It's been a weird off-season. I know that after weeks of being absent on the site my fans (hey dad) were probably hoping for something more profound. But seriously...it's been a really weird off-season.
People have been more focused on recruiting more now, than in recent memory. Who'd have thought that a guard from New Jersey whose name sounds like he's the lead singer of a struggling bluegrass group would be one of the stars of the summer? And, for the first time since I can remember, there have been more questions than answers as the season approaches.
I think it's safe to say that fans have spent more time in the abstract than ever before. Instead of certainties in black and white, the majority of conversations surrounding the program involve if or could. For example: "If Logan can get back into form, Tech could win ten games this season." Various versions of that thought have been uttered at more outdoor happy hours than the phrase "one more round?".
Believe me, I talk in uncertainties all the time. I pace holes in the floor just thinking about what could be...for better and for worse. For example, I went through such a mind numbing thought process when it was announced that Kevin Asante left the team for doing Kevin Asante things, that you would have thought I was planning an evacuation strategy in the event Sharknado hits Blacksburg.
(Side note: I know it hasn't been announced what the actual situation is there, but "doing Kevin Asante things" could become a euphemism for just about anything.)
(Side, side note: my Sharknado plan is simple. It involves chainsaws and hanging out with Torrian Gray, because that dude's crazy.)
I digress. Throughout this extensive pondering about the upcoming season, I have realized that there is only one thing that we all know: we don't know anything.
We don't know how Logan Thomas will come back from a bad year. We don't know how Scot Loeffler will be able to use the personnel given to him. We don't know who will start on the offensive line, at cornerback or be the de facto starter at running back. We don't even know who the best running back, pass catcher or pass rusher is on the team. THE QUESTIONS ARE KILLING ME.
The way I like to play out this uncertainty in my head is to give each player in question a best-case and a worst-case scenario for the upcoming season. Hopefully, each player hits a middle ground somewhere between the two. Those middle grounds are more often than not the realistic expectations for the players.
Here are my best-case/worst-case for a bevy of players, and it's your job as readers to interpret the realistic scenarios from there.
Best-case: Loeffler The Quarterback Whisperer gets through to him, and he is quickly reminded of how nice it is to throw balls to receivers who actually...well...know how to play receiver. We watch a guy who hit both of his pre-season goals (62% passing, <= 5 interceptions). No longer will there be stories comparing Logan's throwing mechanics to Shaq at the free throw line. Those are instead replaced by ones of redemption and revitalized draft stock .
Worst case: Let's be honest...it really can't get worse than last year. Think about last year (sorry in advance). Inefficient quarterbacking. Incompletions. Interceptions. Arm punts. How much of that was actually Logan's fault is pretty inconsequential at this point. If that happens again, the worst case is another 7-6 season while Logan is drafted by the Patriots to compete with Tim Tebow for the third tight end spot.
Best case: Combines with Trey Edmunds to form the best tailback combo that Hokie fans have seen since The Untouchables (albeit with not as cool of a nickname). Doesn't get to 1,000 yards, but is a crucial weapon in the passing game and a threat in the return game, allowing Demetri Knowles to avoid crippling the receiver corps with an injury on a kick return. Basically, he becomes a "weapon X" and is a threat to the defense from anywhere on the field.
Worst case: J.C. doesn't pick up the zone running system (French laid it out here) and he gets passed on the depth chart by Edmunds, basically becoming an afterthought and an unused weapon a la David Wilson in 2009. Going into the offseason Bitter and Co. will write a ton of "Can the coaches utilize J.C. Coleman?" articles, as he fades into the background of the offense.
Best case: He's never had a carry in college before? Well neither did Kevin Jones or Ryan Williams! Edmunds has a redshirt freshman season that would make either of the aforementioned two proud, and he single handedly makes the offense a different beast. We'll have a ton of discussions about whether or not redshirting him was the right call, and he makes French a proud papa bear.
Worst Case: He's never had a carry in college before? Well neither did Michael Holmes! Okay, that may be a little extreme but you get my point. As good as he could be, there is always a chance that it just doesn't work out this season, for whatever reason. I think that if we had to lay percentages down the best case is MUCH more likely to happen, but sometimes you just never know. (French, however, would still be a proud papa bear).
Best case: He shows up in the Georgia Dome in the exact shape that he wants to be and is the exact type of weapon Loeffler needs him to be. Wide receiver, tight end, H-Back, Coles will line up at all those spots and provide Logan with his first consistently reliable weapon in over a year. If the offense breaks right, he could even contend for the single-season reception record (currently held by Jarrett Boykin with 61).
