Create the Narrative: Boston College Film Review

Like last week, there were a lot of positives that came out of Chestnut Hill. The defensive line again delivered a ton of pressure on the quarterback. The secondary essentially took away the Eagle's downfield passing game. The offensive line delivered their best effort run blocking since the Duke game. Seniors Marcus Davis, Martin Scales, and Randall Dunn made huge plays.

At the same time, I came away with a sour taste in my mouth. Boston College has been poor running the football this season, yet dictated the pace of the game by running between the tackles against the Hokie 4-4 scheme. The linebackers were terrible taking on lead blocks by H-backs and got pinned inside on counter and zone plays, and the defensive tackles (especially J.R. Collins and Luther Maddy) played with poor pad level and looked like they were playing on roller skates on throughout the game. And perhaps most disturbing, Logan Thomas had his worst game since East Carolina last season.

My Hate Week began with a sense of apathy and frustration despite the victory, but the dam broke after I read the following from noted sportswriter, author, and (former) Tech faculty member Roland Lazenby.

My mind flashed back to Frank Beamer throwing Danny Coale under the bus following the Sugar Bowl. This staff has had several ugly moments where it seems that their highest level of concern is with ensuring continued employment rather than making the football program better. This relatively benign tweet feels like a preemptive attempt by the coaches, through a leak of information, to create a narrative assigning blame at the feet of quarterback consultant George Whitfield. Whitfield worked with Thomas over spring break prior to spring practice, and in an interview with Washington Post writer Mark Giannatto, the QB guru said, "(Thomas) started basically playing quarterback as an upperclassman in high school and has basically been learning on the fly ever since."

This isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of O'Cain, who benefits one of two ways through Lazenby's tweet. If O'Cain is fired, this creates a narrative that Logan's regression was because of Whitfield, and it gives O'Cain an excuse if he applies for another job (i.e. Beamer looking out for him). Or, it is a preemptive PR strike by Beamer because he wants to bring O'Cain and Stinespring back, and they need a fall guy (Whitfield). Either way, logic can dismiss the assertion of Whitfield "ruining Logan Thomas" as a pure fallacy.

Let's examine the facts. Logan worked out with Whitfield for a week prior to spring practice. If Whitfield did mess up his mechanics (which I guess I can understand why this staff thinks that is possible since they also thought that they could learn an entire offensive system in a single trip to Austin, Texas), O'Cain had spring ball, August camp, and fall practice to correct any problems. The regression is damning. It is more damning when you learn that Whitfield has trained numerous elite NFL quarterbacks along with Johnny Manziel. Given track records, I will assume that Whitfield did great work with Logan, and O'Cain's pseudo-system which has leaned heavily on Logan for running in between the tackles has damaged his mechanics and confidence. More damning is my eye test. Logan's delivery during warmups for the spring game was MUCH more compact than his delivery during fall scrimmages, and his motion has continued to elongate as the season has progressed.

For me, this leads back to Beamer. This information being public serves no purpose other than to deflect blame away from the staff, and Logan Thomas is collateral damage. I'm much less inclined to believe in Beamer's vision. So much pressure has been brought to bear that I would be stunned if O'Cain or Newsome is retained. Ultimately, the fallout only hurts Logan Thomas, because by creating this narrative suggests that he is beyond fixing. The kid's confidence has been battered, but he remains the Hokies best bet for another ACC title run next season.

Thomas Under the Spotlight

Thomas' poor throws, reads, and fixation on a single target instead of working through his progressions kept Boston College in the game. In the first half, I noted six throws into double coverage. On many of those plays, Thomas had other options wide open, but never came off his primary read, and Boston College used their zone to converge on the primary receiver. Quarterbacking 101 is reading the play correctly, working through your progression, and making an accurate throw. With the exception of the beautiful ball to Davis that lead to the game tying field goal, I don't know if Logan had another great throw.

23:55–24:01

Here's an early stick route by Randall Dunn.

0:49–0:55

Dunn plants his inside leg and drives out, but Thomas throws it well inside, wrong-footing Dunn. Not a promising start.

On the next drive, Corey Fuller makes a circus catch for the long gain. Fuller runs a Go route up the seam, but he is doubled and should not be the target.

3:06–3:20

Logan stares down Fuller the whole way, while the far right vertical route is more open.

Logan usually is very comfortable throwing screens, and O'Cain called plenty of them to get Logan dialed in.

5:07–5:12

Logan throws the cross-buck screen to Roberts, and leads him low and inside. We never saw anything that looked like this last year.

