I don't have many thoughts on the Sun Bowl. Tech trailed 10-14 at the start of the fourth quarter in a game where Logan Thomas got knocked out early in the second quarter. Keeping it close for that long was a mini miracle in itself. Then the wheels fell off.
Although you had to almost expect the game to get out of hand once Thomas exited. (The irrational fan voice in my head screaming, "We'll pull this out!," is never silenced though). And that's not an indictment of Leal's play or potential either. Scot Loeffler designed Tech's offense around Logan's unique skill set. Meanwhile, Leal took backup reps all season. It's unreasonable to expect Leal, or any other backup quarterback, to step into that situation against a good team and keep it competitive.
I thought Loeffler's game plan was rather crafty. Using Carlis Parker on Jet sweeps to exploit UCLA's linebackers inability to go east-west (something French noted in his previews) was a nice wrinkle. Parker ended up with 40 yards on 6 carries, all for positive gains. If he continues to develop as a receiver, he could turn into a big playmaker down the line.
Jerome Wright as the dive man on what looked like triple option looks (unsure if it's true triple option or called dives because I'm not the play caller) was another smart decision by Loeffler. Wright was effective, hitting the hole quick and hard.
If I learned anything about Scot Loeffler as an offensive coordinator this season it is that he's keen at developing a game plan around available talent. That reaffirms he was a good hire by Frank Beamer.
Let's all watch the following video.
My blood boiled last night when I watched that clip during halftime of the Peach Bowl. Whenever I hear someone talking negatively about Virginia Tech, whether it's the football program, university... or whatever, I get fired up. Like many of you, my heart pumps orange and maroon blood, and an affront on Virginia Tech causes me to respond like a family member is under duress.
Mark May and Lou Holtz aren't necessarily wrong here, but they aren't completely right either. May and Holtz are paid to give hot takes, spout hyperbole, and move the needle, not give proper perspective on the state of a program. Clearly that worked because their segment wound up on the front page of this website. Even in 39 seconds they took some liberties to stretch the truth to fit their narrative. However, they did provide a good dose of reality. With just 15 wins and 0 December trips to Charlotte over the last 2 seasons, it's hard to argue the Hokies are more than, "Another team in the ACC," as Holtz said.
Frank Beamer's program hasn't lost its identity. However, it is trying to reestablish it. Beamer hired Loeffler, Grimes, and Moorehead because he knew things had gotten stale on offense. Whether he cleaned out the cupboard too late is another argument entirely. "I want this to be the toughest football team we've ever had here at Virginia Tech." Beamer made that decree at the onset of spring ball because he probably saw the lackadaisical and undisciplined play a lot of fans noticed in 2012. Although, I don't think it's possible to provide profound commentary on toughness, or effort for that matter, from the stands. Only the coaches, players, and people in the locker room really know what's truly going on. I do believe tough kids battle through injuries. A lot of Hokies, including those who potentially have NFL futures to consider, played through pain and put in rehab work to move from the sideline to the field.
Virginia Tech wasn't going transition from a 7-win program to an ACC contender in a season. This is a rebuilding process that will take at least two recruiting cycles before improved results are evident on the field. The 2013 class was a big step in the right directions, and the 2014 group is shaping up to be an even bigger injection of talent.
Unlike Holtz, I believe Trey Edmunds is a terrific back, and is the workhorse that an offense can be built around. Loeffler must now build an offense around him, and other backfield talents like Marshawn Williams and J.C. Coleman that can compliment Edmunds. I think mostly everyone who reads this website believes offensive line play is moving in a very positive direction, and Jeff Grimes' unit is only going to get better as he brings in talent more tailored for his system.
There are two things I hope to see during spring practice and August camp.
An open competition at quarterback needs to happen.
Leal's earned the right to be No. 1 headed into the spring, but talented prospects like Andrew Ford, Brenden Motley, Bucky Hodges, etc... should have the opportunity to unseat him. Let competition, and all its benefits, determine who should take the snaps against William & Mary.
Special teams gets fixed. Beamer's unit has been steadily slipping for some time now. Its decline may be part of the overall bigger problem, drop off in talent across-the-board, that the coaching staff is working to correct. Either way, special teams is Frank's baby and of all of Holtz's and May's criticisms it was the most valid. I'm not even talking about getting back to routinely blocking kicks, everything outside of the punting game (which hasn't been flawless) has been inconsistent and in disarray over the last couple of seasons.
Is this program what it once was? No. Is Frank Beamer and his coaching staff course correcting? Yes. Should we trust Coach Beamer to get the job done? I do. I think the experience of his early years at Tech, those spent building the program, will serve him well going forward. Moreover, I believe he's delegated staff responsibilities in a logical manner, something that got out of whack (sorry, couldn't resist that pun) with the O'Cainspring offense, and the new coaches he hired are capable to get the job done. It's just not going to happen overnight.