2008 Virginia Tech Preview - Offense
Virginia Tech TE Sam Wheeler
CollegeFootballNews.com 2008 Preview - Virginia Tech Hokie Offense
Preview 2008 - Offense
2008 CFN Virginia
Virginia Tech Offense
2008 Virginia Tech
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2007 CFN Virginia Tech Preview
2006 CFN Virginia
What you need to know:
of many decisions the staff will make is whether or not both
quarterbacks will be featured prominently again this season. In
2007, Frank Beamer used Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon
extensively, often maximizing their complementary set of
skills. However, even with 11 games of experience now in the
vault, the dynamic Taylor is having a difficult time surpassing
the more experienced Glennon. The Hokies favor the running game,
but they haven’t been able to come up with the replacement for
Branden Ore. While Kenny Lewis has seniority, he’s recovering
from shoulder surgery, pushing Jahre Cheeseman and Darren Evans
into more prominent roles. The attack will revolve around four
experienced linemen headed by all-league candidates Sergio
Render and Ed Wang.
Passing: Sean Glennon
143-245, 1,796 yds, 12 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: Tyrod Taylor
102 carries, 429 yds, 6 TD
Receiving: Sam Wheeler
15 catches, 211 yds, 1 TD
Star of the
Senior QB Sean Glennon
Player who has to step up and become a star: Redshirt
freshman RT Blake DeChristopher
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman RB
Best pro prospect: Junior RG Sergio Render
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Render, 2) Junior LT Ed
Wang, 3) Glennon
Strength of the offense: Quarterback depth
of the offense:
Lack of proven skill position players, pass protection
Projected Starter: Last season, the Hokies found
that two quarterbacks can sometimes be better than one, but will
they use senior Sean Glennon and sophomore Tyrod
Taylor as freely this fall? While no official starter has
been announced, it was clear Glennon had the edge coming out of
spring. He has continued to mature since having a rocky
sophomore season, displaying veteran leadership and a total
grasp of the offense. One of the catalysts for last year’s run
to the Orange Bowl, he shook off a slow start to finish
143-of-235 for 1,796 yards, 12 touchdowns and five
interceptions, including a stretch of two months without a pick.
At 6-4 and 223 pounds, he has good zip on his passes and a
possible future in the NFL if he keeps working on his
Projected Top Reserves: The Hokies knew Taylor was
good when they signed him, but he exceeded everyone’s
expectations as a rookie. Providing a new and exciting dimension
to the offense, he was second the team with 429 yards rushing
and six touchdowns, while completing 72-of-134 passes for 927
yards with five touchdowns and three picks. A terrific
all-around athlete, he bulked up to 6-1 and 213 pounds, which
will be a handful for opposing linebackers and defensive backs.
Obviously, he lacks Glennon’s experience and polish as a passer,
but his ability to make plays is a must with the offense lacking
for big-play capability.
Watch Out For ... the staff to consider slapping a
redshirt on Taylor if he can’t beat out Glennon. Although it
worked well last year, the staff doesn’t appear to be completely
sold on again using a two-quarterback system. Of course, if
Glennon gets hurt or regresses, Taylor could be easily be
summoned from the sidelines.
Strength: Two proven quarterbacks. With Glennon’s
improving passing skills and Taylor’s multi-dimensional talents,
the Hokies boast the ACC’s best one-two punch under center this
side of Clemson’s Cullen Harper and Willy Korn.
Weakness: Consistency through the air. While
progress is being made, both quarterbacks are still prone to
making poor reads and putting too much air under their passes.
Tech was ninth in the ACC in passing offense, and things are
about to get a lot tougher because of the shortage of
Outlook: In an ideal world, Glennon leads the
offense for an entire year allowing Taylor to save a season and
get a better grasp of the system. Of course, Tech could also
find it hard resisting the temptation to harness the unique
abilities of both players. Whatever the outcome, the Hokies will
be in good shape behind center blending a veteran thrower with a
Projected Starters: First, leading rusher Branden
Ore was kicked off the team. Then, his replacements, juniors
Kenny Lewis and Jahre Cheeseman, suffered spring
injuries that required surgery. Yup, the race to replace Ore
will be tight and probably won’t be decided until late in the
summer. The 5-9, 199-pound Lewis is far less likely to be ready
for the opener, rehabbing a shoulder injury that could linger
into September. He rushed for 205 yards and four touchdowns a
year ago and began spring as the favorite to start.