When Logan struggles, he locks in even more on his primary receiver. Roberts (who should not have been getting any snaps) runs a hesitation post.

5:14–5:20

Logan stares down Roberts the entire way, the safety undercuts the route, and drops an interception.

The issue certainly wasn't receivers getting open. Boston College ran a Bill Walsh College Football '95 umbrella zone, but holes were abound. Here, the Hokies run play action, with the tailback leaking out and the receiver running the out.

6:46–6:53

Boston College has two defensive backs bracketing the sideline receiver, and take a look at how open Tony Gregory is as a check down. Yikes! This should have been an interception. It happened again later too.

11:47–11:55

If you pause the video at 11:50, J.C. Coleman is sitting all by himself underneath the deep zone.

Instead, Logan throws to Randall Dunn on a wheel route, where the coverage is playing underneath Dunn with help inside and deep. Even if Thomas never finds Coleman, he can't attempt that throw.

Here was the sharp dig route by Davis on a critical third-and-goal.

14:45–14:52

Logan finally comes off of his initial read, but a little late. Davis was open on the sideline early and Boston College should have been able to recover. Luckily, they were Boston College. Davis made a great play to get upfield and give Thomas the chance to sneak it in.

Even the bomb to Davis, a throw Logan usually executes well, was behind him.

18:27–18:35

Davis had two steps on the corner, and had to break stride to come back and find the football.

I don't know what is wrong with Logan. Is he physically beat up? Does he lack faith in his receivers or o-line, and feel like he has to make all the big plays? I will do my best to come up with theories in the offseason, but my compass continues to point at True O'Cain. I do know that UVA would be one hell of a time for him to break out of his funk.

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Comments

If the coaching staff is blaming Logan's poor performance on the qb school in calif.... Why the hell has Mike O'cain not fixed him by the 11th game of the saeson?!?!

"Go Hokies!" - Thomas Jefferson
@HaydenDubya

because he sucks

thats it.

“I hope that they’re not going to have big eyes and pee down their legs so to speak,” -- Bud Foster

Thanks French. FWIW none of your video clips are set correctly. They all start at the opening kick off.

Another great write-up French, but one thing puzzled me.

You wrote "The offensive line delivered their best effort run blocking since the Duke game." I wasn't impressed with the OL at all, to be honest. They pass-protected well, as they usually do. But once again their run-blocking proved to be spotty at best, especially considering that they were going against an undersized BC defensive line.

As for Lazenby's comment, I wouldn't be so quick to bash the staff on that one. It's entirely possible that those sentiments were conveyed to Lazenby with the expectation that they wouldn't be broadcast on social media.

But yes, you are quite correct in pointing out that even if the training in California had messed up LT's mechanics, Mike O'Cain has had more than enough time to get them corrected by now. In fact, I think this actually strengthens the case for letting O'Cain go at the end of the season.

Like you, I will be surprised and disappointed if either O'Cain or Curt Newsome is on the staff next year. I will be equally disappointed (but not as surprised) if Bryan Stinespring is still our offensive coordinator, although I sincerely hope that he will remain on the staff in some capacity, perhaps as TE coach and recruiting coordinator instead. That would give us an offensive staff of ...

Shane Beamer (RBs)
Kevin Sherman (WRs)
Bryan Stinespring (TEs and recruiting coordinator)
????? Todd Washington, maybe? (OL)
????? (QBs and new offensive coordinator)

I would much rather see Shane Beamer moved over to Special Teams Coach/Recruiting Coordinator and let the new OC bring in his own offensive staff that fits his philosophy. Shane coached special teams at SC and seemed to do well, plus this would also take some heat and responsibility off of Frank's back as he winds down towards retirement.

I'm here for the memes, I just stay for the football.

Agree with you Stud. Particularly the middle of the OL was being pushed back all day. Caleb really struggled with the Nose. The bad snaps were a result of Caleb trying to get into his stance quicker than usual. I wonder how many times Caleb has had to block head up on a nose guard this year? Wang was getting pushed backwards per usual, and even Benedict was missing some blocks.

Wang is just bad. I can't understand why he gets any PT at all.

He's been a huge disappointment for me this season.

"As for Lazenby's comment, I wouldn't be so quick to bash the staff on that one. It's entirely possible that those sentiments were conveyed to Lazenby with the expectation that they wouldn't be broadcast on social media."

I don't think it's really a point of it making it to the public via social media (which is irritating yes)....it's more that if they even really THINK that, it shows arrogance, cronyism, and self-preservation. Considering Whitfield's track record to boot, it makes our coaching staff seem flat out silly and ignorant if they really believe that a week with Whitfield has caused Logan to regress so much.

