Tech opponent breakdown: Virginia Tech

I’d planned to run some more stuff from interviews last week, but my laptop seems to have eaten all my notes. I’ll have more when I transcribe it again. In the meantime, I asked writers who cover the teams on Tech’s schedule for breakdowns of those teams. We’ll start with Virginia Tech and Andy Bitter of the Roanoke Times and Virginian Pilot. You can check out his blog here and follow him on Twitter here.

1. In a nutshell, what are Virginia Tech’s strengths and weaknesses?

The defense, as usual, is the strength of the team. The Hokies return nine starters from a group that was riddled with injuries last year yet still finished the season ranked No. 10 nationally in total defense. The entire front seven is back, buoyed by the return of linebacker Bruce Taylor, who was having an All-ACC season before suffering a Lisfranc foot injury in Week 8. The defensive line has the potential to be one of the best the school has had in the last decade. On offense, quarterback Logan Thomas is emerging as one of the nation’s best. In his first year as a starter, he threw for 3,000 yards, accounted for 30 touchdowns and broke the school’s single-season yardage mark.

While the defense is stout, the secondary is not particularly deep. Beyond starters Kyle Fuller, Antone Exum, Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett, there aren’t a whole lot of players who are ready for primetime. An injury on the back end could be a serious blow. Offensively, the Hokies are pretty much replacing everybody but Thomas. Four fifth-year starters are gone from the offensive line, as are receiver Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale, who ranked 1-2 on the school’s all-time receiving list, and running back and ACC Player of the Year David Wilson, who went pro early. The line has the biggest question marks. It will need to come together. Virginia Tech has capable players at the other spots, although they’ll need to prove it on the field.

2. What kind of impact can be expected out of wide receivers Marcus Davis and D.J. Coles, the replacements for Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale?

They certainly have the potential. Davis is a physical freak. He’s 6-4, 228, runs a 4.37 time in the 40 and has a 44-inch vertical leap. Consistency has always been his issue. He’ll need to prove he’s capable of being an every-down threat if he wants to advance his game to the next level.

Coles is another big-bodied receiver (6-3, 216) who is a good target for Thomas. He’s coming off PCL surgery this offseason and has been slow in his recovery. The trainer recently said he was “dicey” for the Georgia Tech opener, so that will be something to watch. Don’t forget about Dyrell Roberts, who was given another shot at a senior season after breaking his arm in Week 3 last year. He’s a veteran who has good speed and skills, particularly in the slot. Those three might not be as prolific as Boykin and Coale, but they have enough skills to give Thomas plenty of options in the receiving game.

3. How much of an answer is Michael Holmes at running back (or anyone else) to fill David Wilson’s shoes?

Holmes seems like he’s the frontrunner. He’s kind of the anti-Wilson. Whereas Wilson was a home run hitter, a guy who could amaze on any play and loved the spotlight (I’m sure you’ve seen videos of his backflips), Holmes is a quieter, go-about-his-business back. He’s not flashy, but he produces (he had 2,877 yards and 41 touchdowns as a senior in high school).

Oddly, that’s kind of what Virginia Tech’s offense needs. Holmes hits the right hole, runs north and south, has enough speed and enough physicality for the defense to worry about it. Will he make as many eye-popping runs as Wilson did last year? No.

But he also probably won’t run for negative 22 yards on first-and-goal, as Wilson did in the Sugar Bowl, trying to make something out of nothing. Thomas is enough of a star player on offense for the Hokies. If Holmes is a reliable rushing threat, that’ll be good enough.

4. Could Logan Thomas be even better than when Georgia Tech saw him last year?

He could, although that was one of his best games last season. He spent the offseason with quarterbacks guru George Whitfield, who had previously worked with Ben Roethlisberger, Cam Newton and Andrew Luck. I covered Newton at Auburn, and I, like many who have made the same comparison, see some similarities there.

Although I’d say Cam was a more natural runner, at this point in their careers, Logan seems like a more polished passer. What’ll be key for Thomas this year is how he’ll handle being The Guy on offense. Last year, it was Wilson’s turn (at least early in the season). And Thomas had the benefit of a veteran line and receivers to help him out. That support system isn’t as great this year. So while I think he could be improved as a player, it wouldn’t shock me to see him put up numbers not too different from last year. Honestly, I think Virginia Tech would take that, though.

5. What were one or two of the biggest developments out of spring practice?

The offensive line had some noticeable problems early on. The defense, using plenty of blitzes in an early scrimmage, was in the backfield all day long. Now, that might be a statement about how porous the offensive line is or how good the defensive line is (more likely, it’s both). But it was enough to send die-hard Tech fans into an early panic. The o-line got better as spring went on — particularly the first group — and began to hold its own a bit more by the end, but it’ll still be an area of concern this fall.

