Changes in the off-season

I initially wrote this article a few weeks back, but lost it to the HTML sharks.

The hot topic around Hokie Town and its blog-o-sphere has been what changes should/need to be made in light of the thrashing we experienced at the Orange Bowl. Posts have run the gamut from “Fire Frank Beamer” to “Spread Offense FTW” to “Why the hell does Coach Newsome have a job”. What I’d like to do is take a second to address the potential changes we could see in the off-season and determine just how likely they are.

1. Changes in the coaching staff – likelihood: 0%
This is a debate inherent to Virginia Tech football, focused on the offensive side of the ball. Year after year we were subject to bottom-20 offensive finishes, glossed over by top-5 defensive finishes. It astounds me to look back and realize just how bad our offensive line play was circa 2007-2008. Sean Glennon may have not been a great QB for the Hokies, but no one is going to look good when they have less than three seconds to get rid of the football. It was like opposing team’s defensive tackles were playing with chainsaws.

Nothing will change this year. We saw a football team that had the best offensive output in years, decent offensive line play (if you ignore the bookends to the season), and a spotty defense that ended up bearing most of the blame for the losses. Brain Stinespring has earned his job security for one year. Not that he is immune from intense scrutiny (shotgun running plays on 2nd and 14, an appalling lack of Darren and Ryan on the field at the same time, inability to call pass routes for the middle of the field, etc.), but we did see some impressive offensive output. Whether or not it was maximized, that remains to be seen.

Since CFB values loyalty above all, it’s unlikely that Newsome gets the ax either. He has 80% of his line returning and a dynamic back to block for in 2011. If we see similar folds on the line next season, then I’d like to think Newsome is history. But we’ve seen VT coaches do a lot less with a lot more and keep their positions, so who knows. Since this coming recruiting class has targeted about 14 tight ends, I’m hoping that the plan isn’t to Ed-Wang most of them into offensive lineman. Offensive lineman playing south of 280 lbs isn’t going to be the answer when you match up against a big, physical defensive line.

2. Changes in player positions/depth chart: 15%
That figure may be the natural pessimist in me, but there’s a few players I’d like to move around who won’t. Whether it’s the coaching staff, loyalty to players, or stubbornness, who knows. I may be way off the mark here, since my only experience involves moving outside linebackers to safetys and playing Logan Thomas at tight end for part of the season in NCAA 11, but here’s what I’d like to see happen:

Blake DeChristopher – tackle to guard – no chance at this, I know, since Blake’s started here for 3 years. But he is big, and slow, and gets eaten alive by speed rushers or guys that outmaneuver him. I think he’d be a better fit to plop in the middle of the line and eat up the Terrance Codys of the world.

Jeron GW – whip to bench – his struggles are well-documented, and maybe even forgivable given his youth, but I watched in person as JGW completely and utterly whiffed on a open-field tackle in the ACC Championship. 13 games into the season. There’s no excuse for that. I don’t even trust him as the gunner on special teams since that requires a lock-down tackler. Let him be a Matt Reidy-type or the third-team rover, but keep him off the field when things matter. Get Exum, Patterson, Nick Dew, or Cris Hill at the nickel back when you need it. End bitterness.

3. Changes in uniforms – 110%
I'm waiting for Nike to roll out their environmentally-friendly Green Pro Combats for the Hokies. Or Red/White/Blue Pro Combats in honor of Veteran’s Day.. Nice to be a part of these programs, not nice to have sold our souls to Nike. I remember at the 2009 Pro-Combat unveiling, Frank specifically asked the crowd to purchase Nike products. Sigh. I love the throwbacks, but my favorite will always be this. Wish we could K.I.S.S. when it comes to this topic.

4. Changes in defensive scheme – 70%
I think this will be the only semblance of change we will see. The Virginia Tech defense has thrived on ball-hawking defensive backs, intuitive linebacker play, and undersized-but-fast defensive lineman. All we really had to rely on this past year was our secondary – no need for change there. Fuller showed great instincts to play opposite Hosley, Exum should thrive at rover, and Jarrett/Aromire/Farrow can probably contribute early to the team.

What I’d like to see is a “heavy” package in the 4-3 utilizing three traditional linebackers. Basically, scrapping the whip position. We have a ton of talent and depth at this position, and playing the whip with JGW or Tweedy means getting only two of Tyler/Rivers/Edwards/Williams/Taylor/Gibson/**Anthony** on the field at most times. If the Bud defense is built to funnel the ball to the linebackers, then we need reliable tacklers to make the play. Athletic types like Edwards or **Anthony** could play the abandoned whip spot in order to not lose anything in coverage. This would not only give VT a better size match-up against power-run teams, but help stop the recruiting whispers from opposing teams that we are not a “pro-NFL” defense for the front seven.