I have a few theories:
- we have NO running game to support Logan, no superstar (enter DMFW) in the backfield that demands attention
- we have a weak ass offensive line .. period. Consider the talent on the line and the fact that it takes most of these guys 3-4 years to CONTRIBUTE, he probably has very little confidence in his oline
- enter the pressure of being a preseason draft god -- He doesn't want to get hurt so he's making quick reads, bad throws -- not to mention the fact that he's being expected to wear about 10 hats

This coaching staff is bad, bad, BAD, about not taking responsibility for losing the game. I don't give a fuck if the players lost the game or not. Part of the job of being a CFB coach is taking responsibility. Fact of the matter is this: Except for FSU (and Clemson offensively and UNC in spots), VT has more raw athletic football talent than anyone they've played. They were manhandled by Pitt, beaten by Cincy, embarrassed by UNC. Regardless of why, they're not being prepared in practice or game-planning well enough and that falls on the coaches. Execution has been bad across the board but it ALL falls back on the coaches.

Agree on almost all of your points, except...

"He doesn't want to get hurt so he's making quick reads, bad throws"

Hes not making quick reads as much as hes staring down receivers to the point where everyone in the stadium knows who hes looking for. You want to play on Sundays? Go through your progression expeditiously and make the correct read...it's not as though if you stare at him hard/long enough, he's miraculously going to become open.

And great points in your last paragraph; there has been an attitude problem at times this season among the players, and that culture begins and ends with the coaching staff.

Good write up French

Logan is still are best option at QB. I tried to look at his mechanics and on the plus side he didnt appear to be throwing off his back foot as much.

A new season...new hope

Thanksgiving's ruined

I'm fucking incensed after reading that Lazenby comment. There will be no change to the Blacksburg-based monopoly on idiocy known as "O'Cainspring" in 2013. This comment proves it. Furthermore, using Logan as the scapegoat is appalling. I'm furious.

Thanksgiving is ruined.

Great write-up as always, French.

"You know when the Hokies say 'We are Virginia Tech' they're going to mean it."- Lee Corso

I may be wrong, but I think you will be proven incorrect.

I believe that significant changes will indeed be made to the offensive coaching staff in the off-season.

I've noticed

A lot of his interceptions have come on balls he has tried to throw with touch. I'd rather him make a crisp, tight, hard throw on the intermediate routes (like he was last year especially on the slant route/skinny post) than try to give the receiver an easy ball to catch if they don't catch it or you break their finger so be it.

UVA: Jefferson's biggest mistake

@pbowman6

Blacksburg has gone from a place where hard work makes you successful to a shit eating old boys club.

Hey everyone. A couple of quick notes:

1) I know this post was very negative and puts the spotlight squarely on Logan Thomas. Please don't read into this as an endorsement of Thomas being benched or not ultimately returning to being the superstar we saw towards the end of last season. He also had one more additional excellent throw on a sharp quick out route to Davis prior to the touchdown throw.

I think the footwork for the new offense really screwed him up. Last season, the offensive was perfectly designed for him to be successful. He had a good pass blocking offensive line that gave him time in the pocket, dependable wide receivers, and a big threat at running back that forced defenses to respect outside running. If Stinespring and O'Cain had just built on that formula and added the appropritate plays (tight end veer release, speed option, lead read option), and then learned to call plays in a sensible rhythm, things could look much more promising right now. Plus, not having a viable workhorse back to move the chains when Logan is struggling, has killed any chance to let him have a bad game against a decent team and still win. Folks have implied on twitter and here that perhaps Edmunds wanted to be redshirted and that is why he hasn't played. Coleman has a ton of promise, but the reality is, on way too many 3rd and 3's, he has not gotten an inch after contact after 2 1/2 yards. Scales showed how valuable a power back is when he got the first down in OT on Saturday. And, Edmunds is a FAR superior player to Scales. There is no excuse for him to not be in the lineup, and it has cost the Hokies at least three wins this season.

2) I touched on some of the positives and negatives from this game. For example, I thought the offensive line had some success getting push on interior running plays. Yes, Wang got stonewalled a couple of times (I am beating a dead horse at this point) and Benedict and Farris both had some "YIKES" moments, but they did open several nice holes throughout the day. Note, Logan was not used on the read option until overtime. Those were the backs getting tough yards inside.

I am writing a follow up post now. Hopefully it puts a better taste in our mouths.

