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2013 Virginia Tech Preview - Offense

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 6, 2013


CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Virginia Tech Hokie Offense


Virginia Tech Hokies

Preview 2013 - Offense

- 2013 Virginia Tech Preview | 2013 Virginia Tech Offense
- 2013 Virginia Tech Defense | 2013 Virginia Tech Depth Chart

What You Need To Know: Bryan Stinespring has been reassigned to the delight of Hokies fans. The job of turning around the offense now belongs to Scot Loeffler. Loeffler was brought aboard for a number of reasons, mainly to tinker with erratic QB Logan Thomas. But the remade staff has concerns that extend beyond a single player. Last year’s unit was toothless, ranking 81st nationally in scoring and total offense. Thomas was the focal point of the ineptitude, but the ground game also slumped and the O-line played poorly. Loeffler wants to spread the field this year, but schemes won’t matter if the holdovers don’t execute at a higher level. The line remains a question mark, especially at tackle, and there’s a serious power shortage at the skill positions. J.C. Coleman heads an anonymous backfield, and two of the most productive receivers in school history need to be replaced. The arrival of Loeffler as Stinespring’s replacement ought to help light a spark under an anemic Tech attack. Is it possible, though, that the program has had output problems lately because the personnel is only slightly better than average?

Returning Leaders
Passing: Logan Thomas
220-429, 2,976 yds, 18 TDs, 16 INTs
Rushing: Logan Thomas
174 carries, 524 yds, 9 TDs
Receiving: J.C. Coleman
21 catches, 132 yds, 1 TD

Star of the offense: Senior QB Logan Thomas
Player who has to step up and become a star: Sophomore RB J.C. Coleman
Unsung star on the rise: True freshman LT Jonathan McLaughlin
Best pro prospect: Thomas
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Senior PK Cody Journell, 2) Thomas, 3) Senior WR D.J. Coles
Strength of the offense: Dual-threat quarterback, interior of the line, placekicker
Weakness of the offense: Accuracy in the passing game, proven skill players, the tackles, turnovers, lack of explosive plays, red-zone offense

Quarterbacks

Logan Thomas thought long and hard about foregoing his final season of eligibility before ultimately deciding to return to Blacksburg for his senior year. He’s back with two primary goals, erasing the memory of 2012 and improving his standing among NFL scouts. Thomas was one of the game’s biggest disappointments, regressing badly after beginning the season with soaring expectations. He was wildly inconsistent as a passer, sailing a ton of passes en route to going just 220-of-429 for 2,976 yards, 18 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. Thomas did also lead the Hokies in rushing with 524 yards and nine scores on 174 carries. His ceiling, though, remains enormous, and his potential to become Virginia Tech’s version of Tampa Bay Buccaneer Josh Freeman is undeniable. The 6-6, 257-pound dual-threat is flush with physical ability, but it’ll be up to new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler to make sure that Thomas authors a complete about-face from a year ago.

Junior Mark Leal is a luxury on the sidelines for the Hokies. He’s played sparingly the past two years, going 13-of-19 for 179 yards and two touchdowns, but the staff has the utmost confidence in its 6-1, 213-pounder. He’s poised, smart and ready to go at a moment’s notice. Leal is the emergency quarterback in 2013 and the starter in 2014.

Watch Out For .... the reconstructing of Thomas to continue right through the summer. Loeffler has only just begun to break down his star pupil, tinkering with everything from his drops and his throwing motion to his timing and the transfer of his weight. This is a critical work in progress for both parties, which will go a long toward determining the fate of the 2013 team and the quarterback’s future.
Strength: Multi-dimensions. The true danger of Thomas for opposing defenses is that he can beat them in myriad different ways. Yeah, he’s a pocket passer, with the huge arm to stretch a secondary vertically and horizontally. However, give him too much respect as a hurler, and he’ll burn you by tucking the ball before busting through the defense like an agile and elusive tight end.
Weakness: Efficiency in the passing game. Thomas went from an average and erratic passer in 2011 to somewhere south of that point a year ago. The Hokies completed just 51% of their passes, ranking 120th in the country, and stood 100th in passing efficiency. If Thomas can’t cut down on his sailed throws and poor decisions, Tech will again be among the ACC’s worst teams in turnovers.
Outlook: Thomas isn’t just vital to Virginia Tech’s success this year. He’s actually one of the more intriguing storylines of 2013 in the ACC. At his best, he’s a high first-round NFL Draft choice, with the physical skills to school college defenses. But can Thomas play to his immense measurables, something that happened infrequently last season? It’s the question everyone in Blacksburg wants answered.
Rating: 8

