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2013 Pre-Season Preview: Virginia Tech Hokies

2012 Record: 7-6 (4-4 in ACC)

Head Coach: Frank Beamer (216-104-2 at VT, 114-41 in ACC)

Four Year Trend: 9.75 wins and 3.75 losses

Last Bowl Game: 2012 Russell Athletic Bowl: beat Rutgers 13-10

Stadium: Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, VA (capacity = 66,233)

Home Field Advantage: ranked 18th out of 69 BCS teams

Schedule Glimpse:

2013 Schedule Link

Out of Conference: 8/31 vs Alabama, 9/7 vs Western Carolina, 9/14 at ECU, 9/21 vs Marshall

Revenge: 10/5 vs UNC, 10/12 vs Pitt, 11/19 at Miami (FL)

Other Key Games: 9/26 at Georgia Tech, 11/16 vs Maryland

 

Statistical Snapshot:

2012 Statistics Link

Stats to Fear: -2.00 turnover margin in losses, scored TDs on just 51.22% of red zone trips (11th in ACC)

Stats to Cheer: 35 sacks in 2012 (2nd in ACC), held opponents to 28.22% on third downs (3rd in ACC)

Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 49th out of 124 teams

 

Personnel:

Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 6, Defense: 9, Special Teams: 2

Key Defensive Returnees: LB Jack Tyler (119 tackles), S Kyshoen Jarrett (83 tackles), S Antone Exum (48 tackles, 5 INT), DT Derrick Hopkins (51 tackles, 3.5 sacks), DE James Gayle (43 tackles, 5 sacks)

Key Offensive Returnees: QB Logan Thomas (2976 yds pass, 18 TD, 16 INT, 527 yds rush, 9 rush TD), RB J.C. Coleman (492 yds rush, 4.51 ypc)

Top 2013 Recruits: CB Kendall Fuller, S Holland Fisher, DE Wyatt Teller, QB Bucky Hodges

 

Inside Scoop with Justin of  VirginiaTechFan.com:

CFBZ: Last year was a difficult season for the Hokies as they won less than ten games for the first time since 2003. What were the biggest reasons for the decline?

VirginiaTechFan.com: Last season needed to happen about four or five seasons ago. Unfortunately, we had several great players that kept us afloat until the talent pool ran dry on offense. The biggest reason for last year’s seven win season was the dismal play of the offensive line, coupled with an offensive coaching staff that was probably the worst in the ACC. The Hokies couldn’t run the ball, Logan Thomas didn’t have time to throw the ball, and our receivers struggled to get open against above-average defensive backs. 

Thankfully, Tech possessed a good enough defense down the stretch to help keep the Hokies bowl streak alive. However, it wasn’t enough to overcome an anemic offensive showing that eventually led to the installment of Scot Loeffler as offensive coordinator, Jeff Grimes as offensive line coach, and Aaron Moorehead as wide receivers coach.

 

CFBZ: There didn't seem to be any play-makers surrounding Logan Thomas last season. Who needs to step up this season in that department?

VirginiaTechFan.com: Youth at wide receiver and running back is going to be a primary concern as Tech prepares for Alabama. But, there’s enough talent there to be excited about the potential this offense has this season.

At wide receiver, the Hokies are going to start redshirt-senior D.J. Coles, who missed the majority of last season recovering from off-season knee surgery. He’ll be joined by speedster Demetri Knowles, talented redshirt freshman Joshua Stanford, and former top fifty recruit Joel Caleb. From a pure talent perspective, this may be the most talented wide receiving corps we’ve had. But, they have a long way to go to prove that on the field. I think you’ll see Coles and Stanford emerge as Thomas’s top two targets to go along with Ryan Malleck and Zack McCray at tight end.

Shifting over to running back, I would expect sophomore J.C. Coleman to continue to receive the bulk of the carries this year but redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds may eventually become our workhorse.  Edmunds is a immensely talented kid although he’s a bit more raw than a lot of our past running back prospects. He’s all of 6’1”, 215 pounds, and ran a sub 4.4 forty yard dash this past spring. I think those two guys will be Tech’s top two options at tailback this season.

 

CFBZ: The Hokies have a very favorable conference schedule this year as they miss out on both Clemson and FSU. What do you see as the biggest conference games?

VirginiaTechFan.com: We have four that really stand out this year and I’ll list them below.

