The Key Matchup, how to turn the Tide
Here we are, less than 5 days from playing Alabama and everyone is hitting the panic button. Myself included. Our team is riddled with injuries, we are incorporating a brand new offense, and weve had attrition during fall camp like weve never seen before. I get ittime to get worried, right? Not so fast. I took it upon myself to analyze Alabamas weaknesses in an effort of determining whenand how we can derail their game plan. My findings? Read below.
Alabama is stout at every position. They have first-round draft material throughout their lineup, honing in the best talent that high schools have to offer each year. We as Hokies can attest to their recruiting prowess, as we saw first hand this offseason the ripple effect certain QB recruits had on our big board. Nonetheless, there is one area that has shown a crease in the armor: the offensive line. Now I could go on and on about the dynamics of their new offensive line coach, and how that marries up to our defensive mind-set. Mario Cristobal, in his first year at Alabama, was formerly the head coach of Florida International University from 2007-2012. He had a brief stay at the U before accepting the vacancy under Saban. That topic is another day another storybut for now, lets look at the players on the field.
In the draft of 2012, Alabama sent 3 of their starting offensive lineman to the NFL within the first 4 rounds. Their center, Barrett Jones, won the Rimington Award as the nations best center (he went in the 4th round to St. Louis). The other two big-ugglies? Both first-rounders. Alabama has some very big shoes to fill on the offensive side of the ball. Let me briefly highlight who is returning, finishing with the key matchup that could be the secret to Hokie Nation shocking the world on August 31st.
On the right side of the ball, you have first year starter Austin Shepherd. Austin is 6-5 at 315lbs, getting his first significant reps this year as a R-Jr. Austin was recruited out of Georgia and has spent the majority of his time in college as a back-up. He is most recognizable by his man-beard, a Blake DeChristopher look-alike if Ive ever seen one. He will present a sizeable task for the Dadi Nicolas/JR Collins combo, but one I give to the good guys.
+1 VA Tech
Moving inward, we come across Anthony Steen at RG. Anthony has a mean streak a mile wide and is the leader of this OL. He is one of two returning starters but is the smallest in stature. He stands at 62 312 lbs and is hell-bent on beating Virginia Tech. He is the heart and soul of this offense. He wins the individual battle against Luther Maddy.
Onwards to Center. Ryan Kelly is a first year starter as a R-So. He has added 8 lbs of bulk this offseason and has benefited from being the under-study of Barrett Jones. Ryan Kelly played guard and tackle in high school, however was switched to center in college. He is a big center standing at 6-5 288 lbs. Based on my readings, he is more brute than brain. The idea of a first year starter at center going against J. Tyler and T. Edwards is intriguing. If he gets his big body on our backers, we could be in trouble. However, the Hokies get a turkey leg in this chess matchup and Mr. Kelly is left second-guessing himself at the line of scrimmage.
+1 Va Tech
The left side of the ball is the meatier portion of todays meal. Cyrus and Arie Kouandjio, brothers, will start at left tackle and guard, respectively. Cyrus is the younger of the two and stands at 6-6, 322 lbs. Arie is slightly smaller at 6-5, 335 lbs. Talk about a lop-sided ship! The brothers hail from DeMatha Catholic, a powerhouse program just outside of DC. I read up on Aries Rivals page and found it odd that we did not recruit him. He choose Alabama over Auburn, and needless to say his brother followed suit the year after. The true irony in having these two play side by side is the fact that they both had their 2011 seasons ended on knee injuries. Their big bodies and the movement demanded of them have left them both subject to injury. Even though Cyrus is a projected first rounder in next years draft, I truly believe we hold the advantage. This, my friends is where our opportunity lies. Chalk up 2 votes for the guys in maroon.
+2 Va Tech
For those of you keeping score, my prediction is heavily weighted in our favor, with Va Tech winning the interior battle 4-1. Consider this: We will have both James Gayle and D. Hopkins matched up on the terrible twins. The combination of speed and strength generated by our DL can completely disrupt the rhythm of Alabamas offense. The Tide only have one proven RB in Yeldon, followed by a stable of highly recruitedbut green backs. The onus on McCarron is that he has never really been a great QBbut rather a good game manager. His job for 2+years has been to just not lose the game. This year, he is again equipped with a top-tier receiver in Amari Cooper. If we can generate push and off-set the timing of throws, we can not only create frustration on Alabamas sideline, but we can create turnovers and give our young offense hope. Saban was quoted as saying after their first scrimmage of the fall, I dont think we played with the kind of power that we need to play withwe didnt get a lot of movement up front. There are concerns from their camp that this unit is weaker than usual, with less consistency. The time is now for us to strike, and we must strike at the heart of the dragon.
This, my friends, is how you turn the Tide. Go Hokies.