My weekly column highlighting the most important things to lookout for on offense and defense.
The Hokies on Offense
Protecting Tyrod is a concern and not just at left tackle where backup Andrew Lanier is likely to play most of the game. He'll have his hands full with All-American defensive end candidate Ryan Winterswyk. Lanier has made one career start. Last season against Duke he held up pretty well, so he isn't a total liability. I am more concerned with the unit as a whole, handling Boise's lineman and linebacker stunts and blitzes. The same old problem for Tech's offensive line. Giving up sacks, is not a way to control the clock and the game.
Red Zone Improvement
Much has been made of former Hokies and current Minnesota Vikings quarterbacks coach Kevin Rodgers three day "vacation" in Blacksburg during the off season. He along with the offensive coaching staff "holed up" in Merryman and made tweaks to the Hokie-O, most notably the red zone strategy.
Rogers runs the red zone -- from the opponent's 20-yard line to the end zone ... explained to Tech's coaches that he splits the red zone into four yardage areas: the 20 to the 16, 15 to 11, 10 to 6 and 5 to 3. Rogers told them he assigns certain plays for each area, because other plays from the broader game plan have no "credibility" that close to the goal line. He diagrammed a play on the board, then showed video of it, so Tech's coaches could see how it works against a certain defense.
Now, I am not stupid enough to say VT is suddenly going to transform from conservative to wide open play calling in the red zone, but I believe the offense will be a bit less predictable. Goal line and short yardage are a bit of a concern with the second tight end and fullbacks being less serviceable than in previous years.
Tyrod Turned Loose
Last year due to young, less dependable backups, the staff made an understandably conscious effort to keep Tyrod in the pocket more. It certainly helped that Ryan Williams was amazing and took pressure off the offense. This year, even though he is in tune with the receivers and goes through his progressions much better, Tyrod has the green light to run. Boise State has not seen anyone like him... ever and Coach Peterson is rightfully concerned.
You've got to play great team defense, stay in your lanes, and when he takes off, you'd better have 11 guys running after him. It's probably nothing more concerning than a guy who can run like that.
Everything you spend all day long on is designing coverages for this route, that route, for this run, for that run. And, all of a sudden, you get a scrambling guy taking off and doing some things, all those plans are out the window. It is concerning.
Tyrod's athleticism makes him the x-factor and we'll need him to bust a couple of big plays.
The Hokies on Defense
Boise will take their shots downfield, but they are more of a West Coast offense. They'll run screens and throw short. Cincinnati's offense is a little more wide open than the Boise State offense, but the production is similar. Both teams do run a lot of screens and they like to get the ball to their playmakers.
Jeron Gouveia-Winslow at whip, Jayron Hosley at field corner and Davon Morgan at rover are all going to be attacked by Boise's efficient offense. As Bud said, Boise's scheme is getting their playmakers, be it running backs or wide receivers the ball in space. They attack the field (wide) side much more than the boundary. It's up to those three to shut that junk down. If GW can't make plays in space Morgan may slide to whip and the athletic Antoine Exum will fill in at rover in order to get more speed and coverage on the field.
The Line of Attrition
Many people were surprised when Doug Martin was named Boise State's starting running back. The Broncos have three more than capable running backs, all but Martin are under 200 lbs. They all will play, but naming the biggest as the starter may be a sign that they want to pound the rock. Our defensive line features three new starters and they are relieved by even less experienced backups. Trying to wear down the front four, if that is the case, should be an interesting subplot considering the Bronco offensive line is not overly big or physical. There is no starter over 300 lbs and one may play at 270 lbs, but, they do have a lot of starts under their belts. However, the starters at left guard and tackle are still to be determined, so this matchup needs to be watched very carefully.
The Game within the Game
Expect to see adjustments and counter adjustments galore on Monday night. When you matchup arguably the best collegiate offensive mind in Boise's Chris Peterson versus arguably the best collegiate defensive mind in Tech's Bud Foster with eight months to prepare, you know you are going to see them working with their full allotment of tricks.