Way Too Early Expectations

The Hokies were tagged with a preseason ranking of 6th and 7th by the coaches poll in 2010 and 2009 respectively. The charge, same as it's always been, was to win the national championship. A familiar blueprint laid out the plan. A made for television game against a top ranked opponent to offset a weak conference schedule and... run that table. Things didn't quite pan out.

2011 was supposed to be a rebuilding year. Same goal, just not realistic to achieve. New quarterback, running back, an offensive line that's never really clicked and a young thin defense still licking its wounds and searching for an identity after an uncharacteristic campaign last year. I thought because of the uncertainty at some positions, and turnover of superstars at others, this would be the year we'd escape the lofty expectations of a championship from the media, prognosticators, and fans alike. Take a break, go play some football, and see and appreciate what goes down.

That didn't happen. The media marveled all off season over Logan Thomas' skills and athleticism, preseason magazines ranked the Hokies as high as 5th nationally and there's a chatter buzzing throughout Blacksburg not unlike the past couple of years. An encouraging month of spring practice convincingly answered questions concerning potential shortcomings. It's probably a combination of optimism and talent that has most people feeling good about the 2011 Hokies.

The schedule has me expecting more than I should from this team. A team can really only be judged by how they play their schedule, anything else is speculation, intelligent or otherwise. Luckily for the Hokies their schedule is the easiest of the ACC era. There's no big non-conference showdown, the Hokies aren't even playing a BCS school outside of the ACC. Lane Stadium plays host to the three best ACC teams: Miami, Clemson and North Carolina, they'll face all year. At the beginning of the season the they'll most likely be favored in every game. Right now, when analyzing the schedule, I can't pick out a single game and believe we'll lose it. Miami, Clemson, North Carolina, Boston College and even Virginia all figure to be better this year, but I wouldn't bet my money on any of them against the Hokies.

The schedule sets up perfectly for this team's inexperienced quarterback to get his feet wet. Inexperienced is the word that should precede every analysis of Logan Thomas. He's a supremely talented and imposing athlete, and from everything I've seen he's learning, quickly, how to be a college quarterback, but it's going to take time. I don't expect LT to be as polished a passer as Tyrod was last year in his first year, especially because first year quarterbacks under Beamer aren't very productive. However, I do believe Mike O'Cain being made play caller is part of a philosophy to tailor the offense around Logan. Plugging Logan in the middle of what the Hokies did offensively the last couple of seasons would be like fitting a round peg in a square hole. I expect Thomas to use his size and strength to his advantage. He'll carry the ball on designed runs more than Tyrod did, and he could very well become the player we rely on to get the tough couple of yards when we need them.

David Wilson will be responsible for gaining the majority of the yards on the ground. He'll try to replace two Tech legends, Ryan Williams and Darren Evans, in the backfield. Is he an every down back? That remains to be seen. It may not be that big of a deal because he'll have help if he needs it. Josh Oglesby is a capable back whose downhill running style will compliment Wilson's sizzle.

Thomas, Wilson, Oglesby or any other skill player will only do as well as the offensive line allows them to. This is the year Tech will have a dominate offensive line. Yeah, I know, that record is so played and normally I ignore it because the hook annoys me until no end. But the tune has been remixed a bit this year. Stinespring is coaching the tackles, freeing up Newsome to focus on the center and guards, which means more individual coaching. Not to mention the starters looked pretty good at the Maroon-White Game. The line has four senior returning starters and a handful of versatile qualified backups. If this isn't the year for them to bust out, then when is.

I miss the days when talking about a Tech defense all you had to write, "Bud Foster, 'nough said." Last year was the first time in a long while that the defense just didn't go out and take care of business each week. There were miscues and total breakdowns each game throughout the season. The defense was raw and dinged up. For the most part, the cast of characters remains the same, including stars Hosley and Taylor, and everyone has 14 more games of experience under their belts now. At his chalk talk Foster seemed very impressed with how much players like Jeron Gouveia-Winslow who struggled last season have improved. And he didn't preface discussions with a caveat of how young the players were like he did in 2010. 2010 was an outlier of an otherwise stellar track record for Foster's defenses. I have to believe a more experienced unit will improve from their 52nd overall ranking last season.

