Virginia Tech's running game was maddeningly inconsistent over the course of the 2013 season. Outside of Trey Edmunds' performance against Miami, the Hokies could not establish the power running game especially in the red zone. With only scat backs and players converted from other positions littering the depth chart, Virginia Tech actively recruited several running backs that had the size, strength, and speed to be an every down workhorse back in Blacksburg.
Editor's Note: Bumped to the front because I'm a sucker for numbers. Thanks for writing, Sammy. --Joe
Last week, news broke that Virginia Tech offensive line coach Jeff Grimes would be departing Blacksburg after one season for the same position at LSU. Grimes is originally from Texas, played his college ball at UTEP and this move gets Grimes closer to his Texas roots. However, the cold, hard fact is at the end of the day, Grimes likely left Virginia Tech because LSU made him a far more lucrative offer than the Hokies could.
As Joe pointed out in an earlier post, Grimes is probably in line for a significant pay raise from the Tigers. This has sparked terrific debate and conversation among the Hokie Nation and right here on The Key Play on both coaching salaries and Hokie Club contributions.
And here I thought the first bit of news in the morning would be the announcement of the new o-line coach. Instead, Hokies verbal, offensive tackle Brady Taylor, committed to Ohio State.
Taylor was in Columbus for an official visit this past weekend which took place two weeks after receiving a scholarship offer from his hometown team. Many recruitniks believed Taylor would flip on his visit. He didn't. However, it was reported yesterday. he'd return today with his mom to speak with Urban Meyer.
It's day 52 of what has become the most interesting thing to hit the Cassell Coliseum floor since the Red Pandahalftime show.
52 days ago, center Cadarian Raines was pulled from the Furman game after just three minutes, never to check back in. Rumors were flying about Raines possibly mouthing off to head coach James Johnson, who then promptly took disciplinary action. Since then, however, Raines has played a total of 56 minutes out of a possible 360 over the last nine game, a punishment that has turned into something much more.
Even worse? We have no idea what Cadarian did.
It seems as though the initial reports are true and Grimes will be leaving for Baton Rougue. The Richmond Times-Dispatch's Mike Barber spoke with Billy Ray Mitchell's high school coach, Chris Partridge. Mitchell is an offensive lineman that verbally committed to Virginia Tech on July 2, 2013. The following is from Barber's report.
Every single basketball team has a hierarchy of players and personnel that rank in matter of importance to their team. It's something that has been a part of basketball longer than any other facet of the game (yes, it's even been around longer than Billy Packer). There are players that impact the course of a season (think Michael Jordan), players that have the potential to impact a few games here and there (think Toni Kukoc) and players that have no bearing on the season whatsoever (think Jud Buechler).
It's the reason that the talented kids in youth basketball are considered "ball hogs", many college and NBA superstars are considered "prima donnas" and why guys like Mike Krzyzewski, John Calipari or Gregg Popovich can command high multi-million dollar salaries. They're incredibly important to their team, and they know it.
I have few thoughts on the heels of Jeff Grimes reportedly interviewing for the vacant LSU offensive line position. As many of you know, I'm a glass half full kind of guy, so I'll begin with something positive.
This is a good thing for the program—no, not Grimes actually leaving. If you've read anything French wrote last season you'd know that Grimes is a talented position coach and a fine recruiter. Where I'm going with this is in any industry the best want to hire and work with the best. Even if you haven't followed along with the film reviews here, LSU courting Grimes should make you feel good about Beamer Co.'s hire a year ago.
Following the Commonwealth Cup victory, Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, o-line coach Jeff Grimes, and running backs coach Shane Beamer faced the challenge of putting together a running attack without the team's best back, Trey Edmunds. Without a proven runner that could present some kind of threat between the tackles, the Hokie staff had to leverage some unique offensive concepts and new players to catch the talented UCLA Bruins front off-guard in the Sun Bowl.
With Ken Ekanem and Dwayne Alford being a bit of an unknown quantity at stud defensive end (James Gayle's position, usually lined up over the right tackle, often to the tight end side), news that Marshall, who has experience at both defensive end spots, is a pleasant surprise. Traditionally, Bud Foster uses his best all around defensive end at the stud position to help take on the run at the point of attack (which is also the same reason that the stud end doesn't always produce the number of sacks that you would expect from your best pass rusher–often a tight end can be aligned to chip him). Marshall's bigger frame may be well utilized at the point of attack.
Junior Luther Maddy, who was named Third-Team All-ACC (ACSMA and Coaches), and has started 29 games at defensive tackle will return for his senior season.