Running Backs

The Hokies are searching for a replacement for David Wilson … still. For a change, Virginia Tech did not have a feature back in 2012, that workhorse who could carry the ground game. It remains to be seen if the situation will change in 2013. The job is up for grabs, with J.C. Coleman returning as last year’s leading rusher among backs. He started six games, finishing with 492 yards and two touchdowns on 109 carries, flashing quick feet and excellent toughness. He also finished fourth on the team with 21 catches for 132 yards and a score. The 5-8, 177-pound Coleman was also a factor in the passing game, doing a surprisingly good job of picking up blitzes as a blocker.

Tied with Coleman atop the depth chart was 6-1, 215-pound redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds, whose combination of size, power and explosiveness was one of the storylines of the spring. So tough is Edmunds that the defensive coaches have been fighting to get him to play linebacker. He’s a little raw, but the upside potential is becoming impossible to overlook.

Is this the year that 6-0, 183-pound Tony Gregory remains healthy for an entire season? The fifth-year senior has endured a number of knee injuries as a Hokie that limited his upside. The inspirational and selfless veteran did start two games last season, carrying the ball 64 times for 311 yards and a touchdown.

Fullback, always an important role in this offense, belongs to Riley Beiro. The squat and rugged 5-9, 229-pounder played the first four games of 2012 before being shut down with a shoulder injury. He won’t run the ball, but can be a factor as a receiver in the passing game.

Watch Out For .... the outcome of the suspension of sophomore Michael Holmes. The 6-0, 208-pounder was charged with a felony in April for his alleged involvement in a fight. He started five games in his rookie year, rushing for 280 yards and four scores on 70 carries. If he returns to the team, head coach Frank Beamer said Holmes would be listed at No. 2 on the depth chart.
Strength: Depth, relatively speaking. In relative terms, the Hokies are deeper in the backfield than they were a season ago, when the leading returning running back was a walk-on with 30 yards on six carries. Assuming Holmes can get out of the paddy wagon, Tech will be returning last year’s three most productive backs.
Weakness: Lack of a true feature back. Coleman and Holmes are nice players, but can either seriously be considered a go-to guy worthy of 20-25 carries a week? It’s debatable. Edmunds is certainly on the rise, but like Holmes at this time last year, he has yet to log his first carry as a college athlete.
Outlook: The Hokies were forced to employ a committee last year, but would prefer not to go that route this season. But who’s the main guy? It could take the entire summer before someone emerges. Coleman is the safest bet, yet Edmunds is coming on quickly. Virginia Tech needs Holmes in the mix for his talent, but also because he impacts the unit’s depth and competitive environment.
Rating: 7

Receivers

The graduations of last year’s top three receivers mean QB Logan Thomas will have more than just his mechanics to worry about this summer. The return of senior D.J. Coles could not have come at a better time. The super-sized 6-4, 238-pounder sat out last year with a knee injury, which will wind up being a blessing for the 2013 squad. The split end is similar to last year’s flanker Marcus Davis, a big and strong target who can run. At his peak, he caught 36 balls for 480 yards and three touchdowns in 2011.

The complement to Coles at flanker is sophomore Demitri Knowles, a much smaller and faster version on the outside. The 6-1, 177-pounder is still learning, but the staff is confident that he has the jets and the work ethic to evolve into a capable deep threat. It’s on the more routine routes that the program needs him to become a reliable target with sticky hands.

Two-time letterwinner Ryan Malleck is back for his junior year after starting seven games at tight end last season. The 6-4, 248-pounder is a better receiver than blocker, catching 17 passes for 174 yards in 2012. He adjusts nicely to balls in the air, and will have even higher expectations now that last year’s neck stinger has subsided.

The reserves are going to be young and evolving as the season progresses. Behind Coles at split end is 6-1, 189-pound redshirt freshman Joshua Stanford. He has explosive tendencies, and was set to play as a rookie before getting injured. If he can learn on the fly, he’ll have a chance to make plays in this offense. Backing up Knowles at flanker is 6-0, 184-pound sophomore Kevin Asante. He, too, struggled to stay healthy, making just two grabs for 18 yards in 10 games.