Although Cheeseman broke his fibula in April, he’s expected back
in time for summer camp. A physical north-south runner at 5-10
and 205 pounds, he was turning heads in the spring before
suffering the injury. If he can get into peak shape, which got
tougher when he broke his leg, he’ll be in the rotation in the
The front-runner to replace Carlton Weatherford at fullback is
5-9, 216-pound junior Kenny Jefferson, a typical Hokie
lead blocker who won’t get many chances to touch the ball, but
will be used as an occasional pass-catcher.
Projected Top Reserves: The star of the future might
be poised to become the star of the present. Redshirt freshman
Darren Evans has as much talent as any back in
Blacksburg, and now he has the opportunity to put it on display.
At 6-0 and 215 pounds, he has the size and the leg strength to
break tackles and the soft hands to be a factor in the passing
Josh Oglesby is another redshirt freshman who could
factor prominently into the running game this season. For a
5-11, 211-pound back, he hits the hole in a hurry and has the
speed to make plays around tackle. Although he’s a rung below
Evans in the pecking order, it’s not so pronounced that the gap
can’t be closed in August.
Watch Out For ... true freshman Ryan Williams.
In any other year, Williams would be fitted for a redshirt. This
season, however, the 5-10, 205-pound high school All-American
will get a chance for immediate playing time in a jumbled
Strength: Inside runners. From Cheeseman to
Oglesby, none of the backs will be accused of dancing in the
hole or avoiding the area between the tackles. The Hokies are a
collection of physical downhill runners with the leg drive to be
effective, especially in short yardage.
Weakness: A proven feature back. If Lewis
is slow to get back in the fold, Cheeseman, a former cornerback
with 21 career carries, becomes the veteran of the unit. Evans,
Oglesby, and Williams have bright futures, but with freshmen,
there are no guarantees how they’ll perform when the lights go
Outlook: Ore’s off-field adventures have forced
Virginia Tech to find his successor a year earlier than
anticipated. Solid recruiting ensures there’s enough talent in
the backfield, but a committee might be needed in the early
stages of the season. If someone ascends to forefront, it’s
likely to be Evans, a gifted runner who’s ready to bust out.
Projected Starters: Now that last season’s top
five pass-catchers are no longer with the program, reliable
receivers who can help move the chains are desperately needed.
The tight ends will be fine, but the wide receivers have a long,
long way to go. Coming out of spring, junior Brandon Dillard
and sophomore Zack Luckett had nudged ahead in the
race for the starting jobs. A walk-on trying to earn a
scholarship, the 5-11, 180-pound Dillard has the blazing speed
to be the group’s long-ball threat in the passing. One of the
stars of spring the last two years, he’s determined to carry
that momentum into the start of the season.
In contrast, Luckett is a much bigger, more physical receiver
than Dillard. At a solid 6-3 and 212 pounds, he uses his body
well when the ball is in the air and is an underrated downfield
blocker. Physically, he has the tools to become a force, but now
he needs to work on the finer details of the position and
eliminate all of the dropped passes.
Junior TE Sam Wheeler was in the midst of a breakout
season when he tore ligaments in his knee and was lost for the
year. After catching 15 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown,
the 6-3, 269-pounder is making a gradual recovery, expecting to
be back on the field in time for the opener. Prior to the
injury, he was the team’s best receiving tight end and a threat
to turn a short hitch into a long gainer.
Projected Top Reserves: Junior Ike Whitaker, a
converted quarterback, will be taking another stab at getting
playing time at wide receiver. An impressive all-around athlete
at 6-4 and 220 pounds, he has the hands and size to earn an
increased role, provided he stays in shape and continues to work
on his route running.
Redshirt freshman Danny Coale won’t blow by many
defensive backs, but at 6-0 and 203 pounds, he’s a physical
pass-catcher who’ll do whatever it takes to spring a ballcarrier
or find the soft spot in a defense. In time, he’ll develop into
a reliable target who’ll do most of his work on the short and
Whether or not Wheeler gets back to 100%, junior Greg Boone
will have an important role in the passing game. At 6-3 and
290 pounds, he’s like having a sixth offensive lineman on the
field, yet still caught 11 passes for 167 yards a year ago. One
of the standouts of spring, he’s getting better at catching with
his hands and could be used more liberally this fall.