Holmes established himself as the top guy for the running back job. At one scrimmage, he raced down the sideline 60 yards for a score, out-running the defense and at least somewhat alleviating concerns about his speed. In goal line drills, he showed a physicality the coaches liked and a nose for the end zone. I’d be shocked if he wasn’t the leading rusher this year.

Defensively. Bonner emerged as a guy who could be pretty good at free safety. He was a backup corner last year, filling in on occasion for an injured Jayron Hosley. The coaches like his instincts, range and cover skills at safety, though. Given the opportunity, he could be a breakthrough player on that side of the ball.

6. Georgia Tech players are pretty locked in on the opener. Do you get the same sense from Virginia Tech?

I’d say so, but it’s always tough to tell. They obviously understand the importance of the Georgia Tech game. The winner has always represented the Coastal Division in the ACC title game. And the defense has always put plenty of its focus into the Yellow Jackets and their option offense. Then again, you would have said Virginia Tech was locked in heading into past season openers that it has lost (Alabama and Boise State recently).

I think the Hokies are generally a team you can peg to be pretty good by the end of the season. You don’t win 10 or more games in eight straight seasons without being consistent in that sense. But season openers are always dicey, and the Hokies have had their share of flops to start the year recently. I’m expecting a close game come Labor Day (provided there’s no lightning in the area).

177 comments Add your comment

GTJACKET

July 30th, 2012
8:04 am

First. Go Jackets

HighTech

July 30th, 2012
8:04 am

I like the quip about the lightning. VPISU has some impressive athletes on offense. CAG will have the D ready them.

Thanks, Ken. You do a great job covering the Jackets.

9/3!

GTJACKET

July 30th, 2012
8:06 am

I have never been close to first before. I think that our defense needs to step up and pressure that monster at QB early and often. We will move the ball on VaTech, we always do. If the defense can live up to their capabilities, we could have a very good year. We will know very early in the season, how our year will go.

Tech/App fan

July 30th, 2012
8:09 am

This time, no punches!

GTKurt80

July 30th, 2012
8:19 am

I was at the lightning or I should say non-game. That was one heck of a storm.

Looks like an even match. They’re weak at receiver, with new people. Our secondary is strong. Hope that new 40-inch vertical helps cover the “feak.” They’re O line is new, and our D line is hopefully better. Our O line is strong, their D line is strong. Our only weakness on O is receiver and their weakness on D is secondary. Their QB is great, which negates the O weaknesses. We have to get to their QB to win this game. Our running game should be able to move the ball.
Nothing was mentioned about their great “speacial teams?” Our should be better, hopefully boost we need.
thanks ken.

Alabama Jack

July 30th, 2012
8:33 am

Ah, the lightning game. I was at a conference in Colorado, had begged off a dinner engagement, ordered room service and was relaxing in my hotel room ready for some football. What a downer. Just glad no one got hurt (other than the rental car company).

ramblingbuzz

July 30th, 2012
8:36 am

I’m looking forward to seeing how GT’s defense looks in the opener. Need to see a lot of improvement there. Appears the strengths of the two teams will be GT’s offense against VT’s defense. I’m sure VT will have 7 or 8 in the box on every play to shut down the option and challenge GT to throw the ball if they can.

gt4ever

July 30th, 2012
8:42 am

Defense is always good at VT… I like the fact that we get them first. If the defense plays well and can tackle the QB, then I like our chances. For some reason our offense has always done well against VT. It should be a good game. I can hardly wait… Go Jackets!

Bryan GT04

July 30th, 2012
8:42 am

Wait….their QB requires outside coaching? Isn’t that blasphemy and a statement of how Beamer is a complete failure as a coach? No wait, I forgot, that’s only how WieNE calls it for Johnson.

GOLD PANTS

July 30th, 2012
8:45 am

That one player that has the 4.37 speed in the 40 concerns me even without the experience. It sets up the potential for a bomb and streches the field defensively.Hope we come to play in this one.

gt4ever

July 30th, 2012
8:51 am

@ Gold Pants

If the Defense comes to play this year, then based on our schedule, it could be special…

GTKurt80

July 30th, 2012
9:00 am

GOLD PANTS
Yeh, that guy scares me too. We have to get to their QB, tie that guy up at the line of scrimmage or Holton needs to hit him hard.
We’ve got to get their QB scrambling and making mistakes. A pick six woud do the trick!!

Ted

July 30th, 2012
9:28 am

GTKurt80, VT’s 1st team secondary is not a weakness. In fact, they are very good, fast and hit hard. The problem is depth. If one of their starters gets hurt then it becomes a bit dicey.

