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2009 Virginia Tech Preview - Offense
Virginia Tech RB Darren Evans
Virginia Tech RB Darren Evans
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Jun 11, 2009


CollegeFootballNews.com 2009 Preview - Virginia Tech Hokies Offense

Virginia Tech Hokies

Preview 2009 - Offense

- 2009 CFN Virginia Tech Preview | 2009 Virginia Tech Offense
- 2009 Virginia Tech Defense | 2009 Virginia Tech Depth Chart
- 2008 VT Preview | 2007 VT Preview | 2006 VT Preview

What you need to know: The Hokie offense was supposed to be feeble in 2008, and failed to disappoint, averaging just 303 yards and 22 points a game. Furman held Tech to just 24 points, which is all you need to know about last year. Better days, however, should lie ahead if the offense can find a replacement for Darren Evans, the star back who suffered a torn ACL in fall camp. Eight other starters return from a year ago, including developing QB Tyrod Taylor and all of the receivers who required training wheels last fall. Painfully young, the Hokies are all a year older, which, coordinator Bryan Stinespring hopes, will translate into fewer mistakes and more big plays. While Tech remains a devout ball-control offense, it could have the right mix of talent to get inventive every so often in 2009.

Returning Leaders
Passing: Tyrod Taylor
99-173, 1,036 yds, 2 TD, 7 iNT
Rushing: Darren Evans*
287 carries, 1,265 yds, 11 TD
Receiving: Danny Coale
36 catches, 408 yds, 0 TD
*Evans is out for the year with a torn ACL

Star of the offense: Senior LG Sergio Render
Player who has to step up and become a star: Junior QB Tyrod Taylor
Unsung star on the rise: Redshirt freshman RB Ryan Williams
Best pro prospect:  Render
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Render, 2) TE Greg Boone, 3) Taylor
Strength of the offense: Protecting the ball, the ground game
Weakness of the offense
: Protecting the passer, passing offense, red zone scoring, lack of big plays

Quarterbacks

Projected Starter: Now that Sean Glennon has graduated, it’s officially the Tyrod Taylor
show in Blacksburg. Yeah, he’s been instrumental over the last two seasons, but there’s no longer a safety net or anyone looking over his shoulder. The 6-1, 216-pound junior was supposed to redshirt in 2008 to salvage a season of eligibility, but was forced to abandon that plan in order to bail out the offense. He wound up leading the Hokies to an ACC title, rushing for 738 yards and seven scores and going 99-of-173 for 1,036 yards, two touchdowns, and seven picks. The numbers tell you everything you need to know. He’s one of the most dynamic scramblers in America, but needs to make considerable strides as a passer.

Projected Top Reserves: The newest name in the Hokie pecking order is one you won’t soon forget. Redshirt freshman Ju-Ju Clayton has used a strong offseason to win the battle for the No. 2 job. He’s cut from a similar mold as Taylor, blending poise and good feet into a thick, 6-0, 215-pound frame. While still unpolished, he has also displayed good arm strength, pocket awareness, and overall promise as a passer.

Clayton’s big spring means 6-4, 231-pound redshirt freshman Marcus Davis will do some moonlighting at wide receiver and be the team’s emergency third-string quarterback. A terrific physical specimen, he has a long way to go as a pure passer.

Watch Out For ... Taylor to begin turning the corner as a complete quarterback. His receivers will be much better, as will his pass protection. And he’s eliminated the hitch in his throwing motion, which was at the root of some of his problems. No, he won’t be channeling Jim Druckenmiller, but he is going to be more effective as a true dual-threat performer.  
Strength:
Athleticism. Taylor isn’t going to frighten you when he drops back to pass, but once he leaves the pocket, everyone in the stadium becomes fixated on No. 5. He has the speed and change-of-direction to make defenders look silly, especially when he breaks containment and gets into open space.
Weakness: Passing efficiency. Through two years, Taylor has been downright miserable as a passer, throwing just a pair of touchdown passes in 173 attempts and finishing 97th nationally in passing efficiency. Plus, he bird-dogs too many throws and is no threat on deep balls, allowing defensive backs to cheat up without impunity.  
Outlook: Taylor is going to be better, but how much better? The answer to that question will dictate whether the Hokies are national championship contenders or pretenders. He is a tremendous playmaker with the ball in his hands, but Tech is going to need more balance in order to navigate a very challenging schedule. Plus, the luxury of depth, which was here the last few seasons, is no longer at the program’s disposal.
Rating
: 7

Running Backs

Projected Starters
: The unrivaled rock star of the spring was 5-9, 205-pound redshirt freshman Ryan Williams, who regularly wowed everyone with his explosiveness and big-play ability. A two-stepper, who gets to top gear in a hurry, he can hit the hole on a carry or a catch and promptly bring the defense to its knees. He’s got that little something special, which the staff can’t wait to unveil in September.

