I listened to new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler talk about his offense, then immediately thought about the pieces he'd have to work with.
A summary of his own words of what his offense is all about.
- Protect and run the Football
- Balanced Attack
- "Very multiple", "Big formation movement team"
- Multiple Personnel Groups
- Quarterback will run the ball
That sounds a lot like Stinespring's philosophy, even though both he and Loeffler may have tried to accomplish the same goals different ways. Either way, all along Tech's been recruiting players that fit to a multiple, pro-style attack that features a running quarterback, so let's look who is gone, back, and might play a bigger role on offense.
These guys saw the field in 2012, but won't be back in 2013. My list is in order of most to least significant loss, but not necessarily decreasing by any real order of magnitude.
Vinston Painter / Nick Becton - I didn't want to lump anyone together, yet here we are right off the bat because I couldn't come up with a tie breaker. Replacing both starting tackles will not be an easy task, especially considering no one with experience is on the roster. While the interior of the offensive line fluctuated and struggled, these bookends started every game, and more often than not held their own.
Corey "Slant" Fuller - Here's a quick anecdote. French and I were hitting golf balls at the range sometime after Kendall committed, but before the season began. In between shots we were discussing the upcoming season, and the possible contributors. French was worried Corey might not see the field enough and it might sour Kendall on Tech. He was worried a Chris/C.J. Leak scenario might play out. For the record, I didn't think Corey would bust out like he did. I thought he'd play second (fourth) fiddle behind D.J. Coles, Marcus Davis, and Dyrell Roberts.
The notion of him playing an ancillary role was put to bed early. Against Georgia Tech he caught 5 balls for 82 yards. Looking back, it's easy for me to write that Corey Fuller was the top offensive newcomer in 2012. He had a knack for getting open deep in the middle of the field, and gaining yards after the catch. His 6 receiving touchdowns led the team. I wish he had another year of eligibility.
Michael Via - The quintessential utility lineman; he played guard, center, and tackle at Tech. He started 9 games in the 2012 regular season (Curt Newsome Shuffle y'all), but played 700 snaps (3rd most among the team's offensive linemen), and received an honorable All-ACC mention by the league's coaches. Via will be an almost impossible player to replace because he was so versatile. An example, with opening day starting center Andrew Miller lost for the year, backup Caleb Farris sidelined with an ankle injury, Via slid over from guard to start at center. Without Via, who starts in the middle that game, true freshman Jack Willenbrock?
Marcus Davis - One of the most athletic receivers to ever play at Tech. I don't think I'll ever forget his 81 yards and 2 scores at North Carolina in 2010. He never matured into a spectacular route runner. Unfortunately for him, his senior season may be remembered by fans as much for his infamous blocking (or lack thereof) video and losing his starting job, as much as coming up 9 yards shy of Andre Davis's single season Tech record of 962 receiving yards.
Martin Scales - The Heisman frontrunner (on Twitter) before the season began. His 52 carries weren't enough. There were too many times when he'd come in the game, hit the hole on consecutive plays for a strong 4 or 5 yards, then wouldn't be heard from again. The media guide defines Money plays as, "plays resulting in first down or a touchdown." Among rushers, Scales had 15 in 40 attempts (37.5%) not including the bowl game. For context, Logan Thomas had 50 in 146 attempts (34.2%), J.C. Coleman had 14 in 102 attempts (13.7%), and Michael Holmes had 13 in 69 attempts (18.8%). When he was used, he was effective.
Dyrell Roberts - After an impactful freshman campaign in '08, then a stellar season in 2009, I thought he was going to be a star.
Injuries interfered with his potential. Remember his broken arm in 2011, and thigh bruise/compartment syndrome in '10. He lost his starting spot for the final 3 games of the season.
Randall Dunn - Dunn was a guy I always felt needed to be more involved in the offense, but it seemed like he was always an afterthought in the game plan. Three of Dunn's 12 receptions in '12 were touchdowns. He was underutilized as a red zone threat.
This is an excerpt from Andy Bitter's interview with Bryan Stinespring from February, 2012.
"The other guy who I think has really, it's been a long process for him, but a guy I'm really proud of and excited about it Randall Dunn. I think he brings a dimension to the tight end and with the loss of some receivers he'll be an additional commodity for us in a lot of things. I know he's excited for it. He's put his time in. He had to transition himself from not playing ... you know, he didn't play football from seventh grade and up. He got into football late in his high school career. Then he starts to learn the position that he's playing in high school, he's playing in college and he moves positions, so it's been a long process for him, but sometimes those opportunities, when they do arise, how well you prepare yourself for them, I think says a lot about your chances for success. And he's prepared himself to get to a spot where I think he can really help us."
Yeah, that never really happened.
Joey Phillips - Phillips was a reliable blocker. That's the only entry in the list of superlatives for a fullback. Also, he's the realest American since Hulk Hogan. And...
Eric Martin - He toughed out his final season at Tech. He struggled to make the down blocks necessary to seal the edges in O'Cainspring's Cap Gun offense. (I wish I had thought of calling it that during the season.)
