Among all the complaints HokieNation made last season, one prevalent gripe was a lament every time Michael Holmes returned a punt. "Where's Jarrett?!" many exclaimed. Each time I heard it, I shook my head. It will happen again this season, and I again expect HokieNation to express frustration.
I love Virginia Tech football, more than just about anything else on the planet. It's an unhealthy obsession, one that keeps me up late at night watching old games on YouTube. I've watched every snap of every game of 2012 at least four times. Odds are it's probably closer to twice that number (shout-out to Billdozer). I've got a fever, and the only prescription is more
On Saturday night I did what is required of all the Hokie faithful, and made my pilgrimage to the holiest of holies. Lane Stadium. That cathedral was as beautiful last night as it was the day it was built. Sitting in our pews, I, along with hundreds of my brothers and sisters, watched the priests of our religion perform the most sacred of acts. Tackle football...
It was supposed to rain. Thunderstorm actually. I was half expecting the practice/scrimmage to be cancelled. I didn't have an umbrella so I stole a North Face jacket from a friend and decided against bringing a notepad that was just going to get soaked. Sitting in the pouring rain and dodging lightning strikes, but missing the first public football exhibition with the new freshmen of the '13 class simply wasn't a possibility.
The storm, like the run game, never did show up.
WE TALKIN' 'BOUT PRACTICE
Over the last couple of days several members of Thekeyplay community have asked me for my reaction to the daily offensive line depth chart changes. I have not attended practice, so I can't comment on how each player is performing, or the level of summer work that each player underwent in order to improve. I am not sure that speculating on their performance is fair, but I would like to comment on how Grimes is using the depth chart. Laurence Gibson and Andrew Miller seem firmly entrenched, but Jonathan McLaughlin, Mark Shuman, Caleb Farris, Brent Benedict, and David Wang seem to be deadlocked in a battle over three starting positions.
"I'm not settled at all and I really like it like that," Grimes said Monday. "I told them in our first meeting: 'Nobody has a position. Nobody's earned anything yet and everyone has the opportunity to win a job.' I don't have necessarily a specific deadline to say we've got to have our starting unit by the end of Week 2 or Week 3. We're just gonna let it play out and let the best five prove it to us."
New offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said he'd like to have a starting five on the offensive line sooner rather than later, but Grimes appears to be taking a more patient approach.
Beamer Co.'s announcement that Joel Caleb would practice exclusively at tailback for the first couple of days of camp was a bit of a shocker. Before yesterday, I only wondered (1) if Caleb would be available against Alabama, rumors of a suspension hit the Interwebs last week, and (2) had he improved enough as a receiver to contribute this season.
Although we don't know if Caleb will be available against Alabama, Frank Beamer said, "We'll make announcements about those things later on," when asked, it's evident he's factoring into the team's long term plans this season.
"We lost Michael, and he was one of our bigger backs," running backs coach Shane Beamer said. "Coming out of spring, we felt we had two backs who could pound it up in there in goal-line and short-yardage situations — Michael and Trey [Edmunds]. Then when you lose Michael, you're down to just one big back. Not that Tony Gregory or [Chris] Mangus couldn't do it, but we'd like to have a bigger guy to do certain things.
"The worst case scenario, we'd have Joel in there in case Trey were to get hurt, and he'd have a general understanding of what we're doing offensively.
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.
HokieSports.com released the first depth chart of the summer and there are a few surprises.
Both Kendall Fuller and Ronny Vandyke are listed as first team outside linebacker (Whip). It was almost universally thought that Kendall would factor into the battle at corner, especially with Antone Exum's knee injury. Perhaps Kendall is this year's nickel? Either way, Foster and Gray must feel good about the depth at corner. Kyle Fuller will resume his starting duties at the boundary, while Brandon Facyson and Donaldven Manning battle it out to replace Exum (for the time being) at field corner. Facyson had a breakout spring, his first in Blacksburg, while Manning played more consistent. Manning's also gotten bigger, last year he was listed at 5-9, 155, today HokieSports.com has him at 5-10, 181.
Speaking of size, D.J. Coles is 6-4, 234 pounds, but is the starter at split end. Guess which one is D.J.
I'm bothered that Johnny Manziel doesn't have the opportunity to monetize and profit from his name or likeness without jeopardizing his eligibility. I don't like the NCAA's archaic set of rules that designates players student athletes, and seizes their right to the free marketplace. I don't agree with the folks who believe a scholarship is enough to justify an outdated system.
