Tag Archives: Virginia Tech Football

Duke travels to Blacksburg this weekend in search of their 6th win.

BDN turns to Gobbler Country to help preview the Hokies

Virginia Tech will roll into Wallace Wade Stadium sitting in 1st place in the ACC Coastal Division

The Blue Devils will host the Virginia Tech Hokies on Saturday in Wallace Wade Stadium. The Hokies enter the game first in the ACC Coastal Division, and with a 10-game winning streak against Duke. The Blue Devils will have a tough task if they hope to pull off the big conference upset against David Wilson and the Hokies.

To help give us a look at the Hokies’ 2011 season so far, BDN welcomes back our good friend furrer4heisman from Gobbler Country.

BDN: The early October loss to Clemson took the Hokies out of the spotlight, but they still sit atop the ACC Coastal Division at 7-1 overall. What potential roadblocks lay between Virginia Tech and a rematch with Clemson in Charlotte?

Well, they’ve got to beat Duke before they worry about anything else. It may be coachspeak, but Duke is no longer a team that you can take the week off and still expect to win easily. When you’ve got a quarterback like Sean Renfree, you’ve got a chance if the game is close. Tech can’t start slow again and give Duke hope. They’re a banged up football team. They haven’t had a bye yet and it’s easy to get caught looking ahead. They can’t do it, even if it’s “just Duke.”

Beyond that, there’s a road game on Thursday night against Georgia Tech and I don’t like our chances in that one. Tough environment against an offense that has given us fits ever since it arrived in the conference. Then there’s a Thursday night game home game against UNC, a game we lost in the same situation two years ago and then the rivalry game against UVa. There’s plenty of landmines, but things have kind of set up nicely for Tech so far this year. They just have to handle their business and they’ll get another shot at Clemson.

QB Logan Thomas has led VT to a 7-1 record in his 1st season taking over for 2010 ACC POY Tyrod Taylor

BDN: As many expected, David Wilson and Logan Thomas have been very good in their first year as starters for the Hokie offense. How would you rate their season so far and what do they need to improve during the second half of the season?

Wilson has been outstanding and has a good chance to break Ryan Williams’ school record for rushing yards in a season. Where he sometimes gets in trouble is on runs designed between the tackles, he won’t just take his yards that are available and he’ll try to bounce it to the outside.

Thomas has been very solid. He’s had one bad game. Like most quarterbacks, he just needs to work on the consistency of his throws. I’m happy with the progress he’s making and so far he hasn’t been careless with the ball.

BDN: Despite several injuries, the Hokies’ defense remains one of the top units in the ACC. How does Bud Foster do it year in and year out?

Well, we had a down year last year, finishing eighth in the ACC in terms of both yards per game and yards per play allowed. It was an uncharacteristic Bud Foster defense in that teams were able to run right at us. We just so happened to score A LOT of points and it didn’t matter as much. Tech’s defense is at its best when it keeps teams behind the chains.

When you look at last year, the Hokies were giving up over five yards per carry on first down. Only Duke and Virginia were worse. This year that number’s down to 3.7, which is certainly better but not outstanding.

Tech’s success comes from doing well on first down and then pressuring the quarterback. We’ve had some good cornerbacks that we’ve trusted to be left in man coverage, allowing the Hokies to commit more personnel to the run game and then blitzing the opposing quarterback, which is where that success has come from. But if you’re not doing your job on first down, everything else starts getting compromised.

BDN: You picked Duke to upset Boston College earlier this season. Even though the Blue Devils have lost 10 in a row to the Hokies, do you think they’ll be able to give VT a scare on Saturday?

Vegas certainly does. The line started at -14. It’s since moved to -15, but obviously the odds makers think this one will be closer than it’s been in most years. If the Hokies are caught looking ahead to the bye week and beyond that to Georgia Tech, then they’re in for a surprise. Duke has enough talent to put a scare into the Hokies, but I like the matchups on offense and defense for Tech and think they’ll win comfortably. Not overwhelmingly, but comfortably.

BDN: Thanks for your insight!

Duke will look to end a 10-game losing streak against Virginia Tech on October 29

Blue Devils will host defending ACC Champion Virginia Tech on October 29

Duke will look to end a 10-game losing streak against Virginia Tech on October 29

The Blue Devils last defeated Virginia Tech in 1981, but they will be trying to do just that when they welcome the Hokies to Wallace Wade Stadium on October 29. In Head Coach David Cutcliffe’s first two seasons in Durham, Duke gave Virginia Tech a scare, coming within a few plays of pulling off the unlikely upset. When the Blue Devils traveled to Blacksburg a season ago, however, the Hokies put the game away early, cruising to a 44-7 victory.

This year, the defending ACC Champions are the consensus pick to win the ACC Coastal Division, despite the loss of several stars on both sides of the ball. BDN is excited to again have the help of furrer4heisman from Gobbler Country to give us an inside look at the 2011 Hokies.

