Monday, August 31, 2009

CFI Countdown: #9 Virginia Tech Hokies

2008 Record: 10-4 (ACC 5-3)
Bowl Game: Won Orange Bowl vs. Cincinnati 20-7
Location: Blacksburg, Virginia
Stadium: Lane Stadium (65,115)
Head Coach: Frank Beamer
Overall: 177-112-4 (29th season)
@ Virginia Tech 177-89-2 (23rd season)
Link to Va. Tech Football Page

Beamerball has been very, very good to the Hokie faithful, particularly over the last five seasons. Virginia Tech has alternated between 10 and 11 wins including three ACC titles and an Orange Bowl victory last season, yet people still talk about Florida St. and Miami like they are the premier programs of the ACC. Despite the reputations of their conference rivals, it’s hard to argue against Virginia Tech being that premier team…especially if they capture another conference crown this season.

When the Hokies Have the Ball

Offensive Coordinator: Bryan Stinespring (4th season)
Scheme: Pro Style Offense
Starters Returning: Seven
Key Losses: C Ryan Shuman, OG Nick Marshman, QB Sean Glennon, RB Darren Evans (Injured)

Junior Tyrod Taylor is back at quarterback. He still possesses a great deal of potential, but it just that—potential. The jury is still out when it comes to his passing skills, but no one can argue with his ability to run the football—he is a legitimate playmaker in the open field. However, they can’t live with Taylor throwing just two touchdown passes in 2009 as he did last season. Taylor should benefit from the experience he gained last season, as well as the fact that he no longer has to look over his shoulder whenever he makes a mistake now that Sean Glennon is gone. The Hokies were very inexperienced at wide receiver last season, but sophomores Jarrett Boykin, Danny Coale, and Dyrell Roberts all received seasoning by being thrown to the fire and should form the nucleus of a solid receiving corps for years to come. Tight end Greg “Wild Turkey” Boone is an impressive athlete for a man of his size. With both tackles back, senior Ed Wang and sophomore Blake DeChristopher, the line should be solid from right to left. DeChristopher has All-American potential. Guard Sergio Render is an All-American candidate himself, having been a contributor in Blacksburg since day one. What was supposed to be a position of strength has turned into a major question mark heading into the season as the Hokies suffered a devastating loss when sophomore tailback Darren Evans went down for the season with a knee injury. The bruising back was a proven commodity. His backup, sophomore Josh Oglesby, is dealing with both a foot infection and a sore hamstring, while senior Kenny Lewis is still working his way back from a torn Achilles tendon. That leaves talented red-shirt freshman Ryan Williams as the man heading into the season.

Top Pro Prospects: 1) OT Black DeChristopher (SO), 2) OT Ed Wang (SR), 3) OG Sergio Render (SR)

When the Other Team Has the Ball

Defensive Coordinator: Bud Foster (15th season)
Scheme: 4-3
Starters Returning: Seven
Key Losses: CB Victor “Macho” Harris, DE Orion Martin, LB Brett Warren, LB Purnell Sturdivant

It should come as no surprise that the school that some are starting to call “DB-U” has a stellar secondary. Stephen Virgil stepped in very nicely for the departed Brandon Flowers last season and this year he takes over at the “boundry” corner for Macho Harris. Virgil is very solid in coverage and has excellent ball skills. There are high hopes for speedy junior Rashad Carmichael on the other side. At one safety spot senior Kam Chancellor is a potential stud, possessing prototypical size and speed. He improved as his junior season went on, showing a better understanding of the game to go along with his vast physical abilities. They are solid at the other safety position as well, with senior Dorian Porch and junior Davon Morgan competing for playing time. They must replace two linebackers, but should be fine with sophomore Barquell Rivers ready to step in and shine. The defensive line is led by all-world pass rusher junior Jason Worilds, who is a speed demon coming off the edge. The rest of the line is solid, but nothing special. It would be nice if another playmaker emerged to complement Worilds.

Top Pro Prospects: 1) S Kam Chancellor (SR), 2) DE Jason Worilds (JR), 3) CB Stephan Virgil (SR)

The Schedule

Out of conference, the Hokies kick off their schedule with Alabama in week one. A win against the Crimson Tide would vault them right into national title contention. They also host Nebraska and make a trip to East Carolina, which is one of their most dangerous games as it comes in November and is sandwiched by a pair of ACC games. In conference, they visit Georgia Tech but host North Carolina—those are their top two challengers in the Coastal Division. Other games to watch include home games against Miami and North Carolina St., as well as visits to Maryland and Virginia to close out the season.

Pivotal Point

You can almost always go with the quarterback. While the Hokies proved last season that they can win the ACC and even a BCS Bowl with shaky quarterback play, it will be a deeper and tougher conference this season. As stated earlier, Taylor must do better than two touchdowns for Tech to fulfill their potential. He has been incredibly inconsistent as a passer and at times, downright dismal. In his defense, he came to Blacksburg very raw and was forced into the fire far before he should have been. If he can make significant progress and become an all-around threat—a big “if”—the Hokies could be one of the best teams in the nation, not just the ACC.

CFI Final Analysis

The Hokies are due to win 11 games in 2009 if the five-year trend is to continue, and that sounds about right. Alabama is a tough way to start the season and it will not be easy to run through the ACC unscathed—not this season. The defense should again be among the best in the nation, with playmakers on the line, the linebacking corps, and in the secondary. But the passing game has a lot to prove and now they are searching for answers at running back as well. It should be another typical Beamer season, which should have them playing on New Year’s Day (or the second).

College Football Insiders Top 25 Countdown:

The Next 25 (26-50) Plus 18 Bowl Teams
#25 West Virginia Mounainteers
#24 Tennessee Volunteers
#23 Clemson Tigers
#22 Pittsburgh Panthers
#21 Michigan St. Spartans
#20 Utah Utes
#19 Oregon Ducks
#18 Florida St. Seminoles
#17 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
#16 Boise St. Broncos
#15 North Carolina Tar Heels
#14 Penn St. Nittany Lions
#13 Mississippi Rebels
#12 Oklahoma St. Cowboys
#11 California Golden Bears
#10 Iowa Hawkeyes

Photos Courtesy of David Knachel, Virginia Tech Athletics Communications