RocketCityJacket

July 30th, 2012
9:35 am

My mouth is watering for this game. Everything seems to point to the conclusion that we will have a good game against VT. Their defense is their strong suite and our offense is ours. Based on previous meetings we should be able to move the ball against them and score enough to win. The second half of the equation is our improved defense against their new and shaky offense, especially their OL. We have to be wary of Cam, I mean Logan, but if we can consistently pressure him then we should limit his effectiveness and then we again have the advantage.
The way I see it:
GT has the advantage when on offense, and
GT has the advantage when on defense.
It will be a tough game and we have to fire on all cylinders, but if we play our game and don’t choke, we should produce a win.

5150 UOAD

July 30th, 2012
9:52 am

KEN thanks for the link to the HOKIE blogs. Time to talk crap on their blog….. Add links to the other team blogs when you break them down.

Supersize that order, mutt

July 30th, 2012
10:02 am

@ UOAD…….behave yourself. LOL

5150 UOAD

July 30th, 2012
10:03 am

This is the First time a awhile I feel real good about the GT v VPI game. I think we have a great shot to win up there for a Second Time.

5150 UOAD

July 30th, 2012
10:06 am

Supersize I have been on the Miami blog for years. I do Clem&sons blog once in awhile and you know I hit UGa too, but that is pretty much it. We don’t play FSU enough to get on their blog.

DesignerJacket

July 30th, 2012
10:07 am

Our O against their D will be a real struggle, but the one that will decide the game will be our D against their O. Our revamped Special Teams needs to come up with some type of X-factor for us (be it good field position in general, a blocked punt or PAT, or a good return.) We’ll need a game-breaker to ensure victory. This game will be close.

Supersize that order, mutt

July 30th, 2012
10:07 am

UOAD…..just don’t be a typical troll a*hole. Remember you ARE representing our team. Make us proud :)

GTKurt80

July 30th, 2012
10:10 am

Ted,
Yeh, I saw that in Ken’s article too. But those guys can’t run full speed the whole game, depth is the weakness there, though I know I’m digging. If we have to pass more later in the game, hopefully I’m right. But I think this is going to be a bit of a non-issue, we’re going to be able to move the ball on the ground. CPJ finally has the Oline he’s wanted and a stable of RBs, lots of experience, talent and depth. Orwin should have a good day. VT is going to see a different team this year.

5150 UOAD

July 30th, 2012
10:23 am

Super you are kidding right?
The U fans are bad a..WHOLES but they are like UGa fans(80) living off what happened in the 90’s. Same with FSU fan the time I was on there in the past.

Supersize that order, mutt

July 30th, 2012
10:39 am

UOAD….. I know, but no sense imitating them. We need to rise above the fray unless they attack us first.

GIT

July 30th, 2012
10:42 am

An Al Groh defense is 1-10 v. VT since 2001

VTUD

July 30th, 2012
10:42 am

Several points regarding VT:
- The DL will be SEC quality and very disruptive…one of the best DLs ever at VT
- The DB starters are very good. An injury,however,to a starter presents problems since the back-ups are unproven
- Keep in mind that Bud Foster has all summer to prepare the defense for the GT offense. Teams that have a lot of time to prepare(bowl games) have generally had good success containing the GT offense.
- The starting OL will be solid to good. Again,injuries will present a problem since the back-ups are unproven
- VT always produces good RBs. As a scout team freshman last year,Holmes received a lot of praise from the starting defense including Bud Foster. He will be good to very good.
- I hope that GT underestimates the VT WRs. They are very athletic and can make plays. Marcus Davis got better and better as the season progressed and made some big plays against UVA. DJ Coles,if healthy,is also a big play guy.
- A key point in a close game is that Cody Journell (FG kicker) who was suspended for the Sugar Bowl was recently reinstated. He is very good and could be an All ACC kicker.

George Stein

July 30th, 2012
11:12 am

Ah, yes. The old extra time argument with no proof to support it. Wonderful. If I was a VT fan (I’m not), I’d be awfully concerned about my team spending an inordinate amount of time preparing for an offense you’ll never see again. Also, Foster has seen it four times and hasn’t really done much to stop it.

Look, VT might win the game, and if they do, I’ll tip my proverbial hat. But it won’t be because of extra time.

big gt fan

July 30th, 2012
11:16 am

i dont see t.washington being able to make enough plays to win this type of game. Hes going to run 10-15 times not giving ball to backs enough and everybody no hes not a throwing qb. With that said vt 26 gt 18

5150 UOAD

July 30th, 2012
11:22 am

35 days until Toe Meets Leather!

5150 UOAD

July 30th, 2012
11:25 am

lil GT fan…….What to BET on that? SCORE? Tevin running over/under 12 times?

5150 UOAD

July 30th, 2012
11:26 am

Want to sorry…

Not Disappointed!

July 30th, 2012
11:27 am

It should be a great game! I’m pulling for the Jackets and the win. No upset. Just a striagiht out win! Go Jackets!