I guess I've done a pretty good job of buying into this team's potential. I do it every year. That's what makes the triage of the first loss so difficult for me. My expectations for a team with a green quarterback, new backfield and unproven offensive line and defense are lofty. That's big boy football, reload not rebuild. The schedule is as manageable as it can be though, and there are actual reasons to believe the Hokies can address the major areas of concern. At the bare minimum the Hokies should get back to the Charlotte to defend their ACC Championship.

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Comments

I agree with most points

Joe- I think you bring up some very valid points and criticisms. Much like you I have become truly jaded and at best cynical when it comes to VT's O-line production. Over the last few years we have seen them get worked and eaten alive by superior d-lines time and time again (see LSU in '07- best example...pure domination- I was so pissed but amazed and in awe at the same time of Miles D-line and our O-line looking freggin' clueless). If we want to compete offensively on the national stage it begins with improving the trench play. To be honest I see a talented o-line but one that lacks a real key component...size. Look at what Stanford (still smarting) did to these guys in the Orange Bowl- I mean Stanford, really? THEIR D-line seemingly outweighed our O-line by tons. This is an issue that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible. Though I love O-linemen who can get after it on sweeps and lead the way it doesn't really matter when the opposing DT/NG/DE requires a double team or a blitzing OLB destroys a G/T like a mack truck going through a particle board sheet of fake wood.

In terms of LT3 I am really looking forward to seeing how he develops particularly against this schedule. The Spring Game and practice sessions seemed incredibly encouraging and with O'Cain's teaching he has the potential to light up some defenses in the ACC. But like I said in the above paragraph it all begins with the O-line. Get that issue addressed (and Benedict was a hell of a start by the way) and we may really have something special with this team over the next few years. Unfortunately these receivers are seniors and probably won't fill that trophy case in Merriman. They will be the true strength of the offense just like the corps in '06 and '07.

Running the table in the ACC/OOC is not out of the question, particularly seeing as how UNC is losing players left and right while facing some truly stiff penalties from the NC two A. In the division they are the greatest threat. Miami though on the up and up still should be a 'w' since they're coming the 'Burg and they have their own issues (reminds of the 'U' of old- immensely talented but hardly motivated while some can't stay out of jail/academic trouble or both). UVA is still light years away from being remotely a threat and GT is breaking in a new QB so I don't see many issues there though it should be a great game as usual. I think we gotta be careful with Duke this year though. Seemingly the game gets closer and closer most years since we joined the ACC (minus '05 when Vick abused their defense in more ways than one) and I got a feeling they could shock the world either against the Canes, Heels, or, god forbid, us. I do see them extending their winning streak over UVA (hahahahaha...priceless).

LT3 should be amongst the ACC's best new QB's, Wilson will destroy some chicken sandwiches at Chick-Fil-A on Sundays and Saturday mornings before, during and after games while the D will step up- I have no doubt about this particularly after the horrific showing in the Orange Bowl. Bud will coach 'em up and with that talent it should be an intimidating unit for all opponents. Also Jayron Hosley will be the nations' top corner much like Jimmy Williams was in '05 when no one threw to his side of the field. I can honestly see that happening this year and Fuller stepping up big during some games.

Prediction: not too sure. Said 10-2 in other posts and Coastal Champs but the more I see the more I like (assuming the O-line FINALLY steps up). Could be 11-1/12-0 like year and if we play FSU for ACC Championship anything could happen. Both would be top 7 and have an outside shot at NCG (lets not kid ourselves- 1 loss SEC/Pac-12 team would go over an undefeated VT team in current pro-SEC/ESPN format. Would need both favorites to lose. Only FSU could really make a claim due to preseason hype going over either). Maybe Fisher will have a 'Beamer Curse'? How sweet would that be?

