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CFN Preview 2013 - Virginia Tech Hokies

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 6, 2013


CollegeFootballNews.com 2013 Preview - Virginia Tech Hokies


Virginia Tech Hokies

Preview 2013
 


- 2013 Virginia Tech Preview | 2013 Virginia Tech Offense
- 2013 Virginia Tech Defense | 2013 Virginia Tech Depth Chart
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By Richard Cirminiello

Head coach: Frank Beamer
27th year: 216-104-2
Returning Lettermen
Off. 20, Def. 23, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 21 26 3
Ten Best Hokie Players
1. DE James Gayle, Sr.
2. CB Antone Exum, Sr.
3. QB Logan Thomas, Sr.
4. LB Jack Tyler, Sr.
5. CB Kyle Fuller, Sr.
6. DT Derrick Hopkins, Sr.
7. PK Cody Journell, Sr.
8. ROV Kyshoen Jarrett, Jr.
9. WR D.J. Coles, Sr.
10. RB J.C. Coleman, Soph.
2013 Schedule
8/31 Alabama (in Atlanta)
9/7 Western Carolina
9/14 at East Carolina
9/21 Marshall
9/26 at Georgia Tech
10/5 North Carolina
10/12 Pitt
10/19 OPEN DATE
10/26 Duke
11/2 at Boston College
11/9 at Miami
11/16 Maryland
11/23 OPEN DATE
11/30 at Virginia
Frank Beamer has seen just about everything in his 27 years at Virginia Tech. Needing to rebound from a horrendous season, though, is going to feel like a new adventure for the venerable head coach.

The Hokies are coming off their worst season in two decades, finishing 7-6 in a year that they were expected to once again compete for an ACC title. It never happened, and little went until a season-ending three-game winning streak averted a bowl-less postseason for the first time since 1992. Losers of more than half of its last 15 games, Tech entered the offseason knowing that a change of direction was needed.

Bud Foster’s D is fine. Bud Foster’s D is always fine in Blacksburg. The 2013 version will be every bit as testy and assertive, bringing back nine starters, five of whom earned at least honorable mention All-ACC last fall. There’s talent, speed and experience at each level, though next-level CB Antone Exum suffered a knee injury during the offseason that has him questionable for the early stages of the season. If Tech is going to get back on track, it’ll be up to the offense to begin pulling a little more of the weight.

The Hokies were abysmal with the ball last year, ranking 81st nationally in total and scoring offense. And they regressed down the stretch, averaging 19 points over the final six games. Beamer responded by replacing underachieving coordinator Bryan Stinespring with Scot Loeffler, whose main priority will be to revamp the throwing motion and the confidence of QB Logan Thomas. No, Thomas wasn’t the only problem in 2012, but he sure was the cover boy of the futility.

With Loeffler monitoring his every move, Thomas needs to evolve, for the sake of his team and his NFL future. It will not be easy. There’s a new coach, a new offense and a dearth of elite talent with which to connect. The Hokies are uncertain in the backfield, even as the ground game becomes a bigger priority, and last year’s top two receivers are gone. Like it or not, Thomas will need to put this unit on his broad shoulders in 2013.

Virginia Tech is wading in uncharted waters. No 10-win season to look back on fondly. No additional hardware in the trophy case. The Hokies are working toward a recovery following an uncharacteristically sloppy campaign. The uber-consistent Beamer has enough talent on D—and the formula for success—to return to ACC contention, but only if the offense can take a quantum leap from last year.

What to watch for on offense: The battle for the starting running back job. The Hokies are committed to running the ball with more pop after averaging just 3.7 yards. But who’ll shoulder the load? No back rushed for more than 500 yards in 2012, and a starter hasn’t been named. Sophomore J.C. Coleman and rookie Trey Edmunds were neck-and-neck following spring, neither able to build much separation. Michael Holmes could be a viable option, but only if a spring suspension doesn’t carry over to the fall. The staff would like to lean on one guy, but only if he steps up and captures the job in August.