At Georgia Tech (Sept. 26th): Ever since 2005, a Tech has represented the Coastal division in the ACC Championship game. So, there’s little doubt as to why this is an important game. The bad news for the Hokies here is that Frank Beamer’s bunch will only have three days to prepare for the Yellow Jackets before they travel back to Atlanta (for the 2nd time that month) to face Paul Johnson’s crew. To be honest, this is a recipe for disaster since Georgia Tech is tough to prepare for with a week and a half to study them. On three days rest, you’re just asking for an ‘L’

North Carolina (Oct. 5th):  After losing to UNC last year, this is a huge revenge game on Tech’s schedule and it will likely be a huge recruiting weekend as well. Since most of Virginia Tech’s marquee opponents host the Hokies this year, UNC may be the best weekend to host recruits since it is Homecoming week as well. Depending on the outcome of the Georgia Tech game the week before, losing to UNC would put the Hokies behind the eight ball in conference and would almost eliminate them from a trip to Charlotte. 

At Miami (Nov. 9th):  Mine and I’m sure a lot of ACC journalists’ pick to win the Coastal division, Miami will have the opportunity to host Virginia Tech for the 2nd straight year.  The importance of this game, outside of the rivalry, will depend on how both teams fare in the month of October. If  the Hokies can find a way to sweep both Georgia Tech and UNC, this game against Miami may decide who travels to Charlotte in December. 

At UVA (Nov. 30th):  Of course, the annual rivalry game with UVA makes this list for no other reason then me wanting to beat them for the 10th consecutive season.

 

CFBZ: What will make the 2013 season a success in your eyes?

VirginiaTechFan.com: To be honest, I’m not expecting a miracle turnaround from last year to this year. I think a lot of our same issues a season ago will rear their ugly heads again at some point this season. I do think you’ll see a little more continuity on offense with better overall playcalling.  But, it still comes down to executing the basics and we’ll have to wait and see if Virginia Tech can do that consistently on offense before declaring them as a favorite in the Coastal division.

For me, a successful season would be a 9-3 record with a trip to a decent bowl game. I think that would be a good starting point and it would allow us to get back on track with a potential 10-win season. With an opening ‘L’ expected against Bama and a probable ‘L’ against Georgia Tech, the Hokies would have to go 10-0 against the rest of their schedule to win the Coastal Division and potentially an ACC Championship.  That’s asking a lot, especially with potential landmine games against UNC, Pittsburgh, Maryland, Miami, and UVA. 

 

Verdict:

For the first time since the 2003 season, Virginia Tech failed to win ten games (or more). It was also their first time to ever not post a winning conference record since joining the ACC. The offense turned the ball over a lot (8 more times than in 2011), the rushing attack faltered (3.74 ypc) and they struggled on third downs and in the red zone. The defense allowed more yards and points but that can happen when you go from dominating time of possession (first in ACC in 2011) to being middle of the pack in 2012 (sixth in the ACC). The big question facing Virginia Tech this year is if Scot Loeffler and the offensive rehaul can fix Logan Thomas and his fellow Hokies.

Logan Thomas came into 2012 with a lot of hype but he left with less passing yards than 2011, a lower completion percentage and more interceptions. Virginia Tech fans hope his spring game performance, two pick sixes to open the game, isn't an indication of what he will do in Loeffler's offense. Can Thomas put it all together for his senior season? Can a RB emerge in J.C. Coleman or Trey Edmunds? Will the young WR corps be able to help Logan out? Can the OL, which ranks 96th in the FBS in career starts, protect Logan and open up some holes for the young runners? That's a lot of questions.

Less questions are on the defensive side where the Hokies strength lies. This squad has a lot of returning talent. You could look at any of their individual units (DL, LB or DB) and make a case that they have the best or second best unit in the conference. That's what wins football games.

Athlon tabbed this team to finish 30th and Phil Steele put them at 18th. The difference between those two projections will come down to how the offense performs. If they can't turn the corner like last year then this could very well be a 6-6 team. If the defense can turn it up a notch and the offense returns to respectable levels then we could be looking at 9-3 or even 10-2. It's not out of the question but it is a big "if" as there are a ton of questions about this offense. That being said, I do like the schedule. Yes they start out with Bama and yes they play two mid-major teams (ECU, Marshall) that light up the scoreboard like a pinball machine and might be tougher than most think they will but they also miss out on the best two teams in the conference, FSU and Clemson. That by itself has got to give Hokies fans something to smile about as Miami and Georgia Tech both draw one of those teams which gives the Hokies a leg up on those two teams. Will the Hokies turn it around? I think they will but I don't think they return to double digits quite yet.

Prediction: 8-4

 

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