Virginia Tech '08
Fordham University (NY) '11, '12

Twitter: @duffmanhokie
PSN Handle: duffmanhokie1568 (NCAAF '12, NHL '11, Battlefield)

Hokies, NY Rangers, NY Jets, NY Mets (sigh), USA Hockey, Richmond Renegades (R.I.P)

mistakes

With everyone prognisticating via the crystal ball this year I think many fail to see the glaring issue that faces a reloading team. That would be mistakes. LT is not exactly freshly removed from the wrapping but he still needs some time in the sun to solidify. These first four OOC games I believe are the litmus test to how the rest of the year will go. I would love to see a curb stomping through each and every one of these but sadly I am not sold. I hate to play devils advocate here but its needed in light of all this hype. We are likely favorites in a majority if not all of our games this year and think we can do it but on D we absolutely have to minimize big play threats. Too many teams ran through our loosely gaped D-line last year. As well, albeit mobile I don't think LT can alleviate the O-line's miscues with a 16 yard ballet recital on a key 3rd down. This year will begin and end in the trenches. Losing Carmichael stings but the secondary is always well coached by Coach Gray. Fuller will have to pick up the slack as mentioned because coaches and QB's alike will think twice before lobbing it up to Jayron "ballhawk" Hosley. Talent is there, and probably some of the best we've had in many integral positions. Now, its how well the Lines solidify into a solid unit respectively. If they do the LT/DW/receiving corps can eat up defenses while our D-line holds the running game long enough to allow pressure and turnovers.

I wanted along with you and other Hokie faithful's to just watch this year play out as a springboard for the next but it looks like that luxury isn't provided.

Gird your loins

I'm not going to lie... my hopes were (unjustifiably?) high last year. I rely on gut feelings, and my gut was telling me we'd beat Boise State. I was not prepared for what transpired, and words cannot accurately describe the JMU game. Ok, maybe they can: HHHHNNNGGGGGGGGGG. So, for 2011-12, I'm not letting myself get too jazzed.

Joe, Duffman, and Hokiebonoz all make excellent points, and I for one am happy and relieved to see others share my somewhat lowered yet reasonable expectations.

I think we're still going to be dealing with some growing pains this year. Plain and simple: LT3 is a greenhorn. If Gameday happens to meander down to Blacksburg and you catch a glimpse of a crazed girl dancing to "No Hands" and juggling a box of Franz and a sign that says "LOGAN THOMAS IS NOT THE NEXT CAM NEWTON. LOGAN THOMAS IS THE NEXT LOGAN THOMAS" well, pat yourself on the back because you have discovered the elusive HokiESQ. I think he has a good head on his shoulders and rumor is that he's emerging as a good leader, but the kid is a r-Sophomore who saw very minimal time last season. He was impressive in that limited time, so I have hope. But I'm also expecting some frustrating WTF moments. Otherwise, I recommend you invest in some quality slow-motion equipment so you can catch a glimpse of my future baby daddy on his way to the end zone. Although I will say that, despite LT3's relative inexperience, I'm oddly not worried about our offense this year. I'm sure the Stinespring/O'Cain combo will make me regret ever saying that, but I'll try just a little optimism on for size.

The time for excuses with our defense is over. Bud won't take that shit anymore, and now that we have some starters with hair on their balls I expect our defense to start wrecking bitches again. Our early schedule will be extremely helpful giving the defense some exercise in pushing people around and building confidence. As for the secondary, the party line about JGW seems to be that he's a hard worker. I'm hoping JGW's hard work pays off, because both he and Fuller will need to step up their game, especially with the departure of resident Lil Jon doppleganger Lyndell Gibson.

I agree with duffman that our biggest problem is also the one we can do the least about - size on the lines. As the sister of a former O-lineman and current O-line coach, I am a big believer in big bubbas on the line. Our guys have decent size and great speed, but that speed won't do much good when they're sitting on their asses after a monster tackle comes across the line. We should be well-versed in managing this lack of size since its been an isue with the Hokies for some time, so I'm expecting big improvements in both of our lines.