In the end, I don’t think CFB will change much as the team pushes to spring practices. He lost two star running backs, a franchise QB, a bell-cow defensive tackle, and several other key components. With a 4th grade schedule to play in the fall, I look for the Hokies to start off slow and simple. Lean on the run game, play-action pass, punt and let the defense go to work. The 10-game winning formula, as tired as I am of hearing about it as a justification for poor play and coaching, is tried and true. If the Hokies are fortunate enough to play well and make it back to the BCS, then hopefully they bust out the 2010 Orange Bowl tape and see how well “going with the flow” worked there.

DISCLAIMER: Blog posts may not have been written or edited by The Key Play staff.

Comments

Some follow-up to your Excellent Thoughts

2. Changes in player positions/depth chart:

I'll continue to maintain that Lanier needs to be moved to tight end. I'd prefer for Drager to stay at defensive end so we have some leadership and experience there. Maybe we can pull a Stanford and have him go both ways like their fullback. If Becton isn't the solution at left tackle then find someone who is, we have big capable bodies that are doing nothing but sideline gazing.

3. Changes in uniforms

My preference are: 1) keeping the exact same ones we rocked this season, 2) 2003 all maroons 3) the '07 unis you posted 4) anything except the all black.

4. Changes in defensive scheme

Foster has to be considering a 4-3 "heavy", or similar package. And I agree, if any coach is going to switch things up it's going to be Bud. His scheme is continually evolving with tweaks, but he's not afraid of a total overhaul as evidenced by his current philosophy. If I wake up and read Newsome has abandoned our convert-a-tight-end-to-tackle-zone-blocking scheme I'll buy everyone season tickets.*

*not really

*sigh

the whole O-line woes are documented and of epic proportions, honestly I don't know why more hasn't been made of this versus Stinegate. It does seem to be getting some traction lately though.

also

If we have good recruiters that are lousy coaches then that's another one for the no-$h!t file....why can't we let them do what they want to and hire additional bodies??

People rise to their level of incompetence. What does a c-grade staffer make anyway? How many alumni would donate $$ to boost payroll, and what would be the payback on the additional investment in staff?

and how about recruiting philosophy

low class rankings justified by the 10-win season stat is getting old. I completely get that teams waste talent on a regular basis, but how about we keep out staff intact since that seems to be a culprit of said talent waste and go get some *****s for once.

Prediction

The shit is really going to hit the fan on the boards, blogs, etc if we don't land Stephone Anthony. I remember around this time last year how this was supposed to be the recruiting class...

indeed

Fans should be critical if we don't land Anthony..

Anthony is our chance at redemption for not landing Travis Hughes or even being in the running for Curtis Grant. It's not the end all be all but it should provide a ton of introspection from the staff on their recruiting structure and how to improve it. Even if we get Anthony I think an evaluation of recruiting should be done anyways but it would put everyone in better spirits.

Until we fall flat on our face the staff won't have their feet to the fire. I'm playing a little devil's advocate here, but their point would be to cite the 10 win seasons, ACC championships, etc... They'd also be quick to point out only one team wins the MNC, which is what all this recruiting talk boils up (or down) to.

On the other hand, I agree with you. It's frustrating because we see shiny things out there that we want to snatch up because we know they could be difference makers. But on the other, a lot of those kids have egos and baggage and would throw a wrench into Beamer Co's. assembly line. The moves just seem so obvious, bring in Shane, Fridge, etc but CFB believes he can get it done with what he has and I hope he does.

Anyways, I'm enjoying reading this thread and the back and forth with you guys.

I think there is some heat coming for change...

There are a lot of irrational fans that think we are in the very top tier of programs but there are the more rational that can point out phases of the program that should be improved to hopefully get on the next step which is to win the big game a healthy amount of times. I think there has been a good bit of heat coming especially about winning the big game which Beamer even put some pressure on himself before the Stanford game. Winning a MNC is a rare occurance for a program who hasn't won one before but at least winning that big game on the national stage is huge, I'd venture to say that it's a negative recruiting pitch employed against us a lot.

Right now the story on VT is we are consistently good but can't win the big one and that is the key to the pressure for change to happen. We are the guy that can talk to the hottest girl all night but everyone watching says that we won't close.

If you have seen The Fighter a good analogy is that we are perceived right now in the media as the early Mickey Ward of college football teams, in that we are a stepping stone for a team, which means that we are good but can't deliver. In fact I think that's a great analogy to The Figher in that he doesn't have to completely change but has to keep some good elements and cut out some bad elements in order to get to the next level (hopefully I left out enough to not ruin the movie for anyone also it has a bonus reference to my earlier post since there is another Oregon connection w/ them watching The Fighter for inspiration).