The blocking back in running game will once again be 5-9, 220-pound senior Kenny Jefferson, a prototypical Hokie lead blocker, who won’t get many chances to touch the ball and isn’t going to complain about it. A co-starter in 2008, he’s alone atop the depth chart this fall.        

Projected Top Reserves
: After Branden Ore was kicked out of the program, Tech was forced to hold auditions for the feature back opening. sophomore Darren Evans answered the call in his first season of activity, rushing for 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns. A tough inside runner at 6-0 and 213 pounds, he can also bounce outside to pick up more yards, and has the soft hands to be a viable outlet in the passing game. With just one year of experience, he still has a full career ahead of him. Unfortunately, he tore his ACL and is out for the season, but it happened early enough that he'll have a full year to recover.

While sophomore Josh Oglesby didn’t earn the reps of classmate Evans, he still has a bright future ahead of him. At 5-11 and 207 pounds, he has the power to run through tacklers and the quick feet to bounce around them. He only had 88 yards on 38 carries last fall, needing to rebound in order to remain a relevant part of the rotation.

Although he sat out the spring—and most of 2008—with an Achilles’ injury, 5-9, 198-pound senior Kenny Lewis still has designs on returning by the opener and having a role in the running game. One of the veteran leaders and hardest workers on the team, his presence will help the underclassmen, even if he doesn’t get many touches.

Watch Out For ...
Williams. The hype is justified. Had it not been for some issues with blocking and picking up blitzes, he might have been more than a scout team wiz in 2008. With Evans out, it's his show now.
Strength: Depth. A major concern less than a year ago, the Hokies are now flush with talented, complimentary runners. Evans was the workhorse, but Williams is good enough to take over and shine. And Oglesby is an interesting “X” factor. If Lewis can return to health, Tech will have as much backfield depth as anyone in the conference.
Weakness: Blocking. It’s splitting hairs, but with so much youth populating the top of the depth chart, the tailbacks can be a little spotty picking up blitzes and keeping Tyrod Taylor from having to escape pressure up the middle.  
Outlook
:
Thank you, Branden Ore. His off-field adventures forced Tech to find his successor a year earlier than anticipated, which will continue to pay dividends in 2010 when Evans comes back. For now, Williams is going to have to be a star and QB Tyrod Taylor will have to use his legs more.
Rating: 7.5


Receivers

Projected Starters
: After suffering through year-long growing pains in 2008, the Hokie receiving corps should be poised for far more stability. Sophomore Danny Coale wound up being the steadying force of the unit, catching a Hokie freshman-record 36 passes for 408 yards. More steady than flashy, he has some of the best hands on the team and at 6-0 and 205 pounds, isn’t afraid to lower his shoulder in order to extend a drive.

The budding playmaker of the group is 6-2, 213-pound sophomore Jarrett Boykin, who started eight games as a true freshman and caught 30 balls for 441 yards and a pair of scores. A big and physical target, he has the massive hands to go up high and pluck the ball out of the sky. While not a straight-line blazer, he can dominate defensive backs with his strength, and is especially effective near the end zone.

Senior Greg Boone is back for one more, reprising his role as one of the nation’s most versatile—and biggest—tight ends in the country. A surprisingly nimble 6-3, 287-pound force, he’s started more games than all but one current Hokie, catching 22 balls for 278 yards and two scores a year ago. He’s also an emergency quarterback, lining up behind center on occasion in the offense’s Wild Turkey package

Projected Top Reserves
: The coaching staff has high hopes for 6-1, 192-pound sophomore Dyrell Roberts, Coale’s understudy at flanker. A running back in high school, he’s taken some adapting to a new role, catching 17 balls for 227 yards, but dropping more than he’d like. However, he has the burst and natural ability to eventually be worth the wait and extra coaching.

Senior Brandon Dillard was on his way to becoming one of last year’s go-to guys before suffering a season-ending Achilles’ injury. A 5-11, 177-pound former walk-on, he has outstanding speed and the work-ethic to be for the receivers what Kenny Lewis’ return would mean to the running backs.

While Boone is Tech’s best receiver at tight end, 6-4, 267-pound junior Andre Smith is the group’s most dominant blocker. A six-game starter last season, he caught 10 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown, but was most valuable when he gave the Hokies the equivalent of a third guard on running plays.