So, say we survive the Clemson-Miami week-o-fun (sidenote: I'm definitely getting fired sometime between Oct. 1 and Oct. 8) and leave Winston-Salem 7-0. I am bracing myself for the Hokie Hoops/ ACC effect to hit... people will start talking about our weak schedule, and how we haven't beaten anyone of note. To those people, I say: shut the fuck up. Then I say: BOISE STATE. Remember when ESPN was fap fap fapping to those golden children despite them only beating up on Little Sisters of the Poor every week??? I think we can expect the opposite reaction with the Hokies. So, while our easy schedule can get us prime positioning for The Big Game talk, I think we'll be out of the picture in favor of the usual ESS EEE SEE teams (but not Tennessee, because, well LULZ)... who will eventually have to vacate their wins anyway.

NO TWEEDY, IT'S WHIP!!!!!!!

two things

1. The truck drivers I talk to have less dirty mouths. Bravo.
2. You had me at hair on balls.

^^What he said.

What's Important Now

High Hopes?

I have been through the emotional roller coaster of high expectations every year, and it seems to happen every year that I go to an NFL stadium (ECU in Charlotte, Alabama in Atlanta, Boise in DC) to open the year and I go home disappointed and with a very sour taste in my mouth. I was proud of the teams in the Boise and Alabama games, they played their hearts out, even with mistakes. Needless to say I am overjoyed to start the year in Blacksburg for a change. The thing that scares me this year is believe it or not, the two OOC road games. Marshall and ECU rarely get the chance to welcome in BCS competition and those teams will be ready to play, as previous stated ECU has done it before and can't be taken lightly. Marshall is still probably a few years away, but last year WVU was on the ropes in Hunington before they finally got their act together (much to my disappointment.) The point being with a young quarterback if you get your back against the wall on the road you are far more likely to make mistakes than you are in the comfy confines of Lane.

Clemson any other year would scare me as the first "real threat" to the Hokies, but after facing defending NC Auburn and the always hyped FSU team they will almost certainly be exhausted and not looking forward to a trip to Lane. Miami will almost certainly have growing pains under Golden and though I'm sure it will be a tight game I don't see Miami winning.

I don't want to set myself up for disappointment, but I just can't imagine Bud not getting this defense ready to play two years in a row. Taylor and Hosley will be massive game changers this year. Hosley Island will be alive and well and force quarterbacks to the other side of the field to a very talented Fuller, and I don't expect GW to make as many mistakes as last year.

And it would not be a VT11 post without mention LT3, frankly I think by the time he leaves Tech he will be one of the best we have ever had, his size and athleticism are incredible, and actually being able to see over the OLine to realize that Danny Coale is always open will help. This corps of receivers will definitely make LT3's job a lot easier, and Wilson is simply an incredible football player, who embodies the phrase gamebreaker.

I hope I am back in Charlotte to watch us defend the title, and hopefully it will be against an undefeated FSU team, though I can't see Oklahoma losing that game, if all the cards fall right, I don't see how an undefeated VT couldn't have a strong case for the BCSNCG. It would be all too poetic that a first year quarterback takes us into the Superdome.

For those to come, reach for excellence

this

"actually being able to see over the OLine to realize that Danny Coale is always open will help"

^This.

Agree

Like everyone else I am eagerly awaiting a passing game that doesn't neglect the middle 7-15 yards of the field. I still have no explanation for why the coaches didn't move Tyrod outside of the pocket on bootlegs or rollouts to give him a better view.

I also have trouble picking a single game in which we lose, but of course feel that an inexplicable loss will happen. It's football, that's how it goes. I feel Miami is always an indeterminable coaching change or not, and UNC's D-line worries me, especially because I also agree with Duffman's comments about our O-line. Our line is getting a lot of love from pundits, but I remain skeptical.

I am, however, extremely excited for what could be if they are "WHO WE THOUGHt THEY WERE." David Wilson is hilariously athletic, and I think he'll have a season better than most are expecting. The chemistry that seems to be developing between Thomas and Davis is exciting as well, even though I'm rooting for Coale to solidify his status of "Legend" in his senior year and gets plenty of looks. Logan seems to be a smart kid, and while I think he'll manage the game well, I'm excited for the flashes of brilliance we are certain to see. I can see him taking us to a whole new level of exciting.

