Pound the Rock, Progress in the Running Game

As I wrote throughout the summer, Alabama presented an opportunity for Virginia Tech to demonstrate a commitment to improved offensive line play and an effective running game. How the Hokies would fare rushing against a traditionally stout Alabama defense was a great mystery all year. The first team offense struggled to run the football during the spring game, and they didn't run it during open public scrimmages in fall camp. However, the mandate from Coach Frank Beamer this offseason was clear: the Hokies must run the football.

Fast forward to 9:30PM on Saturday night. Trey Edmunds became the first Hokie running back to break the 100-yard mark (132) in his debut since Shyrone Stith (119), and despite laments by the Crimson Tide about their performance, Alabama is much better than the 1996 Akron Zips. Tech's o-line demonstrated solid assignment football throughout the game. The unit had significantly improved fundamental footwork, contact/aiming points, and they remained engaged on blocks. The rushing yardage beyond the Edmunds touchdown run wasn't Earth shattering, but Virginia Tech consistently found themselves in much more manageable 3rd-and-4 type situations versus the 3rd-and-11s that plagued the team last year.

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)
TV: ESPN
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?

Yes.

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.

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