Scholarships are fantastic vehicles to get kids to college and lessen the financial burden of an education. I wish I had earned more of them myself. Being twenty-something-thousand dollars in debt at 29-years-old is nothing I thought about when I received my acceptance letter to Virginia Tech. A college education is extremely valuable, but in today's billion dollar world of college athletics, some athletes are worth more than the education.
This is a very interesting commitment for the Hokies. Stroman was considered a strong UVA lean, so I didn't devote any time to evaluating him. Today's announcement stunned me, as I expected the Hokies to only take one more defensive back and heard rumors that it would be Lamont Simmons from Florida.
In the end, Coach Gray won over Stroman and his father.
"Talking to Torian Gray, he was kind of a key point to that, knowing he's such a great DB coach and knowing what he's able to teach," Greg Sr. said. "I really wanted Greg to be under him, going out from under my wing and going to someone I trusted, so when he does get on the field, I feel confident he'll be prepared."
I turned on the film of Stroman, and let me tell you that was as entertaining a 15 minute-ish film clip of high school football that you will watch.
After the dust and pollen kicked up from spring practice settles, we're left in the middle of nowhere. We stew in not only the summer heat, but our thoughts and speculations on what the season will bring. The days are longer, and time drags on as if the fall will never arrive. The scent of Skipper's smokey blast is just a memory.
Then it happens.
August arrives and camp schedules are announced. Meaningful yet meaningless preseason rankings are released and we can almost taste the turkey legs and bourbon. It's a grueling waiting game that involves too much reading, analyzing and watching whatever we can get our hands on. Nothing makes us want opening kickoff more than a slew of hype trailers. With our adrenaline rushing, and blood boiling, it's as close as we can get to satisfying the intense craving for football.
We know absolutely nothing will tame the craziness you're all bottling up inside for that evening kickoff on August 31st, so instead we offer our understanding and sympathy the only way we know how. HokieNation, we proudly present to you the 2013 Virginia Tech Football Trailer. It may not make the season start any sooner, but we sincerely hope it helps.
Dozer & Strawther
Wide Receiver Cameron Phillips of Hyattsville, MD (DeMatha Catholic) has given a verbal pledge to the Hokies according to Rivals.com.
Phillips is rated as a 3-star prospect by Rivals.com, and as a 4-star player by 247Sports. Phillips is 6-1, 170 and held offers from Rutgers, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Virginia among others. At this time, 247Sports Crystal Ball had 62% of voters picking Phillips to Virginia, so it seems as if the Hokies beat the Hoos for his services. Phillips camped in Blacksburg at Tech's one-day camp in July.
This is a huge get because wide receiver is a position of need in the 2014 class. While Tech is still in the race for 4-star Noah Brown, former target Austin Proehl went off the Hokies board when he committed to UNC earlier this week. Furthermore, DeMatha Catholic is a hotbed for talent in Maryland, and it may position the program well for other players down the road.
According to FOX Sports / Scout.com reporter Simone Scott, 3-star offensive tackle Brady Taylor committed to Virginia Tech over Kentucky.
Coach Grimes wanted a 5th offensive lineman in the 2014 class, and he got him. Five offensive linemen in a class is quite a haul, and laying a foundation from within the trenches is the right way to rebuild an offense. Taylor is 6-5, 276 pounds from Columbus, Ohio (Bishop Ready). His highlights are on his Hudl page. We had a bit of a double post (normally when we think a commitment is eminent we have a post prewritten), French's analysis is here.
Welcome to HokieNation Brady!
The eyes of Hokie Nation will be on Logan Thomas this fall, but running the football is the most critical component for Scot Loeffler's offense to be successful. Last season, the running backs never got on track, and Logan Thomas was physically decimated trying to pick up the slack. This season Martin Scales and Michael Holmes are removed from the equation, and talented redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds and a new offensive scheme are added to the mix. Edmunds, if you remember, received high praise from Frank Beamer during bowl practice. The running back rotation remained a mystery coming out of the spring, and I will be watching the battle for playing time closely come August. The coaching staff must make the correct choices when it comes to a rotation, or success will be fleeting once the ACC schedule starts in earnest.
VTBox is a GIFing machine. Enjoy this folks.
Here are a few informative reads on Alabama to digest with your breakfast.