Big Games

I agree, there is definitely heat from the fans (some of it based off of intelligent analysis, I think those of us who comment and post here represent a little bit more of an outlier because we're sensible more times than not) to win the big ones, but as long as CFB keeps winning ten games and ACC Championships he'll skirt around it. The thing that refrains me from being ultra critical is that I believe, that CFB believes everything he is doing is the right thing for Tech.

I did Tweet this to Jimmy Robertson: http://twitter.com/#!/thekeyplay/status/28113141007122432, to which he replied "@thekeyplay I think you could make that deduction, yes."

Even if it is one little thing, we are trying to get better.

the boise loss pissed me off

But if we lost that way to Stanford I would've been happy. Watching that mohawk toting sack machine actually hold back because he felt sorry for tyrod in the 4th qtr was just sad. I was proud the way we played Bama, embarrassed at LSU and Stanford. Any big win would be nice, and if we can't get that at least being competitive for a full game would hold me over until we do.

Good rational thoughts in the article

1) I would like to put it a little higher than 0% but not much higher with some of Frank's old buddies available in Kevin Rogers and Ricky Bustle. Would love it if they could somehow get Shane Beamer in the program, I think some infusion of youth could help out a ton.

2) Would definitely love the move of Lanier to TE. DeChristopher to guard would be a huge benefit to the program as well as his NFL stock especially with some good tackles in the wings in Via, Becton, Gibson, and possibly even Shuman. Would love to see Edwards and Patterson, last time we had a big traditional OLB at whip in James Anderson it worked out great for us.

3) The recruits seem to dig the uniforms and Nike money is always good. I prefer all-maroon as my favorite though.

4) We had James Anderson in at the whip spot in what could've been described as a heavy package. I think instead of recruiting slower safeties to play as our outside linebackers might be good to recruit outside linebackers to play there (***Anthony***). If coaches worried about the pass then in passing situations utilize the nickel more.

Adibi comes to mind.

Perfect combo of recruiting pitch and defensive scheme shift

How about being able to pitch Anthony on NFL potential at the bigger whip spot by pointing to James Anderson who plays in the pros as an outside linebacker for his home state team. I think the perception that we don't send LBs to the pros often could be mitigated by this.

Also look at the top paragraph of James Anderson's profile from before the 2004 season which is scarily similar to what could/should happen with Edwards in my opinion. They even have pretty much the same height/weight as well.

Anthony has kept his recruiting so underwraps

that it is hard to get a good read. If it comes down to Clemson or VT, you have to think he'd go with the winning program with long-time consistency at the coaching position. But who the hell knows anymore. How the hell UNC has sold Holts, Hughes, or any other VT targets on "no NCAA jailtime, powder blue, derp derp doo" I'll never know.

If the coaches can't land Anthony in the boat, then the world will explode. And I'll be lighting the fuse. Here you have the premiere program in the VA/MD/NC/DC region winning more than anyone else, sending players to the NFL, and having ZERO bad press with the NCAA, not to mention brand-new facilities, a 20+ year, future hall-of-famer at head coach, and a program that is heavily endorsed by Nike and plays on national TV every Saturday. There should be little to any reason that this many players have "slipped" out of our hands.

I'll admit that we may lose to the Florida's and Alabama's of the world, but UNC, Penn State, and UVA should rarely if ever be taking recruits right out of our mouths. Call it lazy recruiting on some coaches behalf, call it Frank not investing the one-on-one attention he needs to, or call it the lack of a young, hip face for the program (HELLO SHANE BEAMER), but something's got to give here.

How the hell UNC has sold

How the hell UNC has sold Holts, Hughes, or any other VT targets on "no NCAA jailtime, powder blue, derp derp doo" I'll never know.

This is why we can't have nice things!

great forum

I've found myself looking for the Facebook like button on all these comments.

I only have the Like button on posts because internally Facebook would chop off the permalink to the specific comment and make it a "Like" for the post. I am looking into adding an internal rating system once things get a little busier around here.

1. 0 ... no comment, only pisses me off.

2. i think drager and lanier could both go to te. drager has no future in the nfl at de, but he might at te. lanier could be a great blocking te, but becton either needs to stop being a pussy or via needs to step up and be the LT.

3. i love the throwbacks, but i am cool with nike pimping us.

4. bud will play his best and healthiest 11. if a whip doesn't step up, i could a 4-2-5 look, less of a change than a straight 4-3 which is a HUGE scheme change.