What to watch for on defense: Tariq-ing with potential. It was hard to watch LB Tariq Edwards attempt to play last season, because he just wasn’t himself. And he sure wasn’t the defender who looked like a rising star a year earlier. Edwards suffered a leg injury last offseason that just lingered throughout the fall. He was a non-factor at backer. However, the senior is healthy again and quickly amassing confidence. The Hokies need Edwards to recapture his playmaking ability, providing more support to unit leader Jack Tyler.

This team will be far better if … Cody Journell is bored on Saturdays. Journell attempted 25 field goals last year to rank 19th in the country. That’s too many three-pointers for a program that has to find the end zone with more regularity. Stalled drives became routine for Virginia Tech, which ranked 77th in third-down conversions and 100th in red-zone touchdowns. If the Hokies can’t ignite the offense and score more points, the Coastal Division is likely to be out of reach.

The Schedule: It's top heavy. Kicking things off against Alabama in Atlanta could be a national title statement in August - or it could be an ugly disaster - but there are plenty of chances to ease up on the throttle throughout the rest of the season. However, there's an awful break in conference play having to not only play Clemson from the Atlantic, but go to Death Valley. There's no Florida State, and getting Maryland and Boston College from the other division is a nice break, but the showdowns with Georgia Tech and Miami for the Coastal are on the road. Fortunately, other battles against North Carolina and Pitt are at home in back-to-back weeks. Closing out with three road games in the final four dates could be a problem with the regular season finishing up with the rivalry date at Virginia.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Logan Thomas. That Thomas is still the Hokies’ best offensive player is a bit of a problem. Yes, his potential is as long as his inseam, but he’s also a big fish in a shallow pond. The good news is that the 6-6, 262-pounder led the team with 524 rushing yards and nine touchdowns, impressive numbers for an athlete his size. The worry is that he regressed as a passer by going 220-of-429 for 2,976 yards, 18 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. If Thomas advances under new coordinator Scot Loeffler, the senior has a first-round ceiling in next April’s NFL Draft. Now all he needs to do is clean up his mechanics and maximize all of his physical ability.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DE James Gayle. The Hokies are flush with gifted defensive players, none better equipped at wreaking havoc than Gayle. At his core, he’s a phenomenal all-around athlete, the kind of explosive character that leaves opposing tackles without an answer. Despite being 6-4 and 253 pounds, Gayle is one of the best all-around athletes on the squad, ripping off a sub-4.5 in the forty. The two-time Second Team All-ACC pick drew all kinds of attention in 2012, yet shook it off to collect 43 tackles, 11 stops for loss, five sacks and a team-best 27 quarterback pressures.

Key players to a successful season: The offensive tackles. Really, it’s QB Logan Thomas, but that’s too easy of an answer. Thomas, though, is going to need plenty of help in his attempt to rebound, beginning with his bookends at tackle. The Hokies will have a couple of new starters on the flanks, with rookie Jonathan McLaughlin and raw Laurence Gibson in the lead on the left and right side, respectively. Now, Thomas is adept at escaping pressure and extending plays, but his accuracy really suffers when he’s forced to throw on the move.

The season will be a success if ... the Hokies capture the Coastal Division. The bar in Blacksburg is set no lower than winning the division and appearing in the ACC Championship Game. And that’s where it belongs. The Coastal is the weaker half of the league, and Virginia Tech has as much talent as any other contender for a crown. The Gobblers open with Alabama in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, but don’t have to face the best of the Atlantic Division, Clemson and Florida State.

Key game: Nov. 9 at Miami. From as far back as their days together in the Big East, the Hokies and the Hurricanes have played intense and meaningful games. This year’s bout at Sun Life Stadium should go a long way toward determining the winner of the Coastal Division. While North Carolina and Georgia Tech hope to be in the thick of things as well, Virginia Tech and Miami will begin the year as co-favorites to earn a trip to Charlotte on Dec. 7.

2012 Fun Stats:
- Third-down %: Virginia Tech 38% – Opponents 28%
- First-quarter scoring: Virginia Tech 51 – Opponents 84
- Sacks: Virginia Tech 35 - Opponents 25

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