Viva El Guapo

BC Part II

Despite the negatives coming out of this season and the narrow escape against the lowly Boston College Eagles on Saturday, there was good to be found. I hate when Beamer says “if one or two plays went another way” because proper preparation makes those plays go your way, but this team is closer to a 10 win team than most of us care to admit. I wanted to use my free time over the holiday to point out some of the good adjustments by the coaching staff and great individual efforts by the players.
The Screen Game
I know, I know, I know. TKP readers and many football fans hate the boring wide receiver screen game. You won’t find that attitude here though. The Hokie staff has used a variety of wide receiver screens as a supplement to the running game. Each variety is a relatively safe play that serves the dual purpose of getting 4-7 yard chunks of yardage to set up reasonable down and distance situations and getting their quarterback some confidence with a couple of easy throws.
The screen game has not been as effective this season, as defenses have played more cover 2 zone (due to the lack of a consistent running game) and the available receivers are not nearly as effective blocking. To his credit, Mike O’Cain used the screen game to try to get some productivity from Logan Thomas on Saturday, but he made an interesting adjustment to allow the play to be successful despite the lack of blocking flankers.
The Hokies lined up in a five receiver look, with Randall Dunn in the slot to the short side and Kevin Asante out wide. http://youtu.be/GASYLtgCZoc?t=4m54s Rather than use a receiver as a lead blocker, O’Cain has Asante run a cross-buck screen, but with Dunn criss-crossing to block the corner, and Vinston Painter leaking out to lead block on the safety who has man responsibility on Dunn. INSERT SCREEN IMAGE. Dunn provides an excellent kick out block, turning the corner out to the sideline. Painter intercepts the outside linebacker (no easy accomplishment for a 300 pound man) and drives him down the field with tremendous footwork.
When you see a play like this, it makes you scratch your head. It features an excellent coaching adjustment. You see players who have struggled to contribute after half a decade in the program looking like they have NFL caliber ability. And yet, the offense as a whole continues to struggle. Why?
Good and Bad Up Front
As I indicted in my previous column, the Hokies had success running straight ahead power plays and veer at the Eagles. Granted, Boston College has been terrible against the run this year, when the Hokies run on the interior, generally they have had success. Even against Florida State, the Hokies kept FSU honest on the interior, and it opened up other parts of the game.
The Hokies kicked things off with a straight counter lead, where the fullback dives and lead blocks into one whole while the tailback hits a different hole. It is effective against teams which teach linebackers to follow the fullback to the football as their first read against the I. http://youtu.be/GASYLtgCZoc?t=6m33s This play exemplifies the benefit of a quick hitting power play, in that it only requires a good interior push and doesn’t need effective receiver blocking. The interior of the Hokie line creates a 4-5 yard bubble on the inside of the BC line. David Wang effectively turns out the 3 technique, and Caleb Farris and Brent Benedict combo to turn outside the one technique. Benedict gets his head inside, and Farris moves on to the linebacker along with Joey Phillips. End result is a nine yard gain. The Hokies had success later with the same play, this time with Wang turning the defensive tackle inside and using good feet to create a small bubble off left tackle. http://youtu.be/GASYLtgCZoc?t=17m31s
They also used motion and the fullback offset to run the same play. http://youtu.be/GASYLtgCZoc?t=17m36s Here, the Hokies zone block up front. The general rule is to take a playside step, and engage the first player who crosses your face. Becton successfully scoop blocks the right defensive end, who is influenced by the receiver motion and hesitates to dive inside.. This allows Becton the extra second to get his head inside. The one technique stunts from Wang’s gap across Via’s face, and Via takes him right where he wants to go. This allows Wang to get to the linebacker, which he does easily.
Again, Farris and Wang combine to throw an outstanding combo block, with Farris going to the linebacker on this critical third down run on the game tying drive. http://youtu.be/GASYLtgCZoc?t=24m13s It looks so easy, but the Hokies do not utilize this bread and butter work in big games.
Also, consistency continues to be an issue. The guards and center are still dropping too far back before initial contact on pass pro, which causes Logan Thomas to be unsettled in the pocket with the guards in his lap. We all saw Wang and Via get stonewalled on the most critical pla of the game, the Martin Scales all-effort 3rd and short where he got no help in OT. And, even Mr. SEC Brent Benedict can’t win battles without proper fundamental footwork. http://youtu.be/GASYLtgCZoc?t=24m18s The Hokies run the pistol veer, and Benedict attempts a throw technique with completely dead feet. The defensive tackle gets into his chest, and makes a dominant looking tackle for loss while Benedict ends up looking bad. Against a poor run defense like BC, and this weekend where getting first downs running the football will be critical in windy Lane Stadium, nobody can afford this kind of mental lapse.

Viva El Guapo