I am really at a loss for words folks. The Hokie Spring Game format was designed to reinvigorate the fan base as an electric demonstration of power. The first team defense would run roughshod over the second team offense, and the offense was loaded up with every potential contributor and would light up what amounted to the 3rd team defense with the exception of the linebackers and corners, sendings the faithful home happy and selling the remaining season tickets for a weak home schedule.
Instead, a nightmare scenario played out for Frank Beamer and the Hokie offensive staff. Logan Thomas threw three brutal interceptions (two into heavy coverage while staring down his primary read) and one awful overthrow to a wide open DJ Coles in the seam. I am not sure if he was benched or the plan meant to give Mark Leal work, but it looked like he was benched and the crowd cheered when Leal came in. Worse yet, Logan seemed disengaged on the sidelines. He kept to himself, didn't talk much with the OL and receivers, and seemed to be allergic to the staff.
Perhaps even more disturbing, the offensive line, especially (from my vantage point) my guy Laurence Gibson and Caleb Farris, was completely ineffective creating the cutback lanes needed to execute the zone blocking scheme. And, most alarming of all, Scott Loeffler seemed to completely abandon the running game that must be successful in order to win games that, you know, count.
The Hokies looked like a tired, disinterested football team that was ready to get spring ball over with. Even the first team defense, which dominated, did so without much gusto. I didn't see the intensity that I heard about all spring, and now we inadvertently have at least the specter of a quarterback controversy and a reinforced cynical fan base that expects the worst from our offense.
I want an opportunity to watch the film so I can make a detailed analysis for what went wrong, but I want to share a few observations on what went right since I fear my film review will not paint the brightest picture. Here are some observations. I will post a film review by Tuesday, and over the summer we will post a high level football 101 series on the basics of the Scot Loeffler offense.
1) Linebacker depth was a primary concern for me coming into this game, but the two best players on the field may have been Devin VanDyke and Deon Clarke. Both repeatedly found seams in the top blocking and were in the backfield all day. I have concerns about DVD's size and ability to hold his gap fit when taking on blockers, but he was up to the task today.
2) Donovan Riley, Der'Woun Greene and Brandon Fayscon were outstanding in coverage and run support all game long. There were a few breakdowns, but all three made plays reading Logan Thomas's eyes and jumping routes. Meanwhile, Donaldven Manning played a very conservative game and didn't seem sharp breaking on the ball today. I think I'd feel better with Riley in that spot based what I saw today.
3) I have no idea where Corey Marshall was, but even without him the White defense line gave the starting OL fits. Nobody was more disruptive than Ken Ekanem, who looked like the early 2011 version of JR Collins tracking down plays from the back side. He decimated Laurence Gibson in pass rush situations and looked like he made a case to be in the rotation at stud end.
4) Trey Edmunds showed flashes of brilliance again today, breaking one long run and then breaking the ankles of a defender on a counter play. But he hurt himself with a drop in the passing game. Micheal Holmes had some production, but doesn't pass the eye test as a workhorse back. He also was impatient on two outside zones where the ends were successfully sealed inside, but he took short gains on the interior.
5) I didn't get to focus on the blocking as much as I liked, but the top three tight ends made plays in the passing game. Malleck was wide open on a stick route that he dropped in an early scrimmage, and this time made the easy catch and got upfield for a nice gain. When I paid attention, he was very effective blocking. Zach McCray made a nice diving catch up the seam, and both he and Malleck were wide open all day (along with Coles) against the depth safeties, but were rarely spotted in the progression. For the White team, Duan Perez Means made several catches on bootlegs and got behind the defense several times on play action corner routes, but wasn't targeted. All three made strong cases for being starters, while the fullbacks were used less than expected. Fuller Hoepner did get reps with the ones and made a nice first down catch on play action, but he wasn't finding Clarke or DVD in the running game.
6) Loeffler gave Jonathan McLaughlin some help in pass protection, but the true freshman seemed to hold his own pass blocking and appeared to be the only Hokie starting OL to get any movement in the running game. His wingspan is massive and he has a great motor for an offensive tackle, and his footwork looks better in person than on film. If you watched the offensive line conducting their warm up drills, you would have expected a much better day. Sadly, that effort and fundamental approach didn't translate to game conditions for this outing.
I wish I was more enthusiastic. Perhaps the film will tell a better story and we can find more positives. The format was terrible and complicated the whole mess with Thomas, and completely failed to give the top defensive guys any kind of look. The new offensive staff didn't seem to be nearly as engaged with the offensive players as I expected, and I am still troubled at the site of Logan Thomas alone on the sidelines after throwing those picks, not receiving any tutoring. It was eerily similar to the O'cainSpring era.
At the same time the offense is going against a defense that was designed to stop the inside zone and stretch plays through backside gap fills, and those defensive players have seen these plays for 3 weeks. Numerous individuals whose football opinions I respect insist that what we saw today was not indicative of the offensive productivity and effort from the other public scrimmages. With so many recruits, alumni, and fans in attendance, they picked one hell of a time to stink up the joint.
What other positives did you take away from this showing? Please, give me something.