On defense I'm more confident than most would be in a defense that finished 52nd last year. Much of this is because of Bud Foster obviously, but I also have huge faith in our personnel. Jayron will continue to be where the opposition's passes go to die, and I'm pretty high on Kyle Fuller. He impressed me big time last year and I think he'll build on that success in a big way. I'm sold on Bruce Taylor, and although JGW gave me my fair share of mini-strokes last year, I'll believe the coaches are just blowing smoke up our asses and that he has turned it around. Hard work is great, but unless it translates on the field I don't care, bring in Tweedy and the laughable animal comparisons the coaches have made. I'm just still in Cody Grimm withdrawal. In speaking to Orion Martin about James Gayle, he can't stop going on about him. His athleticism at that size is terrifying. His numbers in the weight room are hard for me to even imagine being real, and 4.4 speed with that frame should make any opposing QB soil himself immediately. Add in a more cohesive group, and Bud Foster jumping into some ass and I think we'll see opposing numbers go down.

Clemson does worry me, only because they usually have a sizeable line and Andre Ellington is better than his toe has let him be so far. His YPC is high, and stopping the run needs to be fixed by the time we play them. If we get through them, Miami is still worrisome. I always go back to the home game in 2005 when I get overconfident about our home-field advantage against Miami. Then again, 2003 and 2009 against Miami remain my favorite home games of all time. Boston College doesn't bother me one bit, Harris's numbers are attained through attrition, and Kevin Rogers < Bud Foster. If we play consistently though and get a bit of luck I don't see why we can't flirt with the possibility of running the table.

The schedule works so well for us, and FSU's hype-machine works in our favor, because I truly think we're a better team than they are. If we meet them in the ACCCG, I think it will be our's to lose. Last year was just too dominating of a performance to think that replacing a QB will make them magically better than us, and the Tomahawk Chop is a gesture that makes my eyes and ears bleed, unless done ironically.

I also think that, if undefeated, we would have a great shot at the Super Dome. BOLD STATEMENT ALERT!!! Given the SEC is more evenly matched than recent years makes me think none of them will go undefeated. Plus, I'm so sick of God's Conference. My dad is a die hard Tennessee fan. I've already settled that argument, now I want to settle the better conference excuse. I do think Oklahoma will go undefeated though. Landry Jones is the truth. As far as the Big 10's chances: Any conference that divides themselves between leaders and legends shouldn't make the Championship Game on account of douchebaggery and principal alone. I'm relying on the football Gods to ensure that a conference that refuses to listen to math play for a championship. Pac 12? Nah. Big Yeast? LOLZ

Either way, I'm wishing for the best, and going in hoping for the dream season. No matter what my expectations, I'll still be heartbroken over any loss. Tempered expectations or not, I hate losing just as fervently, and at least enjoy the feeling of blind hope while it lasts. Call me crazy, but I feel going in full-blast optimism is the only way to cheer, and praying for perfection is better than being that guy that's "just waiting for us to trip up". Screw that guy, he's a dick.

GO HOKIES!

@scobeard

38-0 bro

I realize how insanely contradictory my first and last statements are. The loss I feel is a result of statistical probability. The desire to hope for the dream season is how I'll approach the season regardless. I also don't listen to math.

@scobeard

38-0 bro

I think UNC is going to give us the most amount of trouble.

Their defense is embarrassingly talented. They're big strong and fast and their defensive line will give Newsome's bunch fits. The front-five is massive: 6-3 320, 6-7 340, 6-3 310, 6-7 315 and 6-7 310. Bigger lines always are trouble for our slightly undersized athletic front-seven (see Stanford). Bryn Renner is supposed to be the real deal at quarterback. They always play us tight and know what it takes to win in Lane on Thursday night. The pieces are there for a nice run before the NCAA hammers them back to irrelevance.

So true

"Cody Grimm withdrawal" pretty much sums up the entire defense last year, if not the entire season for the Hokies, yes Jayron was incredible but I feel like we lacked that hard working lunch pail guy on defense that seemed to always be at the ball.

For those to come, reach for excellence