BDN: Despite all of the scandals in college football over the past several years, Virginia Tech continues to win the right way, year in and year out. What would you consider to be the keys to the Hokies’ consistent success? Do you think they receive enough credit for their success, and more importantly, for how they achieve it?

GC: I think they get the proper amount of credit. I don’t have the links on hand, but just about any time a news outlet polls the coaches and asks them who they respect, Beamer is usually pretty high on the list. His peers recognize what he’s done and how he’s done it.

The way they’ve done it is through good talent evaluation. They go after kids that fit their system and fit their attitude. Not many five-star recruits come to Virginia Tech, but very often you get guys who play above their star rating. A lot of the credit for that goes to Mike Gentry, who runs the S&C program.

There was also a little bit of luck involved. They came to the ACC just as FSU and Miami went in the toilet. If that doesn’t happen, who knows? maybe there’s one or two fewer 10-win seasons for the Hokies since 2004.

BDN: Some pundits predict that Virginia Tech could go undefeated in 2011, but most still predicted Florida State to win the ACC Championship. How good can this Virginia Tech team be in 2011? Are the expectations among the media and the fan base too high or too low?

GC: I think, right now, it’s too high. I’m never a fan of picking a team based on their schedule. I remember there were years in the Big Ten that some teams would have a random year where Ohio State and Michigan would cycle off their schedule and suddenly everyone thought Purdue or whoever was a threat to win the league. Then they’d go 6-6. Virginia Tech has a favorable schedule based on what teams did last year and what’s usually expected out of the Hokies.

But we’re paper thin on the defensive line, weren’t very good against the run last year and will be starting a first-year quarterback. There are a lot of things that could potentially go wrong for the Hokies. No. 13 in the country in both polls is too high in my opinion. Anywhere 16-20 is a much better spot and I think you’ll see Tech go 10-2 or 9-3 in the regular season. They’ll lose to someone they shouldn’t, just like they do every year.

QB Logan Thomas is set to take over for 2010 ACC POY Tyrod Taylor this season

BDN: The Hokies return 12 starters from last year’s ACC Championship team, but will have to replace several stars on offense, including ACC POY Tyrod Taylor. The expectations are high for first-year starters David Wilson and Logan Thomas, and they have big shoes to fill. Can they carry the load for the Virginia Tech offense? What are the question marks for the 2011 Hokie offense?

GC: The question marks always exist on the offensive line. For the last four or five years, the offensive line has struggled due to injury or graduation at the beginning of the year and gets much better by the end. Then, in the offseason we’re told the line has turned the corner and that this year’s line is going to be improved. Then, it’s a disaster to start the season again and the process starts over. So until the line actually performs well at the start of the season, I’m not going to believe it.

As for Thomas, he should be fine as long as he isn’t asked to win games himself and the line is able to keep him upright. He’s thrown a few interceptions during fall practice, but he’s a first-year starter so I expect he’s going to throw a few of those. As long as we only ask him to manage the game, I’m confident in him. Plus, he has several veteran receives who will make his life easier. It won’t be like Taylor’s second year when the Hokies’ receivers had something like nine career catches and Taylor had no clue if the route called for them was going to be the one they ran.

Wilson’s already a folk hero on campus and as long as he stays healthy will have a big year. He’s not a concern, but what is a concern is what effect having to handle most of, if not all, of the significant carries will have on him.

BDN: We know how good the Virginia Tech defense and special teams units usually are, producing a +19 turnover margin in 2010. With just five starters returning on defense, who will be expected to step up this year alongside All-ACC candidates Bruce Taylor and Jayron Hosley?

GC: Anyone on the defensive line. And we have no clue who it will be. Every defensive end on the roster is a sophomore or freshman. All have little or no playing time under their belts. At defensive tackle, the injury to senior Kwamaine Battle means the Hopkins Brothers will start at the two DT positions and be backed up by true freshmen Luther Maddy and Corey Marshall, who is 6-1, 253. A 253-pound defensive tackle.

So really two or three of those freshman and sophomore have to step up. I think James Gayle, one of the sophomore defensive ends, is set to have a big year but at this point it’s anyone’s guess. Somehow, we have to do better than 4.7 yards per carry against, which was 10th in the ACC last year. If we do that again, I don’t care if you’re playing Alabama or Appalachian State in your opener, it’s just not going to get it done.

BDN: Last year’s game in Blacksburg seemed to be a blowout before Duke had even snapped the ball. In previous years, the Blue Devils had given the Hokies a bit of a scare. What do you expect to see in Durham this year, and what would the Blue Devils have to do to pull off the unlikely upset?