Supersize that order, mutt

July 30th, 2012
11:58 am

@ UOAD……did you get the email I sent you last week with GT Lee’s email address in it? I just got one from him asking for yours. I gave both of yours to him, plus your phone number

Supersize that order, mutt

July 30th, 2012
12:00 pm

Funny that TW made enough plays last year to beat them, if it hadn’t been for Attachou’s late hit. And yet you don’t think he can do it this year??? Not very logical in my book

George Stein

July 30th, 2012
12:03 pm

He made enough plays to beat then two years ago, too, SS. The special teams killed us that night.

Supersize that order, mutt

July 30th, 2012
12:07 pm

@ George…..yeah, I forgot about that. I think we could probably do better at QB overall, but he DOES give it his all, and you certainly can’t take that away from him.

George Stein

July 30th, 2012
12:11 pm

He’s competent, SS. He probably doesn’t have enough to win a game by himself, but he generally doesn’t lose them by himself, either.

Clearly, the hope is that Vad is the guy that can win games alone. But until then, I’ll take the high floor/low ceiling guy. If the line is as good as we are being told they are, we should be fine.

Supersize that order, mutt

July 30th, 2012
12:14 pm

@ George……that pretty much sums it up. And I think Thomas may push even Lee, once he gets a chance. Vad hasn’t proved yet that he can run the TO, but Thomas apparently has and can pass too. I think the future looks good, and hopefully, if Vad doesn’t take over this year, TW can do enough to get the job done. Obviously the D has GOT to take care of things when they’re on the field, but that looks promising this year too—–FINALLY

5150 UOAD

July 30th, 2012
12:22 pm

SS yes I got the Email…..I am keeping it. As mom’s health changes I might have tickets for him.

GT Lee

July 30th, 2012
12:30 pm

Guess we can cancel that APB out for George Stein……lol

GT Lee

July 30th, 2012
12:31 pm

5150 read your emails and respond please!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tokyo jacket

July 30th, 2012
12:38 pm

Experienced GT O vs. Experienced VT D; Experienced GT D vs. WOEFULLY Inexperienced VT O. Edge GT!

Call me crazy, but I don’t see VT being as tough this year as folks are predicting, at least to begin the season. I think it’s safe to say that we were a punch away from winning last year, at the least it was a very close game.

So you have to look at our offense versus their defense and their defense versus our offense. They’ve got a great defense. We’ve got a great offense. Our O did enough to win last year. Their D did win last year: slight edge to VT (although new pistol wrinkles may change things). Our defense will return a lot of players, and more importantly, everyone has one more year in the system. It’s not new anymore. VT loses four 5th year offensive linemen, the ACC player of the year, and the school’s one AND two all-time receivers. Given it’s the first game out of the shoot, I think if we can score 17 we win the game by 10 points.

5150 UOAD

July 30th, 2012
12:42 pm

Did LEE….I am planning on going to Fan Day at this point. I will do MARTA too I think.

1 4 GT

July 30th, 2012
12:45 pm

What I’m looking for is to see Thomas & all of that speed on the field. I really expect to see him & Kallon playing this year, & the sooner the better, IMHO. And Gotsis, too. Using them in specialized situations to fit their skills & talents. Where they they can rely on instinct and not have to think about it. GOOOOOO JACKETS

Tokyo jacket

July 30th, 2012
12:48 pm

VTUD,

“Teams that have a lot of time to prepare(bowl games) have generally had good success containing the GT offense.”

Keep in mind that the oponents in three of CPJ’s bowl losses have contained four first round picks along the DL. No excuse for Air Force though. Yeah, time might help, but so does talent. UNC had an SEC caliber defense the last two years and we ran all over them.

Just sayin!

5150 UOAD

July 30th, 2012
12:52 pm

Gotsis….is really a hope to play. He has more GAME experience than Kallon, but Kallon has Foot Speed that we hope to get to learn Better technique.
Gotsis will be 20 on Sept 23. he is Older and i hope that brings maturity to the other Freshmen.

5150 UOAD

July 30th, 2012
12:53 pm

Tokyo jacket

July 30th, 2012
12:54 pm

1 4 GT, no question that seeing Kallon and Gostis on the field, when they’re ready, will change the dynamic for GT. That said, don’t forget about last year’s diamond, Jabari Hunt Days. He came in at 250 and got more muscular. He is a specimen. He’ll make rookie mistakes, but I have no doubt that he can tackle Logan Thomas one-on-one, and on some plays, with AUTHORITY!

5150 UOAD

July 30th, 2012
12:55 pm

Air Force loss was due to losing Tarrant. A new punt returner was not ready and fumbled 2 times.

5150 UOAD

July 30th, 2012
1:04 pm

Straight Jacket

July 30th, 2012
1:05 pm

Going to be a long season!