5. OL and DL are still a relative weakness for top teams. PERIOD and this year's recruits aren't changing that.

eric

"My advice to you... is to start drinking heavily."-John Blutarsky

Big Games

I think the stat is worthless. It is a way for the press to try and knock us (or Frank Beamer) down. We have beaten many "top notch" football teams, Texas, Nebraska, Fla St., Tennessee, LSU, Alabama, and others... No one harrasses them about losing to VT. We are respected for our program and all these schools wish they could have won 10 games for the same number of years as us. I'd like to know their records against top 5 teams. Probably not that great. You only win those games when you have a team capable of being in the top 5. We haven't been that good every year and neither have all those schools. We will get there when we have a good recruiting year where it all comes together.

We have trouble getting the very best athletes because it takes a big ego coach to deal with big ego players. That is not our coaches and not VT's style. We look for good students and good citizens that play tough. I am okay with that. I would rather not have the controversay that comes with questionable recruits and recruiting practices.

#Let's Go - Hokies

I think there's some truth to it.

I'd like to know their records against top 5 teams. Probably not that great. You only win those games when you have a team capable of being in the top 5.

I think you hit the nail on the head right there. We are a consistently excellent team and program but not an elite one. I think the 10 games a year streak is most impressive, but it is definitely devalued a bit by playing in the ACC and not having a couple of marquee wins over the same time period. I think scheme and philosophy have more to do with no-shows in big spots more than talent. Stanford wasn't more talented than us, and neither was Boise State, but they were more focussed, tough and had a better offensive strategy. Our offensive game plans are blend of whatever sticks and hodgepodge. That's not all on Stinespring either, it's CFB's system and all the offensive coaches need to step up.

As a reference, these are the top 5 teams we lost to over the streak.

Aug. 28, 2004 -- vs. No. 1 USC (at FedEx Field): 24-13 loss
Jan. 3, 2005 -- vs. No. 3 Auburn (in Sugar Bowl): 16-13 loss
Nov. 5, 2005 -- vs. No. 5 Miami: 27-7 loss
Sept. 8, 2007 -- at No. 2 LSU: 48-7 loss
Oct. 25, 2007 -- vs. No. 2 Boston College: 14-10 loss
Sept. 5, 2009 -- vs. No. 5 Alabama (in Atlanta): 34-24 loss
Sept. 6, 2010 -- vs. No. 3 Boise State (at FedEx Field): 33-30 loss
Jan. 3, 2011 -- vs. No. 5 Stanford (in Orange Bowl): 40-12 loss

On paper we were better or just as good as BC, Boise State and Stanford. We should have beaten Auburn, BC and Boise State. If we had won any two of those games it would have turned the media's perception around.

via http://voices.washingtonpost.com/hokies-journal/2011/01/virginia_techs_s...

As far as talent is concerned here's all of our 4 star or better recruits according to Rivals since 2002:

2010

Nick Acree
Nick Dew
Laurence Gibson
Zack McCray
Mark Shuman

2009

D.J. Coles
Jayron Hosley
Logan Thomas
Jerrodd Williams
David Wilson

2008

D.J. Coles
Quillie Odom
Vinston Painter
Dyrell Roberts
Bruce Taylor
Ryan Williams

2007

Blake DeChristopher
Chris Hill
Tyrod Taylor

2006

Jason Worilds
Olufemi Ajiboye
Aaron Brown
John Graves
Todd Nolen

2005

Stephen Friday
Victor Harris
Elan Lewis
Todd Nolen
Deveon Simmons
Ike Whitaker

2004

George Bell
Sean GLennon
Kent Hicks
Eddie Royal

2003

Xavier Adibi
Tripp Carroll
Chris Ellis
James Griffin
Vince Hall
Matt Welsh

2002

Jonathn Lewis
Marcus Vick
Jimmy Williams

There were a lot of busts especially between 2004-06.

I never experienced "the dark years", but I am uber grateful for everything CFB had done for VT and the football team. The would of, could of, should of is just terribly frustrating.

What has winning 10 games done?

It has put us on the big time football map. Not an easy thing to do. It has brought in tens of millions of dollars for our sports programs. It has benefitted not just football but all other sports. When I attended Tech we didn't even get to bowl games and rarely sold out games. I am happy with the level of success we now acheive year in and out. Do I want more? You better believe it! I don't think we have yet had the talent needed to win a NC but we are getting closer all the time. One of these years soon we will finally make the breakthrough.

#Let's Go - Hokies

Did you guys see this?

It seems ESPN is weighting the ACC Championships very highly, #4 of 2007 class.

http://espn.go.com/blog/acc

Maybe we're just a bunch of whiners :)

Reading that is pretty much the only thing that's keeping me sane after hearing about all the recruiting blunders right now.

pretty b.s.

if VT were in the SEC ... think the ranking would be 4?

it's who you play. hokies have loaded up on some shitty acc teams.

not saying the class is trash, but definitely not 4.

eric

"My advice to you... is to start drinking heavily."-John Blutarsky