In graph form, receiving production, a lot of which won't be back in 2013.
These guys were major pieces of the offense, and will be back next season.
Logan Thomas - I wrote about Logan's regression after he announced his decision. The gist of it, his mechanics were imperfect and his teammates didn't do him many favors. Hopefully, Scot Loeffler and his scheme will improve both.
In conversations with Loeffler on Friday, the coach stresses toughness and technique from his quarterbacks.
"I just believe in them," he said. "It's the thing that gets you out of trouble when things are going bad. The great ones, they're all fundamentally sound. ...
"Our whole objective with Logan is to get him fundamentally as best as we can and make him good at the things he can control," he said later. "And the things you can't, you can't. Most of the time, whenever you're controlling what you can control, good things happen to you."
Most likely, Logan will continue to run the ball in Loeffler's scheme.
D.J. Coles - By the end of 2011, Coles had blossomed into a very complete receiver. He used his big frame to make plays on smaller corners, and had the speed and shiftiness to gain 10 yards a pop on a screen. Also, he was a dominant blocker.
It's a shame he couldn't heal from offseason surgery to repair a torn PCL in his right knee last season, but I'm glad he'll be back this year.
These guys played a bunch of minutes, but rotated snaps at their position or were injured during the season.
J.C. Coleman - Coleman was Tech's second leading rusher (Logan Thomas was first). 492 yards on 109 carries (4.5 ypc) for 2 scores ain't nothing to sneeze at. What really impressed me watching him was even though he is a small back, he ran hard and decisive between the tackles, and he didn't avoid contact.
He also was a weapon as a receiver out of the backfield.
The Cap Gun offense and tailback rotation kept him bogged down. When he carried 10 or more times a game, he averaged 4.95 yards per carry. When he had less than touches his yards per carry dropped to 3.84. I have him listed as a question mark, because I'm unsure how Loeffler's scheme will incorporate him into the offense. He needs to get a healthy amount of touches to be productive. Also, Coleman couldn't run through the extra defender in goal line situations
Andrew Miller - Miller was the lone returning starting lineman. He was named to the Rimington Trophy watch list before the season began, and was expected to anchor the o-line. A fractured left fibula and sever ankle sprain against Duke cut his season short.
After a promising season in 2011, Miller never really took that proverbial "next step" when he was healthy in 2012. In his reviews, French often noted that Miller didn't blow d-tackles off the ball, especially large nose tackles. Complications in pre-snap reads/communication may have left his brain tying up his feet. Also, like all the centers, he had trouble snapping the ball. Miller is a hard working kid, and I think he will benefit and jive with the brand of football Jeff Grimes wants to play.
Brent Benedict - At times he was the team's most dominant run blocker.
However, he struggled in pass protection, and there were plays where he totally whiffed on a block. He has a bad habit of trying to bench press defenders without using his footwork to get in good position. His fundamentals and first step must improve, but he has the skill set.You can't teach nastiness, and he's strong as an ox. I'm optimistic that he'll continue to get better the further removed he is from the knee injury he suffered in high school.
Demitri Knowles - The freshman burner earned himself the starting job at split end by the end of the season.
He has jets, and we can only hope he develops into a more multidimensional receiver as he gets more experienced. He'll return at the team's leading receiver (240 yards), and I'm excited to see him get better. He and D.J. Coles should really compliment each other.
Ryan Malleck - In August camp it looked like Tech would try to use him as a tight end/H-Back in the Cap Gun similar to Clemson's Dwayne Allen. That didn't happen much during the regular season. If he continues to improve as a blocker, he might fit the build as a hybrid back in Loeffler's offense. Of the returning players, he had the second most receiving yards (174).
David Wang - He started every game he was healthy for, but Lil' Wang had a tough go of it in 2012. Because of injuries, but mostly the rotation at guard, he only played two complete games during the regular season (Georgia Tech and Clemson). Too many times it looked like he was blocking on roller skates. He needs to improve his footwork, and base/balance in pass protection. The coaches frequently cite him as a top worker, here's to hoping he can improve.
Michael Holmes - Holmes was the lead back in the rotation heading into fall. The Frankinator always had something complimentary to say about him. Before the season, Bruce Feldman listed him as one of his, most intriguing redshirt freshmen, writing, "Holmes doesn't have Wilson's explosiveness (almost no other back in college football did) but the 6-1, 200-pounder turned a lot of heads of the defensive coaches and players at Tech with his work on the scout team last fall. His position coach Shane Beamer told me he's just a back who plays really hard, has good vision and has a knack for making plays."
His high point for me was his second-half performance against Cincinnati. His big runs kept Tech in that game. However, he never ascended as the team's featured tailback, like many of us thought he might. As the season progressed, Holmes' carries decreased. He had just one touch (Rutgers), over the final 4 games.