Watch Out For .... Coles’ health and conditioning. Neither area appeared to be in tip-top shape in the spring, which ought to concern Hokies’ coaches and backers. The passing game really needs the senior to become the leader of the receiver corps, but he’s carrying more weight than in 2012, and wasn’t always going at full-speed in April.
Strength: Potential for mismatches. With Coles on one side and Knowles on the other, Virginia Tech has the measurables to beat opposing defensive backs with their size and speed, respectively. The Hokies possess the raw physical ability to develop into capable threats through the air for Thomas.
Weakness: Proven talent. The Hokies are pinning a lot of their hopes on Coles, and he’s a player who’s coming off a knee injury and has just three career starts. Knowles leads all returning receivers with 19 receptions. As of right now, Tech doesn’t have that one player opposing defenses must scheme to stop.
Outlook: Virginia Tech lost a lot to graduation and could spend the year trying to develop new playmakers in the passing game. Coles and Knowles are not without their attributes and potential. But neither has done enough up to this point to be considered a sure-thing on the outside. Thomas would be wise to uncork more throws in the direction of Malleck, an underrated tight end.
Rating: 6.5

Offensive Line

A Virginia Tech O-line that seems to be a perpetual issue will be breaking in a pair of new tackles. New line coach Jeff Grimes will be a busy man this offseason. The strength of this unit will be on the interior, where three starters return. Experienced senior Andrew Miller started the first seven games of 2012 at center before going down with a broken ankle. However, by the end of spring, he’d been moved to right guard. The 6-4, 293-pound grappler is a former wrestler, benefiting from his toughness and the use of his hands.

The play of 6-3, 303-pound junior Caleb Farris at center this offseason has allowed Miller to move outside to guard. Farris actually filled in for Miller in 2012, starting five games after the incumbent was injured. Grimes likes his blocker’s versatility, also giving him occasional reps at left guard.

Starting at left guard will be 6-5, 301-pound junior Brent Benedict, a transfer from Georgia. The former four-star recruit from Jacksonville, Fla. started half a dozen games in 2012, getting acclimated to a new system. He’s mature, hard-working and powerful at the point of contact, coming off a terrific year in the weight room.

Versatile 6-3, 291-pound junior Matt Arkema started a pair of games at left guard a year ago, but is currently backing up Farris at center. Not to be forgotten is seasoned 6-2, 291-pound G David Wang, a 10-game starter last year. He’d be hard to keep out of the lineup if he could ever stay healthy, but he’s had a string of problems, including another foot injury in April.

The Hokies have options on the interior … and uncertainty at tackle. A pleasant surprise did emerge in the spring. Rookie Jonathan McLaughlin is still in a dogfight, but he’s taken the lead at the all-important left tackle position. After graduating from high school, he signed with East Carolina, but didn’t qualify, and needed a year at Fork Union Military (Va.) Academy. McLaughlin has looked as if he belong so far, getting named offensive newcomer of the spring.

Attempting to stunt McLaughlin’s growth on the left side will be 6-7, 314-pound junior Mark Shuman. He looks the part, and has long arms, but hasn’t been healthy long enough to approach his potential as a pocket protector.

There’s a little less competition at right tackle, where junior Laurence Gibson has moved out to a lead. The athletic 6-6, 303-pounder from Arizona hasn’t played a ton of football, which is one of the reasons that Grimes and the coaching staff believe that his best days are still ahead of him.

Watch Out For .... the post-spring depth chart to look very different than the opening day depth chart. The staff has an idea of who’ll be in the starting lineup for the opener with Alabama, but where everyone lines up is still somewhat in the air. There’s a lot of shifting that could take place between now and September, pending the health and development of the contenders.
Strength: The interior of the line. Tech legitimately has five veterans it feels are capable of handling the three spots on the inside. Miller and Benedict are arguably the unit’s most reliable blockers entering 2013, which should allow the Hokies to run the ball more effectively between the tackles.
Weakness: The tackles. McLaughlin has surprised, and Gibson has plenty of room for growth, but they’re liable to be taken to school by some of the ACC’s better pass rushers. The Hokies will have trouble keeping the pocket clean in 2013, a perennial problem in Blacksburg.
Outlook: Tech was in worse shape up front at the start of 2012, but that’s small consolation as a new season approaches. Grimes is insisting on versatility and toughness from his blockers, which makes sense in theory. However, his inherited personnel is just average, with a particular concern about protecting the flanks.
Rating: 7
 
- 2013 Virginia Tech Preview | 2013 Virginia Tech Offense
- 2013 Virginia Tech Defense | 2013 Virginia Tech Depth Chart