GC: I don’t think Duke’s going to go to a bowl this year, I do think they’re going to beat someone they have no business beating. Will be the Hokies? Well, in order for that to happen I think Duke’s going to have to catch Tech a little fatigued. It’s possible since Duke is the last game before Virginia Tech’s bye week and will be the Hokies’ ninth game in as many weeks. Then, the Blue Devils are going to force turnovers like they did in the 2008 game in Blacksburg. Then they’re going to have to get some production on the ground to take some pressure off Renfree. If all three of those things happen, then you might see an upset.

I’m biased, but I don’t think it’s going to be the Hokies. However, someone other than the usual suspects are going to go down against you guys this year. You guys had so many games last year where you looked good and then turned into a pumpkin that you can’t help but learn from that and find some kind of killer instinct.

BDN: Finally, Duke will host Andrew Luck and Stanford in week 2 this fall. After seeing his performance in last year’s Orange Bowl, do you have any advice for the Blue Devils?

GC: Sure, watch out you don’t get killed.

BDN: Thanks so much for your insight. Good luck this season!

 

Previous week: Wake Forest at Duke, October 22

Next week: Duke at Miami, November 5

BDN’s Virginia Tech Q&A Preview with Gobbler Country

Sean Renfree hopes to get back on track against the Hokies - Lance Images/BDN

In preparation for this weekend’s matchup in Blacksburg, BDN exchanged a Q&A with the folks at Gobbler Country. Our responses can be viewed over at their website. Riding a 5-game winning streak, the Hokies’ are confident heading into Saturday. The Blue Devils will have a great challenge and opportunity in Lane Stadium.

BDN: Heading into the week 1 matchup with Boise State, expectations were obviously high for the Hokies, but they ended up starting the season 0-2. With the recent losses at the top of the BCS, how disappointed are Virginia Tech fans? With Taylor graduating, was this a missed opportunity?

GC: I’m not sure if disappointed is the right word. For a lot of fans, there was a meltdown of epic proportions after the loss to JMU. Me, I just drank (and drank, and drank, and drank …) but at the end of the day, there was still the chance to win the ACC if they got their act together.

And that was the expectation all along for me. I figured our best case scenario was winning the ACC and anything else would just be icing. I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say it was a missed opportunity because I didn’t think the defense would be good enough at the start of the season for us to actually go unbeaten and have a shot at the title.

I’m definitely not among the fans who feel like every year is National Title or Bust. But eventually, I’d like to see us at least be in the discussion in November. But with the way we tend to play in September that will never happen.

BDN: What, in your opinion, went wrong in weeks 1 and 2, and what has been the difference in the current 5-game winning streak?

GC: The defense was young and missed tackles and assignments and the offensive line was terrible. Both sides of the ball have gotten their act together, especially the offensive line. You look at how it played in those first four games compared to the last three and it’s completely night and day. On defense, we’ve had some younger guys start to make plays like Bruce Taylor at mike linebacker and Antone Exum in the secondary. They’re still young and giving up big plays, but more often than not they make the play they’re supposed to make.

BDN: It sounds like Ryan Williams will be back this week. How do you expect that to affect the offense, which seems to be hitting its stride?

GC: It looks like he’ll only be in for a couple of series, and I imagine he’ll get around five carries. I really don’t know what to expect. When he was in there, the offensive line wasn’t opening holes and he was getting bottled up in the backfield. I like to think that he’ll be able to fit right in and eventually get back to his 2009 form, but I fear that we’ll try to rely on him too much when he gets back to 100 percent.

BDN: Duke has played Virginia Tech tough the past two years. Why do you think that is, and do you expect that to continue this year with what you’ve seen of both teams in 2010?

GC: If Thad Lewis had played in 2008, there’s a good chance you guys would have beaten us. We were awful on offense that game and couldn’t stop turning the ball over. The last two years Duke has tried to take away Virginia Tech’s run game and was especially effective last season. However, Tyrod Taylor was able to burn them last year. What killed Duke a season ago was the inability to finish drives in the red zone. The Devils settled for field goals while the Hokies scored touchdowns.

This year, I really expect the Hokies to come out and dominate. Duke had some talent on defense last year, but it just isn’t there this season. Hopefully they’ll be able to put up big points like they did last week against Wake Forest and at the same time not give up the big plays that plagued them last week against Wake and last year against the Devils.

BDN: I don’t know that Virginia Tech needs anyone off the Duke roster to significantly improve their chance of winning this one game, so I’ll ask you a slightly different question. If you could draft a player or two from Duke’s roster to have for future games and seasons, who would you choose and why?

GC: I’m going to cheat and take David Cutcliffe to be our quarterbacks coach. No offense to Mike O’Cain, but he hasn’t exactly produced any Peyton Mannings in his time in Blacksburg. Tyrod Taylor has steadily improved his passing abilities, but I can only imagine what having a guy like Cutcliffe around could do for him. Heck, Cut could have probably made Sean Glennon All-ACC.