2011 Virginia Tech Preview – Offense
Virginia Tech WR Jarrett Boykin
CollegeFootballNews.com 2011 Preview - Virginia Tech Hokie Offense
Preview 2011 - Offense
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What You Need To Know: The Hokie backfield is in motion, metaphorically speaking. Virginia Tech will sport a new quarterback and running back this year, Logan Thomas and David Wilson, respectively. The passing of the torch has fans excited about the future, but a little skittish regarding today. Thomas is a former can't-miss recruit, who possesses all of the physical and intangible skills to eventually blossom into a star. Wilson, on the other hand, might already be there. Even as a third-stringer in 2010, he led the team in scoring and created a highlight reel of dazzling plays. Thomas will get ample support from his wide receivers, namely Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale, but would benefit from better pass protection. The Hokies run block as well as anyone in the league, but are perennially prone to getting whipped by capable pass rushers.
Star of the offense: Junior RB David Wilson
Passing: Tyrod Taylor
136-243, 2,311 yds, 13 TDs, 5 INTs
Rushing: Ryan Williams
293 carries, 1,655 yds, 21 TDs
Receiving: Jarrett Boykin
40 catches, 835 yds, 5 TDs
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore C Andrew Miller
Unsung star on the rise: Junior WR Marcus Davis
Best pro prospect: Senior WR Jarrett Boykin
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Senior RT Blake DeChristopher, 2) Wilson, 3) Senior RG Jaymes Brooks
Strength of the offense: The running game, the receivers, the right side of the line, big plays, protecting the ball
Weakness of the offense: Inexperience at quarterback, tight end, pass protection
State of the Unit: Forever underrated by outsiders, observers might get a new-found respect for long-time starter Tyrod Taylor now that he's gone. The Hokies begin a new era behind center, popping the cork on a fresh starter and hoping they don't have to dig too deep into the depth chart. More than any other position on the roster, how well these unproven kids perform will dictate whether Tech can repeat as the ACC champion.
Slated to be Taylor's successor is 6-6, 245-pound sophomore Logan Thomas , who played sparingly in seven games as the top backup in 2010. One of the most heralded recruits to ever sign with Tech, he's more than just a big body with a huge arm. He's also a solid all-around athlete, who'll conjure up comparisons to Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor, and poised beyond his resume. Coming off a better-than-expected spring, he showed an ability to read defenses and learn from his mistakes, quelling some fears along the way.
While Thomas is the undisputed starter, the backup race has gotten a little murkier. It still belongs to 6-0, 220-pound junior Ju-Ju Clayton, but he's getting pushed by 6-0, 199-pound redshirt freshman Mark Leal . While Clayton has the advantage in experience and is a solid leader, his passing skills are suspect. Leal, on the other hand, took the staff by storm in the spring, showing good zip and accuracy with his passes, and quickly ascending up the depth chart.
Watch Out For .... Clayton to take a positive first step in his starting debut. Yeah, there'll be speed bumps along the way. There always are for young players at this position. However, he has so much physical talent and such a wealth of intangibles that they're sure to shine through at times during the season.
Strength: Multi-dimensional quarterbacks. Okay, so there'll be no confusion with a modern-day Michael Vick, but all of the Hokie quarterbacks have quick feet and the ability to evade the rush in the pocket. Thomas has a big and the long stride to be an effective runner on designed plays and when he needs to improv.
Weakness: Experience. At the one position schools crave reps the most, Virginia Tech has the least. The only quarterback to get under center in 2011 was Thomas, and he attempted only 26 passes. Particularly when ACC play, the Hokies are going to suffer from that lack of experience, skipping a beat in close games.
Outlook: The quarterback position is going to bring a lot of excitement—and trepidation—to Blacksburg this fall. While Thomas has undeniable star potential, any predictions about his debut are merely speculative since he has no relevant experience. The Hokies hope he can lay a solid foundation in 2011, limit his mistakes, and do what's necessary now in order to really take flight in 2012.
State of the Unit: When one talented back declares early for the NFL Draft, it hurts. When two bolts, it has the potential to be a crisis. At Virginia Tech, though, where a next-man-in mentality permeates throughout the program, it simply means that a new set of stars are prepared to replace Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. They'll need to be up to the task, especially in a year that the Hokies are breaking the seal on a new quarterback as well.