Hello again all of you sad, masochistic people out there known as Virginia Tech men's basketball fans. In my last basketball column I previewed the VCU game and wrote things like "It's not going to be easy, but beating Virginia Commonwealth would not be impossible for this team."
I want to thank the remainder of the people who are still reading this column, because I'm going to guess that about 75% of you questioned my credibility and stopped. Sure, I thought that the Hokies could give the Rams a run for their money. Was that more about me thinking that VCU was overrated than Tech being under rated? Maybe, but at the end of the day it still goes down as one of my top ten "make myself look really stupid on the internet" predictions.
Since that embarrassment, Tech split a pair of home games that was assumed to be a sweep, and began conference play for good. Let's take a look at how they fared over those three games.
Junior rover Kyshoen Jarrett, who started in all 26 games over the last two seasons and played in every game since becoming a Hokie, is returning for his senior season. It was announced minutes ago by Jarrett and Virginia Tech. Jarrett had submitted paperwork to the NFL advisory committee to gauge his draft stock.
There is an overused football axiom that goes something like: the backup quarterback is always the most popular player on the team. Over the course of the 2013 season, a significant portion of the Virginia Tech fan base clamored for Mark Leal to get an opportunity to play as Logan Thomas went through stretches of turnovers and erratic play. I was vocally opposed to any performance-based benching of Thomas. Leal may have replaced Thomas during the spring game and been slightly more effective, but I didn't feel he had the ability to elevate an offensive unit that was lacking in playmakers this season. The Sun Bowl largely confirmed my opinion, as Leal had some success moving the ball but didn't appear to be confident, made some poor reads on critical plays, and was not a threat in the running game.
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Fuller,
Your kids are awesome. Really, really awesome. You already know this...you wear Mom and Dad goggles every day and there is very little that could change how highly you regard your children. Your four sons have been beloved by HokieNation since the moment they set foot on campus, and even earlier in Kendall's case. Each of them have engineered key moments in Tech football history; from Vinnie's blocked kick return against the Cousins in 2004 to Kendall's three picks against Duke, the Fullers have already left an indelible imprint on Hokie history.
Less than a week after the Sun Bowl and Attrition Season is already underway. Virginia Tech has granted defensive tackle Kris Harley his release according to Mike Barber, beat writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. According to Barber, Harley didn't travel to El Paso with the team.
This is the first of several commentaries and film reviews associated with the Sun Bowl and the resulting state of the Hokie football program. I had a pretty solid vision for what I would be writing about after the game, until Mark May and Lou Holtz decided to shoot off their mouth about the state of the program. For those of you who may have missed it, or have not read Joe's response, here is the ESPN segment again.
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.
"Animal Champion" is the highest compliment I can give any football player. Logan's earned it with every hit he's taken and delivered over the last 3 years.
His status for the second half is up in the air.
Virginia Tech Hokies (8-4, 5-3) at UCLA Bruins (9-3, 6-3)
Time: 2:15 PM ET / Noon:15 MT
Date: Tuesday, December 31, 2013
Place: El Paso, Texas
Stadium: Sun Bowl Stadium (51,500)
Radio: Virginia Tech IMG
Spread: Virginia Tech +7.5
Weather: 57 F, Sunny
In an effort not to repeat what's previously been posted, this preview will be a summary, and will be brief.
The UCLA Bruins had an excellent 2013 season, but if a weakness stood out to me when I watched film of their games, it was offensive line play. Due to attrition and injuries, the Bruins were often featuring three true freshmen on the offensive line (Caleb Benenoch, Scott Quessenberry and Alex Redmond). Each played well enough for true freshmen, but with inexperience comes breakdowns in pass protection and short yardage running situations. The Bruins were plagued with those breakdowns early and often this season. Also, with their spread offensive sets and the use of an H-Back, the Bruins lacked a true tight end to utilize as a blocker in short yardage, and UCLA's top two running backs are both scat back types that check in at less than 200 pounds.
As those struggles mounted, Jim Mora and offensive coordinator Noel Mazzone turned to their young, talented defense for a solution to challenges in short yardage situations. Mazzone developed a series of running packages featuring talented freshmen Myles Jack and Eddie Vanderdoes at tailback; senior defensive end Cassius Marsh and sophomore defensive end Brandon Willis at tight end; and defensive end Keenan Graham and linebacker Jordan Zumwalt both aligned as offset fullbacks. Mazzone debuted this Power I formation in short yardage situations against the Arizona Wildcats, and it became a staple of UCLA's offense over the last four regular season games.