Worst case: He shows up out of shape, making it hard to get separation from defensive backs and limiting his success. Not only that, but the Kevin Asante dismissal will limit the number of reps he gets outside of the wide receiver position. He eventually gets passed on the depth chart by both Knowles and Stanford, and becomes a huge "what if" instead of a productive member of the offense.
Best case: Remember the guy we saw get a ton of snaps against North Carolina? You know, the guy who had 6 grabs for 83 yards? Yeah, that's the guy who Knowles is. Not only fast, but also a complete receiver and the biggest outside weapon Logan has in his arsenal. He even draws comparisons to Andre Davis (look it up...the peripherals are surprisingly similar), and goes into the 2014 offseason as a big name in the ACC.
Worst case: Remember the guy we saw grab 13 passes for 157 yards against the 12 teams not named North Carolina? The guy who really only ran straight? Yeah...that guy shows up. He obviously has speed, so he's still a threat to the defense but it's in a 'one trick pony' kind of way.
Best case: Becomes the guy that Logan throws a 15-yard post to on third-and-10. The guy that Logan throws a 6-yard slant on third and five. Think Josh Morgan, but better at recovering onside kicks (it's too soon...but if we can't make fun of ourselves, Jagodzinski wins). All I know was that Logan threw to Stanford a lot in the spring. I mean a LOT. He could easily become the second receiver, and if things break right...and by right I mean horribly, horribly wrong...he could become the number one guy.
Worst case: He does freshman stuff, occasionally runs the wrong routes, possibly causes an interception or two, and ends up with around 20 catches for 250 yards. Needless to say, the receiving corps depth, or lack thereof, won't allow him to get anything less than that.
Best case: Becomes Logan's safety blanket, much like Corey Fuller was a year ago. Unlike a year ago, defenses won't be able to focus in on one guy quite as much as they did to Fuller, and Meyer ends up with a ton of catches. Fans start making Danny Coale comparisons (no matter how accurate they actually are) and chant CHAR-LEY MEY-ER after big catches.
Worst case: Can't get open against good competition, ends up falling back to fifth or sixth wide receiver. Sorry to burst everyone's bubble, but that is a real possibility.
Best case: I really just threw Caleb in here because I knew if I didn't, people would be asking about him anyway. Here's his best case: they use him on special teams and Loeffler finds a way to occasionally get the ball in his hands taking advantage of his athleticism, whether he's lined up in the backfield or split out wide. He possibly becomes the fourth receiver and catches a big touchdown up the seam that leaves everyone stunned and talking about his potential.
Worst case: He ends up in coach Moorehead's doghouse, the running back experiment fizzles, and Caleb sees three garbage time plays against Western Carolina, then spends the rest of the year giving high fives and butt pats.
Best case: He puts up numbers like I thought he would last year, when I told Jim Young of The ACC Sports Journal that he should be drafted as a sleeper in his ACC fantasy league. Yeah...that one didn't work out too well. But maybe it does under the new staff! Maybe he can hang onto the ball, unlike in the spring! Get excited for tight end targets to go up!
Worst case: He's the exact same guy as last year, but he has to battle with Duan Perez-Means and Zack McCray for snaps by week six.
Best case: Everyone realizes that tight end was the position that he was supposed to be playing all along. He uses his athleticism to beat linebackers in coverage and develops as a great underneath pass catcher, competing for the starting tight end job by conference play. He and Logan develop a creepy unspoken chemistry by being cousins, making them the closest thing to the Sedin Twins that Blacksburg has ever seen.
Worst case: His lack of physicality creates a problem with his blocking, making his ceiling closer to that of Randall Dunn than anything else. He contributes on passing downs, but he ends up being a non-factor for the entire season.
Best case: Yes, I'm grouping them as a unit. At the end of the day, does anything really matter more than total line effectiveness? The absolute ceiling is that Jonathan McLaughlin and Laurence Gibson are as effective as Becton/Painter a year ago, helping to keep the sack numbers down for the third year in a row. Andrew Miller comes back with a healthy ankle and even healthier mustache to play well at right guard, and Jeff Grimes finds the perfect two guys for the other two positions. It may look like a rag-tag group of big dudes, but it could be an effective one.
Worst case: The group both looks and plays like a rag-tag group of big dudes. Miller still can't move as well post-injury, McLaughlin plays like a freshman and the group of Benedict/Wang/Shuman/Farris/Taraschke can simply never find the right tandem. By the tenth week of the season, Logan, J.C., and Edmunds go on strike after being hit so many times, opening a whole new set of problems for the offense.
Best case: Cody keeps making everything inside of forty yards, but has even hit the weight room to stretch his range, allowing the Hokies to pick up more points where they haven't the past few years.
Worst case: Every single team hires Dorenzo Hudson to walk the sideline, just in case Journell has to come out to kick in a high pressure situation.
Coming up next: the defense.