The beneficiary of the turnover will be 5-11, 201-pound junior David Wilson, who gets his first chance at a starring role and an opportunity to create a national presence. A tremendous all-around athlete, he has blinding speed, hitting the hole and the exploding through the secondary. Even in a tertiary role, he stood out in 2010, rushing for 619 yards and five scores, catching 15 passes for 234 yards and four touchdowns, and taking two kickoffs back for six.
The veteran among the reserves will be 5-11, 210-pound senior Josh Oglesby. A fullback out of necessity a year ago, he's moving back to tailback again. A bruising runner, he was used sparingly in 2010, but did rush for 335 yards and two scores when given a chance a year earlier. Sophomore Tony Gregory showed promise a year, running for 102 yards on 23 carries before suffering a season-ending ACL tear. Healthy again in the spring, the 6-0, 187-pounder was darting all over the field, making sharp cuts and defenders miss.
Now that Kenny Younger has graduated and Oglesby has shifted to tailback, the Hokies are in the market for a reliable fullback. Junior Joey Phillips is one of the team's strongest players and was a starter in goal-line situations. He'll be trying to hold off junior Martin Scales and redshirt freshman Riley Beiro.
Watch Out For .... Wilson to explode on to the national scene. As the third option out of the backfield, he still managed to lead the team with 11 touchdowns. Now that he'll be atop the depth chart and preparing as such, he has a chance to be a breakout star and even a fringe Heisman contender.
Strength: Versatility. If it winds up being Wilson and Oglesby atop the two-deep, Virginia Tech will have a terrific blend of speed and power, respectively, to throw at defenses. Wilson is ready to become a feature back, and Oglesby has proven he can shoulder the load between the tackles when given a chance.
Weakness: Depth. While it's not that it's bad, it's clearly not where the Hokies were a year ago. In 2010, Tech had one of the best rotations in the country, but the voluntary departures of Williams and Evans have left the backfield a little thin. The school prefers spreading the carries, which means someone like Gregory will have to deliver on a half-dozen or so carries a game.
Outlook: Although depth is a legitimate concern, Virginia Tech will have just as much potential up top that it had in 2010. Wilson is an emerging star, who can easily rip off 1,000 yards as long as durability doesn't become an issue. The key will be how the backups respond when he needs blows and who steps into the underrated fullback role.
State of the Unit: Last year's top three receivers are back in Blacksburg, encouraging news for a program that's breaking in a new quarterback. A youthful and inconsistent group just a couple of years ago, the wideouts have grown up together and are now experienced and senior-laden. In fact, there's a very good chance that the two-deep will be comprised entirely of upperclassmen.
The busiest of the receivers will again be 6-2, 219-pound senior Jarrett Boykin , who has been snubbed by all-star voters the last two years. A big-play receiver, who has giant mitts and a big catch radius, he does a nice job of adjusting to balls in the air. He's averaged almost 20 yards a reception over the last two seasons, catching 53 balls for 847 yards and six touchdowns in 2010. A human mismatch at split end, he's poised to become Tech's all-time leading receiver this fall.
Over at flanker is 6-0, 196-pound Danny Coale, an underrated senior. One of the hardest workers on the offense, being underestimated has long been one of his biggest strengths. He has sticky hands and does a lot of the little things well. However, don't call him a possession receiver. He's averaged nearly 20 yards a catch over the past two years, making 39 grabs for 732 yards and three touchdowns in 2010.
Behind Coale at flanker, the Hokies are in excellent shape. Junior Marcus Davis oozes potential, a 6-4, 234-pounder with uncommon speed and leaping ability. A former quarterback, he's still a little raw as a receiver, but has a tantalizing skill set and could erupt after catching 19 balls for 239 yards and two scores. Assuming he can recover from a serious leg injury, 6-2, 185-pound senior Dyrell Roberts will battle for playing time as well. Another quality athlete at the position, he has starting experience and was third on the team with 21 catches for 303 yards and two scores. Junior D.J. Coles is the top reserve at split end. He's played sparingly, catching three balls in 2010, but has the 6-3, 225-pound frame to warrant more looks.
