"Foe"Rensics: East Carolina

Hello. Welcome to the third installment of "Foe"Rensics. It seems there was a decided preference for incorporating some actual real facts into this, so I'm going to stick with it and see how it goes. As always, there may be places where I've stretched the truth a bit. This week, we're traveling to the pirate infested waters of Greenville1, NC, home of East Carolina.

Where the Passing Attack Is At

Frank Beamer is fond of reminding reporters after his team's first game that the most improvement in a season happens between the first and second games. It's a coaching adage that is common because it is usually pretty true. The first week a coach prepares his game plan based on who he thinks his team is. It's not unusual for a squad to perform like something entirely unimagined. In that case, the changes made from week one to week two will increase productivity as scheme, practice focus, and game plan better match personnel and their pros and cons.

The Alabama game taught the Hokies coaching staff a lot about the current squad. Bud Foster and the defensive coaches saw their defense hold up very well versus one of the best pro-formation offenses in the country. The d-line looked stout against the run and the slanting scheme worked well to take away a powerful zone-rushing offense. Coach Torrian Gray's youngest pupils (Kendall Fuller, Brandon Facyson, and Donovan Riley) all looked more than capable in pass coverage, and his eldest statesman (Kyle Fuller) appeared to have taken the next step in single man coverage against one of the nation's premiere wide receivers. The defense looked to be pretty special after the first game, and simply needed to see that success continue against the spread-style offense that Western Carolina brought to town.

Bud Foster Gives Me Nightmares

One of the fascinating things about watching college football in real time is the number of misconceptions that turn into conclusions. With the benefit of hindsight from the film review every Sunday, I gain a certain degree of insight about how the Hokie offense and defense performed that I otherwise would not have.

Most fascinating, perhaps, is analyzing Bud Foster's defensive concepts each week. While the basic tenants remain the same, he seems to constantly adjust alignments and concepts to fit the ability of his personnel, especially in the secondary. I expected his game plan to be very vanilla against Western Carolina, which would serve as an opportunity to evaluate personnel and give young players an opportunity to face spread concepts in a live game setting. Foster delivered a vanilla game plan from the standpoint of blitzes, however, his plan to stop the spread incorporated using nickel personnel in 7- and 8-man fronts via the base 4-4 and the 46 alignments. From these alignments, two facts presented themselves. First, Bud Foster has an incredible amount of trust in Kyle Fuller. Fuller played on the boundary in single coverage without any deep safety help on his half of the field for long stretches during the game. Second, and perhaps most importantly, every offensive coordinator has film of four of the top five Hokie defensive backs (Kyle, Kendall, Jarrett, and Bonner) lined up as a nickel slot defender, a cover corner, a deep safety, and as a blitzing outside linebacker.

Gut Reactions: Western Carolina

That was an early afternoon filled with empty calories, beer, bourbon, and blowouts. I walked out of the Georgia Dome last week disappointed, but not upset. "What if we..." The Hokies played the Tide tough, effort wasn't a question, but they were far from polished.

The Hokies showed progress against Western Carolina. The only major snafu on special teams was the normally sure handed Kyshoen Jarrett mishandling a punt (one in which he didn't get bailed out by the officials). Credit Frank Beamer for tightening up Pride and Joy by playing starters like James Gayle, Kyle Fuller, Brandon Facyson, and Dadi Nicolas.

The passing game looked sharper than last week. Yes, there were drops and bad decisions, but eventually Thomas settled into a groove, Josh Stanford and Willie Byrn each made a nice catch, and freshman Kalvin Cline distinguished himself as something other than a fashion icon. Thomas and Knowles tried to connect on the deep ball a couple of times, which given their skill sets is something they should combine to do very well, but didn't hit on. Perhaps it will happen when they really need the points.

"Foe"Rensics: Western Carolina

Editor's Note: Bumped to the front because I couldn't stop laughing. --Joe

Hello. Welcome to the second installment of "Foe"Rensics. Acceding to the demands of my legions of fans (and to the fact that last week we played one of the most famous teams in college football that we've spent the last eight months talking about and this week we're playing a college no one has ever heard of that used to be a high school) I've decided to deepen my research past Wikipedia (and my imagination) in an attempt to include "facts". Please note, there may be places where I've stretched the truth a bit. This week, our journey of discovery takes us to Cullowhee, home of Western Carolina University.

Offensive Potential and Foster's Genius

Alabama's won the last two national championships and are favorites to win again this year. Alabama has a Heisman candidate at quarterback, an NFL-ready running back, and a rock solid defense. Hokie fans knew that the competition on August 31st was going to be stiff, but what we didn't know was how capable our players would look on national television. Coach Frank Beamer and his staff learned a lot about what this football team is about Saturday night, and so did we.

Offensive Lessons

The offensive line is already improving on last season's debacle. As French wrote on Monday, Jeff Grimes' unit more than held their own against a front-7 that will likely be in the discussion as "best in the nation" by the end of the season. The push off the ball the o-line was able to get while run blocking exceeded my expectations. Pass protection wasn't as good, but it showed promise and is normally the part of offensive line play that needs the most work during the beginning of the season anyway. As the season progresses, expect our offensive line to continue to improve and gel together. It appears that the hire of Jeff Grimes is starting to pay dividends already. I'm excited to see what he will accomplish once the kids that he recruits are brought into the program.

Bud Foster's Umbrella Closes on the Tide

Bud Foster's defense held Alabama's offense, an explosive unit (38.71 PPG LY, 12th) with potential post-season award winners at tailback, left tackle, and wide receiver, to 206 total yards of offense, two touchdowns, and didn't allow a 100-yard rusher. Perhaps even more surprisingly, the Hokies spent most of the game in the Alabama backfield, finishing with 12.0 tackles for a loss and 4.0 sacks. Tech's defense gave the Hokies every opportunity to win the football game. How did they completely shut down such a talented group?

Throughout the spring and summer, I highlighted the transition from Bud Foster using a base 4-2-5 concept with a Whip linebacker playing to the wide side of the field to a base 4-4 defense with the rover and whip playing on the line of scrimmage, creating an eight man front. Foster complimented the 4-4 with the use of a 46 front (an inside linebacker lined up on the outside edge to the strength of the passing formation with the rover lined up as an inside linebacker and the whip to the weak side), and a nickel concept where the rover drops as a traditional strong safety and a third corner covering the slot.