Game Preview: Alabama

By French, Mason, and Joe

Virginia Tech Hokies (0-0) against Alabama Crimson Tide (0-0)

Time: 5:30 PM
Date: Saturday, August 31, 2013
Place: Atlanta Georgia
Stadium: Georgia Dome (71,228)
Radio: Virginia Tech IMG
Spread: Alabama -20
Weather: Dome

The Skinny

On Saturday the Hokies will try for their second win ever against Alabama. Tech's currently 1-11 against the Tide. Beamer Co. is also looking to knock off a top-ranked team for the first time. Virginia Tech is 0-7 all-time against teams ranked number one in the AP Poll.

Keep an Eye On...

T.J. Yeldon: While Eddie Lacy got a great deal of attention last season, T.J. Yeldon quietly became the first Alabama true freshman to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. Also, he ran for 12 touchdowns and over 6 yards per carry. Yeldon has elite cutback ability, tremendous power, the ability to catch the football in space, and he can make elite players miss in the open field.

Virginia Tech All-Access

Thanks to Bill anyone who missed the behind the scenes look at the Hokies can rewatch it.

I enjoyed every minute of the program, even though I didn't learn anything about scheme or personnel.

A few thoughts:

Offensive Success Against Alabama

I was disappointed with the offensive showing in the second preseason scrimmage. Tech is opening its season against two-time defending national champion, and preseason number one, Alabama. I desperately want Tech to win that game, I'm sure I'm not the only one, but I know exactly how good the offense will have to be to accomplish that tall task. I'm not as concerned with how the defense will hold up. Foster is the best in the business, and Bama has a rebuilt offensive line. I'm confident the defense will hold it's own, and I trust Foster will find a way to gameplan around the loss of Whip Ronny Vandyke. However, I was quite concerned with what the offense would be able to contribute to the cause, but after I watched this post-scrimmage interview with Shane Beamer, I slept a lot better.

00:04:00–00:04:24 H/T mike4vt

It was never about beating Alabama

#BEATBAMA was never about beating Alabama.

It was about sacking up. It was about running head first through a loss. It was knowing you're too short, but laying out anyways. It was about getting fired up and not backing down. It was about not wanting to hear one more damn word about how much Alabama was going to win by. It was about believing in these new coaches, the players, owning this offseason, and not rolling into a ball. It was about pride and scoffing at Vegas' line. It was about making the dumb choice, hope and faith over logic, that you'd repeat over and over.

A retweet from Spencer Hall, one of my favorite writers:

Am I fool for believing in my team? Am I a fool for loving my school? Am I am fool for just betting every piece of my soul I have on the underdog?


Second Public Scrimmage: Mason's Take

The Virginia Tech football staff has 12 days, just 12 days to get their team ready to beat the top football program in the country. Keep in mind, most of Virginia Tech's players were part of a team which had to scratch and claw its way to a 7-6 season in 2012. A team which finished fourth in its division of the ACC, a conference many consider to be just the fifth best in the nation.

The football team last year was not good. The moves that Frank Beamer, a man who publicly admits to hating change, proves that last season was a disappointment. There were a lot of reasons why the Hokies struggled last year (down year in talent, poor offensive scheme, lack of senior leadership), and there's been a lot of talk this offseason about how those issues have been addressed. Loeffler and Grimes have been hired to fix Beamer's annual offensive woes, Edmunds is supposed to be the next-big-thing at tailback, and Logan Thomas claims to be much more involved with maintaining the high standards necessary to win championships. Hokie fans hope that the offense will improve enough to allow their team to beat Alabama's juggernaut. Well, the scrimmage on saturday showed me that the offense has a long way to go in 12 days to be good enough to #BEATBAMA.

Second Public Scrimmage: O-Line, Secondary, and D-Line

Today in Blacksburg, a crisp, fall-like afternoon greeted HokieNation for Virginia Tech's final public scrimmage before their game against Alabama. Questions about the Hokies' depth in the wake of an unfortunate string of injuries, effectiveness of a new offensive system, and play making ability of inexperienced skill position players loom over camp. Meanwhile, Bud Foster's defense is poised for a return to dominance built around a devastating front-seven, while a group of young, but supremely talented, cornerbacks start to establish themselves in the secondary.

What's Going On?

I haven't felt this out of the loop since I lived in Connecticut. For the last few days I've been unplugged. My office has temporarily relocated from my guest bedroom featuring a memory foam cushion office chair and MacBook Pro, to my new domicile which has tobacco stained walls, dust, and weathered windows. On an afternoon paint break I saw this text from French, "TELLER IS MOVING TO TACKLE," and initially thought he was just effing with me. Later on, I had indigestion when I saw this tweet while inhaling my day's timeline for dinner.

Football season is getting interesting, and while I love to watch the story unfold, I hate that it is due to injury. I remember watching Tony Gregory's catch-and-run scamper at the 2010 Spring Game and thinking to myself, "This kid's got good hands and a burst, he'll be a player." Unfortunately, ACL injuries got the better of a promising career. I hate when that happens to any kid, on any team.

Best Case/Worst Case Defense

If you haven't read part one on the offense, then you probably don't know what this is about. You should probably ready part one first.

James Gayle

Best case: He plays healthy, hungry, and singularly blocked all year (due to the multiple pass rushing threats around him). Feeding off the disrespect shown to him by the ACC media (by not naming him preseason All-ACC), Gayle takes no mercy while going after the quarterback. He gets over 10.5 sacks, a ton of hurries and at least two opposing quarterbacks to cry. Let's be honest, it would definitely be Bryn Renner and David Watford (if he's still starting).

Worst case: The other guys on the line aren't a pass rushing threat, making it a much easier decision for opposing coaches to double team Gayle. This wears him down, and we see the same guy who was working off injuries for the entire 2012 season.

Dadi Nicolas

Kyshoen Jarrett Shouldn't Return Punts

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.

August Camp: First Public Scrimmage

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 cowbell football.

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.


Thoughts on the Early Offensive Line Shuffling

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.

August Camp: Thoughts on Joel Caleb at Tailback

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.

Best Case/Worst Case Offense

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'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.

August Camp: Initial Depth Chart Released 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 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.

Scholarships or Brand Rights, Let the Players Decide

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.

Greg Stroman Commits to Virginia Tech

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.

2013 Virginia Tech Football Trailer

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

Cameron Phillips Commits to Virginia Tech

Wide Receiver Cameron Phillips of Hyattsville, MD (DeMatha Catholic) has given a verbal pledge to the Hokies according to

Phillips is rated as a 3-star prospect by, 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.

Brady Taylor Commits to Virginia Tech

According to FOX Sports / 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 Tailbacks

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.