Tony Gregory - Gregory was an afterthought before the season started, but had productive games in terms of yards per carry against Bowling Green (6.2 ypc, 11 carries), Clemson (5.8 ypc, 5 carries), Miami (5.0 ypc, 10 carries), and Boston College (4.92 ypc, 14 carries). I'm unsure of what role he will play next season.
Time to Shine
These guys didn't play a whole heck of a lot, or at all, but if we want to have any chance at being good next year, they need to step up.
Laurence Gibson - Gibson's bounced around between tackle and guard, but never saw the field outside of garbage time. Curt Newsome had this to say about him last September.
"He has really in this camp overall been one of the most improved guys," Newsome said. I like what he's all about. He just keeps getting better. He's a guy with three years to play and I think he'll definitely play here before he leaves."
French raved about his footwork and upper body strength against Austin Peay. It's anyone's guess what position he'll play next year, but I'm leaning towards right tackle.
Mark Shuman - He's the probable starter at left tackle next season. And aside from his pedigree, he is an unknown quantity.
Joshua Stanford - He was the talk of the town during August. He practiced his way out of a redshirt during camp, but his season was cut short after a knee injury against Austin Peay.
Kevin Asante - He earned a start against Boston College after Dyrell Robets and Marcus Davis were benched. He only played on 43 offensive snaps during the regular season, but he impressed French and I during August practice where he was featured on jet sweeps, screens, and short to intermediate routes. Of all the wide receivers, Asante got by far the most touches in fall scrimmage work that we saw. He blocked well on screens, and ran tight routes. Sherman was clearly high on him, but it is unclear how much jet sweep action Loeffler will incorporate.
Joel Caleb - Remember when this former 4-star recruit was going to come in and start at receiver as a true freshman? That didn't happen. Coming into camp a little heavy might have had something to do with a redshirt, but more than likely the learning curve held him back. He played quarterback, not receiver in high school. He is another big-body receiver that can be dominate if his technique matches his athleticism.
Trey Edmunds - Many of us here wanted him to play this season, but for whatever reason(s) he was redshirted. The Frankinator was impressed by Edmunds during the bowl practices.
Drew Harris - It's unfortunate Harris couldn't enroll in January to participate in spring practice, but he will still have plenty of time to earn himself playing time in August.
Caleb Farris - He found playing time as part of the rotation at guard, and started at center in place of Andrew Miller. He wasn't a consistent player. On one play he would drive a defender off the ball, then on another he took a ride. Like the rest of the interior o-line, pass protection was an issue. Like the rest of the centers, he was good for a bad snap each game.
Matt Arkema - Arkema stepped into the starting lineup when David Wang was injured and his inexperience showed. His technique, head position and pad level, were flawed and that led to him missing blocks and being overpowered. He's one of a few linemen that I'm crossing my fingers on, hoping that Curt Newsome wasn't getting through to him, because the potential is there.
The guys below didn't see the field much, if at all, but should be in the mix for playing time and could fill the gaps on the two-deep.
Darius Redman / Dakota Jackson / Zack McCray / Duan Perez-Means - Four tight ends we know very little about, but at least one will probably be on the two-deep come August. Loeffler used H-Backs with fullbacks at Auburn and Temple. With Malleck perhaps better suited as an H-Back, it is easy to imagine that one of these four will be a regular. Zack McCray has a history with Thomas, but hasn't played tight end since high school . Redman looks like a prototype NFL tight end, but performed poorly in preseason fall camps. Duan Perez-Means has shown impressive ability as a pass catcher in limited action and practice for a former defensive end, but his blocking is a complete unknown. Don't be shocked if Dakota Jackson is a starter in the future, but he may need some more development before he is ready to be a big contributor.
Chris Mangus - Bud Foster mentioned a couple of times on Tech Talk Live that he was impressed by Mangus' work on the scout team. Word is he has great speed, and this will be a big spring for him to show his stuff.
Nick Acree - Consistently one of the strongest Hokies. He was on the verge of a breakout camp practicing at offensive tackle before he tore the ACL in his left knee. If he can come back 100%, and continue to get better, I'll feel a lot better about where the o-line stands.
Augie Conte - He'll only be a redshirt freshman in the fall, but because of the lack of depth at tackle, he could earn himself playing time. He's a player I'm going to try to focus on watching in spring and August.
Riley Beiro - A shoulder injury against North Carolina ended his season, but up until that point he saw the field at fullback. Loeffler used fullbacks extensively at Auburn. I'm not sure if he's athletic enough, but he might fit the mold as a hybrid blocking back in Loeffler's scheme. If not, perhaps Griffith Hite will get an opportunity.
- Logan Thomas starting at quarterback is the only given.
- There are approximately thirty-three-thousand tailbacks on the roster, but no clear-cut starter. Expect a rotation, which I hope will be among fewer players. Grimes is the run game coordinator, and hopefully he will be able to better pair the personnel with the plays being called.
- Despite all the inexperience, I actually feel good about the receiving corps.
- There is a mix of talent and experience returning along the o-line, although the subsets do not completely intersect with each other. It'll be interesting to see what Grimes' starting unit looks like.
- I'm ready for spring.