, but outwardly, he's as calm as always, so it's really belying how he's playing. Even with the above variables, he shouldn't be doing some of the inexcusable things he's doing as a quarterback. To have seen him where he was in 2011 and where he is today befuddles me to no end. It defies explanation.
The Hokie defense seems to be carrying the team yet again. Against their 3 FBS opponents this season, they’ve held the opposition to an impressive 2.2 YPC allowed, holding passers to 5.3 YPA, forcing turnovers, and are mostly getting off the field on 3rd down. Who are some of the impact players on defense that we should know about, and how is Bud Foster using them?
Yes, the defense is stacked. Going into the season we knew that to be the case, but knowing that and actually seeing it happen is satisfying, as that wasn't the case a year ago. The Hokies have the best defensive line in the country, and that is their team strength. They have four-star players buried on the depth chart, taking redshirts and getting moved to offensive line/tight end just to accommodate them, as they would not be seeing playing time behind the eight or nine deep the Hokies go on the line. J.R. Collins is playing the best football of his career, and right now I'd say look out for him. That leaves out the two guys at defensive tackle though, Derrick Hopkins and Luther Maddy, who have absolutely shut down the middle of the field. And James Gayle, who pro scouts like as the best of the bunch, is playing pretty well too, although not seeing the production as much, probably as a result of his status. Dadi Nicolas has excelled as a rush end, and though I don't know how big a part he'll play against GT with their offense, he's someone to always be mindful of on passing downs. Dude can fly. Their secondary has also been superb for the most part, even with the absence of Antone Exum, who missed both his goals on returning due to a horrific leg injury in January. Both freshmen Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson have been absurdly good and should challenge for Freshman All-America honors. The linebacking corps is good as well, but has been a tad inconsistent. When they show up though, it's tough to move the ball on the defense.
Historically, Bud Foster’s defensive game plan against Paul Johnson’s spread option has been to go smaller and quicker up front, pursue aggressively, and try to keep the option game funneled inside. Last year, in particular, the Hokie defense did a terrific job shedding blocks, making tackles, and limiting the big play. Will that be the blueprint on Thursday?
I think so. You alluded to the smaller, quicker aspect, and I don't know that they'll necessarily go for that again, like they did by moving Collins to defensive tackle and Kyle Fuller to whip linebacker in 2011, but they'll certainly be wanting to shed blocks, get to the ball quick and tackle. I think playing assignment football is the biggest part of that, and if they can manage to do that, they should at least LIMIT Georgia Tech's attack. No one completely stops it, but if the Hokies can keep their big plays in check and the offense off the field, they'll win this one, or at least give their offense a chance to do so.
How would you assess the general state of the program, and that of Coach Beamer? Since beating Michigan (I was being polite here) in the Sugar Bowl (which honestly, wasn’t that long ago), the program hasn’t been flying high as we are accustomed to. A case of the bar being set really high, or are there bigger issues at play?
First off, I'm glad you went ahead and mentioned Michigan in the win column for the Hokies. Better to just not even talk about that as #ITWASACATCH. But, the answer to the second part of your question is yes. Yes to both. I think it's hard for any program to win 10 games a year consistently, and that's why you don't see anyone doing it. So was the bar set too high? Absolutely. But does that make it any less difficult to accept? Nope. It's tough to see a team which had been so consistent tail off overnight (relative to their success). It's basically an indication of how they recruited in 2010 and 2011 that has gotten them to where they are today. Beamer has gone out and made some new hires (finally), but for the most part (Jeff Grimes excluded) it's looked like the status quo. Beamer has become more and more conservative as a coach as time has passed, and it's to his own detriment. He's coaching games not to lose them, which quite often will lose them for you. I don't know how much longer he'll continue to coach, but if last week is any indication of the direction the program is heading...(fart noises).
OK…you know I was going to ask. What result do you predict on Thursday night?
I would love to be a Hokie homer and say all the issues will magically be sorted out this week and Tech will win this one walking away, but that's not what I'm about or what we do at Gobbler Country. We're much more call it like you see it. And in this one, I see the Hokies in a dogfight. The defense will hold up their end of the deal. I see Georgia Tech scoring anywhere from 14-24 points Thursday night. The question is, as silly as it sounds, is that out of Virginia Tech's range? And the answer, I believe, will be yes. There is just nothing that the Hokies have done to date to lead me to believe they'll be able to put up points and sustain drives regularly. I see them scoring anywhere between 7-21 points, but I ultimately think the home team comes out on top.