Watch Out For ...
a Sam Wheeler sighting. The 6-3, 258-pound senior is almost fully recovered from knee surgery, which erased his 2008 season. Before getting hurt, he was one of the ACC’s top pass-catching tight ends. If he can even approach his old form, it’ll give the Hokies uncommon depth at the position.
Strength: Size. Although the Hokies aren’t going to kill you with their speed, they are going to bully many secondaries with their considerable size, strength, and power. The receivers and tight ends are big enough to create match up problems and be effective downfield blockers, a must in this offense.
Weakness: Inexperience and inconsistency at wide receiver. It’s a better situation than a year ago, but the Hokies are still painfully young at wide receiver. The current two-deep has no upperclassmen, which is a recipe for unforced errors and dropped balls.
Outlook: Now that the dark days of a year ago have passed, the Hokies will continue to get better and better at receiver over the next few seasons. For now, they’re still a young and unpolished group that will flash greatness on one Saturday before stumbling the next. With proper support from the quarterback, Boykin has a chance to become the program’s next Ernest Wilford.
Rating
: 6.5


Offensive Line

Projected Starters
: Three starters return to a Hokie line that hasn’t delivered a complete season in a long time. Steady C Ryan Shuman is one of the departed, forcing 6-3, 277-pound junior Beau Warren into a full-time role at the pivot. The third of the Warren brothers to play in Blacksburg, he’s a heady, hard-working linemen, who gets off the snap very quickly.

On the left side is a pair of potential all-stars. Senior G Sergio Render is actually coming off a second team All-ACC season, his third straight one in the starting lineup. At 6-3 and 313 pounds, he’s a mauler, with the strong base and heavy hands to engulf defenders and dominate as a run blocker. A successful career in the NFL awaits.

At tackle, 6-5, 301-pound senior Ed Wang is back for his third season as a regular. Although he certainly looks the part and is light on his feet, the former tight end has struggled at times to fulfill his potential, especially as a pass protector. He has one more season and a lot of money at stake to put it all together and build on last year’s season-ending momentum.

Over on the right side, there’s an air of inexperience, as a couple of sophomores have locked down starting nods. At tackle, 6-5, 303-pound Blake DeChristopher is in the early stages of a very promising career with the Hokies. He started 11 games as a freshman, struggling with pass protecting, but also showing the tenacity and upside of a young player needing to hone his technique and fundamentals.

The least experienced of the starting five will be 6-2, 300-pound sophomore Jaymes Brooks, who’s bringing just one career start at guard into the season. The good news is that the start was a successful one in January’s  Orange Bowl win over Cincinnati. A physical run blocker, he’s capable of beating up opposing linemen in a phone booth.

Projected Top Reserves: Sophomore Greg Nosal took a big step in the spring toward becoming the first guard off the bench and the heir apparent to Render in 2010. At 6-6 and 285 pounds, he’s a former tight end, with outstanding footwork and the frame to be considered at tackle in the second half of his career. A quick learner, it’s clear that he’ll have a role in the future up front with the Hokies.

Ditto 6-5, 292-pound redshirt freshman Nick Becton, who has parlayed a terrific offseason into the spot behind Wang at left tackle. If he doesn’t get rushed into action and can develop at a manageable pace, he’ll have a chance to be a three-year starter in Blacksburg. Aided by long arms and good feet, he’s come a long way since taking up the sport as a junior in high school. 

Watch Out For ... Wang to have the best season of his Hokie career. It’s a salary drive year for No. 77 and he knows it. He’s had a good offseason, getting stronger in the weight room and taking on more of a leadership role. The opportunity is there for him to fly up draft boards if he can finally put it all together.  
Strength:
The left side. With Wang at tackle and Render at guard, there’ll be no mystery where most of Tech’s running plays will be going this season. In contrast to the other side, where a pair of inconsistent sophomores reside, the Hokies should have few issues to the left of Warren.
Weakness:
Pass protection. The Hokies’ inability to protect the quarterback has been one of the great mysteries in Blacksburg over the last two seasons. Despite what appears to be above average talent, Tech has been routinely whipped, finishing 115th and 111th nationally in sacks allowed in 2007 and 2008, respectively.
Outlook: The performance of this group will be one of the underlying barometers of how close the Hokies come to meeting preseason expectations. While the line should be fine at run blocking, pass protection continues to be a nagging sore spot that has to be solved. With the uncertainty from Warren over, Wang has to become a fortress at left tackle. 
 
Rating
: 6.5