Watch Out For ... there to be Macho sightings in the
fall. All-ACC corner Victor Harris spent time at wide
receiver in the spring, looking sharp enough to warrant reps
when the season begins. The Hokies need his presence and
athleticism on offense, even if it means just a few scripted
plays a game.
Strength: The tight ends. Assuming Wheeler’s knee
isn’t an issue, Tech is stocked at the position. While Wheeler
and Boone have proven themselves as starters, 6-4, 260-pound
sophomore Andre Smith could wind up being the best of the
Weakness: Wide receiver talent. It’s inevitable
that the drop-off at this position from a year ago will be felt
throughout the passing game. Dillard and Luckett have two career
receptions between them, and neither looks ready to become a
Outlook: It’s a good thing Tech had the foresight
to go heavy on receivers in February because blue-chippers
Dyrell Roberts and D.J. Coles might be needed to
contribute right away. In order to win, the Hokie blueprint
never calls for the receivers to dominate, but they do need to
be more consistent and make a play every now and then.
Projected Starters: Even the return of four
starters isn’t enough for Virginia Tech to feel secure about a
line that grossly underachieved a year ago. Now that Duane Brown
has graduated, the new anchor up front is likely to be junior RG
Sergio Render, a two-year starter who’s on the lip of the
All-ACC cup. At 6-4 and 324 pounds, he has the upper body
strength to engulf defenders and open up running lanes for the
backs. The time is now for him to put it all together and become
one of the league’s best blockers.
Next to Render at right tackle will be the lone newcomer to the
lineup, redshirt freshman Blake DeChristopher. While his
inexperience is a natural concern, the staff loves his upside as
a total blocker. While take some lumps in the early going, he
shows tenacity and drive as a run blocker and the footwork to
prevent pass rushers from getting into the backfield.
Back for his second season as the starting center is 6-3,
313-pound senior Ryan Shuman, the leader of the unit. A
versatile blocker who has also logged time at guard, he’s had
problems with his knees, a growing concern heading into the
season. He’s a whistle-to-whistle warrior, but he becomes a
pedestrian blocker if the knees aren’t 100%.
One-time tight end Ed Wang could wind up being the best
of the offensive linemen once he gets more reps up front. The
6-5, 310-pound junior missed time with a broken bone in his leg,
but played well in his return, helping solidify the Hokie pass
defense. Light on his feet and strong at the point of attack,
he’s moving from right to left tackle to fill the void left by
It took a move from right tackle to left guard for senior
Nick Marshman to start playing up to his potential a year
ago. A lumbering liability as a pass protector, he’s far more
effective when he has a teammate on each side. At 6-5 and 357
pounds, he’s a physical run blocker who’ll be fine as long as he
doesn’t spend too much alone in space.
Projected Top Reserves: Providing competition for
DeChristopher at right tackle will be 6-6, 288-pound junior
Richard Graham. A versatile blocker who can also play guard,
he started six games a year ago when Wang was on the shelf. His
experience and ability to play multiple positions make him an
Shuman’s injury woes have had a silver lining for sophomore
Beau Warren, who logged valuable minutes as a freshman and
ran with the first team in the spring. He’s only 6-3 and 276
pounds, but has a great work ethic and is ready to move into the
lineup if his services are needed.
The best of a group of young guards is redshirt freshman Will
Alvarez, who’ll back up Marshman before attempting to
replace him a year from now. Massive and surprisingly agile at
6-5 and 327 pounds, the sky is the limit for one of the
program’s signature recruits of 2007.
Watch Out For ... this group make positive strides
as long as everyone remains healthy. The line got better as the
season progressed, and it should be better going into the year.
Much of the improvement occurred after Wang returned to the
lineup and Marshman shifted inside.
Strength: Physicality in the running game. In an
old-fashioned game of smash-mouth football, this group will be
hard to defeat. All of them are powerful drive blockers who’ll
bury the opposing defender until the whistle blows.
Weakness: Pass protection. Yeah, things got better
in October and November, but the Hokies still finished 115th
nationally in sacks allowed. And that was when current Houston
Texan Duane Brown was still in Blacksburg. At tackle, Wang needs
to exceed his potential and DeChristopher must play like he’s
been here before.
Outlook: Things can’t possibly get worse than last
year, especially with Render and Wang about to come into their
own as two of the ACC’s up-and-coming linemen. If the offensive
line is going to do its part to help jump start a suspect
offense, it needs to give the quarterbacks more time.