In an attempt to fill the void left by Andre Smith, 6-3, 256-pound senior Chris Drager is moving from defensive end to tight end, his original position as a Hokie. Unselfish and very bright, he's had a habit of covering up any physical shortcomings with his attitude and preparation.
Watch Out For .... Davis to begin emerging as a bona fide playmaker. Purely in terms of measurables and triangle numbers, he's one of the most exciting athletes at Virginia Tech and the kind of receiver new QB Logan Thomas will want to employ more liberally in 2011.
Strength: Size and physicality. Coale aside, the Hokies are flush with not just tall receivers, but also thick ones, who can win the battles for balls in the air. One of the reasons Tech has done so well at average yards per reception is because the receivers are so difficult to drag down.
Weakness: The tight ends. Smith was an important tool in this offense, especially near the goal line. He'll be missed, forcing the staff to bring Drager back to the offensive side of the ball. Young quarterbacks love safe routes, which might mean that the backs get more attention in the passing game than the tight ends.
Outlook: For some reason, the Virginia Tech wideouts rarely seem to get the recognition they deserve, which ought to change in 2011. Boykin and Coale are worthy of more all-star looks and the backups will make plays, especially if Roberts returns to 100%. Tight end may be a question mark, but the Hokies are solid on the outside.
State of the Unit: Justifiably excited about the potential of this year's offensive line, Virginia Tech returns four starters and a pair of all-stars up front. The lone departure from a group that did a solid job of run blocking, but struggled in pass protection, is steady Beau Warren. He leaves a hole at center that'll go a long way to determining the line's final grade in December.
On the right side of the line, the Hokies have a pair of returning second team All-ACC blockers. At tackle, 6-5, 312-pound senior Blake DeChristopher is back for his fourth year as a starter. An intelligent and intense performer, he does his best work in small spaces and on running downs. He still needs to improve as a pass blocker, but has the power and technique to continue to be a north-south force.
At right guard, 6-2, 307-pound senior Jaymes Brooks is coming off his best year in Blacksburg. Arguably the most physical member of the unit, he's strong at the point of attack and an outstanding drive blocker in the running game. Playing with good leverage and pad level, he's perennially among the line leaders in knockdown blocks.
On the left side, the Hokies have a heated dogfight at tackle and a fixture at guard, 6-6, 281-pound senior Greg Nosal. He started all 14 games, flashing the athleticism and light feet of a former tight end, but needs to add a little more muscle. The responsibility of protecting the quarterback's blindside belongs to either 6-5, 313-pound senior Andrew Lanier or 6-6, 307-pound junior Nick Becton . Becton is an outstanding athlete, with long arms and agile feet, but was limited last fall by a turf toe. Lanier took his place in 2010, starting every game and displaying the bend and flexibility of a converted tight end. He's still learning, a process that'll have to go into hyperdrive in order to remain ahead of Becton.
All eyes will be on 6-4, 290-pound sophomore Andrew Miller , the favorite to replace Warren at center. He has the right toughness and temperament to make a smooth transition into the lineup. If Miller isn't ready, the Hokies might turn to 6-7, 285-pound junior Michael Via, a versatile veteran expected to get reps at center and right tackle.
Watch Out For .... Becton to resurface in a big way. He's loaded with talent, which the Hokie staff has known for years. If the toe problem doesn't crop up again, he ought to start realizing that potential, nudge ahead of Lanier on the depth chart, and approach All-ACC caliber.
Strength: Run blocking. For years, this has been the strongest area of the unit. The Hokies are typically physical, blue-collar and very tough to beat in a phone booth, paving the way for a running game that ranked 23rd nationally in rushing and averaged almost five yards a carry.
Weakness: Pass protection. A perennial problem in Blacksburg, Virginia Tech continues to struggle in pass protection, typically ranking near the bottom of the ACC. Even with Tyrod Taylor, a nimble and seasoned quarterback, behind center, the Hokies were 86th nationally and No. 10 in the league in sacks allowed.
Outlook: The Hokie O-line figures to be a solid, no-nonsense blocking unit that will maul many opponents. Tech will have particular success running to the right of center, where DeChristopher and Brooks will once again perform like all-stars. Pass protection and the situation at center are two developments that bear watching heading into the summer.
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