Last summer, I devoted three French on the Bench columns to the design of Bud Foster's 4-2-5 gap defense. Foster developed the 4-2-5 scheme from 4-4 attack principles (that root back to Phil Elmassian's time at Tech in the mid 90s). The 4-2-5 scheme moved the rover back into more of a traditional strong safety role, while the whip transitioned into a hybrid outside linebacker that was part nickel corner, and part free ranging outside linebacker. As the rovers and whips became smaller and more coverage oriented, Virginia Tech made fewer impact plays (sacks, tackles for a loss, forced fumbles) with the front seven, and instead focused on forcing turnovers with innovative coverage strategies. Eight- and nine-man run support was facilitated through the use of inverted cover 2 zone coverage. In the inverted cover 2 zone, the safeties moved forward to support the run while converging on their underneath zone responsibilities. That left special talents like Jimmy Williams and Jayron Hosley free to sit back in robber coverage and rack up interceptions. Foster even went so far to essentially play nickel corner in place of a whip on a majority of snaps over the course of two seasons.
Yesterday, the media gathered in Greensboro to interview (and eat ice cream with) ACC football players. The coaches speak today, and as it relates to the Hokies, day one of ACC Kickoff is always more candid. Coach Beamer has mastered the art of coach speak, and is anything but frank when engaging the media. The players are more apt to provide interesting news, like Logan Thomas hinting Andrew Miller will be sticking at right guard this fall.
Thomas was accompanied to Greensboro by Jack Tyler, and together they indirectly let on to some of the causes of the mess that was last season, gave insight on Beamer Co.'s cleanup process, and how they're conducting business going forward.
The following quotes from Tyler and Tyler validated the thoughts going through my head last fall for the team's shortcomings, and made me have an even better outlook on the future.
Alabama's defense is bigger, faster, and stronger than Virginia Tech's typical opponent, but their front seven doesn't waltz onto the field with the Superman symbol on their chest. I have watched a bunch of film on the Crimson Tide defense over the course of the summer, and while they certainly had moments of physical dominance, they were pushed around up front by several teams. As discussed last week, LSU bullied Alabama's defensive line and linebackers for long stretches, and Georgia was able to get a push on the interior. Texas A&M ran spread and used a ton of play action and misdirection, but in the running game, they attacked the interior gaps. Alabama's defenders can be moved around the box.
Kirby Smart's defense uses movement, gap fits, and assignment execution to create an umbrella across the front and account for each gap. In a base look, the 3-4 is a conservative defense. Players occupy gaps, read and react, and make the play. By nature, it bends.
Editor's note: Hokie Wartooth was all over this as my head was buried underneath a remote desktop connection configuring the new server (8 cores, 16 GBs of ram!). HokieHaven.com spoke with Pettit—he lauds Tech, and says he's firm on his commitment. Pettit's versatility on the field is impressive, and so are offers from Harvard and Yale. Brains and physical tools are the ultimate combination in football. Finally, how about the job Jeff Grimes is doing on the recruiting trail?
As was previously discussed, the basic role of the defensive line in a 3-4 scheme is to control multiple offensive linemen and tie up blockers. The d-line wants to free up a large, athletic linebacker corps to make plays all over the field. There are four linebacker positions in Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart's defense. Inside is a Mike linebacker that plays to the tight end, or strong side of the formation, and a Willy linebacker that plays to the weak side of the formation. Outside is a Drop or Sam linebacker that lines up to the strong side, usually over the tight end, and a Jack linebacker that lines up on the weak side of the formation. Often the Jack is in position to rush the passer.
The Alabama philosophy on linebacker play requires hybrid players. Often, Saban recruits players who have not played the traditional linebacker position in high school. Instead, they target gifted athletes, with unique skill sets, that demonstrate a high level of coachability. Similar to Bud Foster's scheme, the base 3-4 is assignment driven football, and the Alabama staff looks for players who have strengths that will lend themselves to performance in their system.
"It's down the road a little bit, but it's the first time they could squeeze us into their schedule," said Luck, who played in the series four times, splitting those four meetings from 1978 through 1981. "But it becomes more important given the geography of the Big 12. Getting a school like Virginia Tech means a lot."
"It's two great universities that have had some great competition," agreed Beamer, who's 12-7 against the Mountaineers. "We've always had great respect for them, and I think they feel the same way about us. Where we're located, it's the right thing to do. We'll take fans to Morgantown, and they'll bring fans to Blacksburg."
It's time to polish up the Black Diamond Trophy and head to Morgantown on September 18, 2021.
I asked our resident GIF maven VTBox if he would make us something fun for the 4th of July week(end). He didn't disappoint.
Please note, Sansa is taller than Saban, so the scale is a bit off here.
Have a great time celebrating America this weekend y'all. Please know how to safely handle fireworks and return with all your fingers intact. Do discuss any plans below or America related homerism below.