Springapalooza 2011: The Offense

Virginia Tech Hokies football, basketball, athletics blog and forum featuring: unique columns, breaking news, film studies, in-depth analysis, recruiting, videos and jokes.

It's football season again!

/drives to ABC and buys bourbon
//heads to Giant to replenish charcoal and supply of dead filleted and smoked farm animals
///purchases new 55" LCD television

For the next few weeks at least.


This is the second edition of Springapalooza, our all too comprehensive spring preview. Check back next week to read about the defense. Throughout spring for Kevin will have practice updates. And after the Maroon and White Game the BCO will wrap everything up with a neat bow.

The Offense

Adios Amigos

Ralph Wiggum once stated, "Tyrod Taylor not Hokies quarterback, that's umpossible." It's unfortunate for us that's not accurate. Tyrod's graduating and taking his career 7,017 passing yards, 2,187 rushing yards and 67 touchdowns to the NFL where hopefully he'll get his shot at quarterback and not be slotted into some seven win team's Wildcat package. However, replacing Tyrod will prove umpossible. He did it right both on and off the field and he was all about winning, duh.

And if it wasn't bad enough losing a four year starter at quarterback, but the 100 Proof Backfield is gone too. Evans and Williams shocked no one by declaring early for the NFL draft to get that paper. I don't think either of their values had peaked, especially Evans, but I can't fault either of them for 1) chasing a dream 2) not wanting to split time in what was and would be a crowded backfield.

  Rushing Receiving
Darren Evans 151 854 5.7 11 9 100 11.1 0
Ryan Williams 110 477 4.3 9 10 109 10.9 1

Whether it was because of injuries, bland scheme, meager offensive line play or themselves the 100 Proof Backfield was really rated a 42 proof like a dainty Cruzan Coconut. What most of us thought would be Ryan Williams right touchdown, and Darren Evans up the gut touchdown were 4 yard gains across the board. That's not to trivialize their loss. Both finished their careers as top ten all-time Virginia Tech backs and even one of them returning would have greatly reduced the weight on David Wilson's and Logan Thomas' shoulders.

Hi, we're new around here, can you show us around David?

In my opinion David Wilson is nothing short of a national treasure. He's a student first athlete who last season served up more ham sammiches, carved spiral ham and trays of rolled Prosciutto and Gabagool than any returning Hokie or delicatessen paying rent on my fictional HAM Boulevard.

Last year Wilson shined in his backup/relief/gadget role. He averaged just a little over 8 rushes a game with highs of 16 and 15 against Boston College and Wake Forest respectively. In total he netted 619 yards (5.48 ypc), not too shabby for a number three back. Hopefully by the conclusion of spring we'll have a better idea of how many touches the coaches are looking to get him. I think it goes without question that he'll be the starter, but Josh Oglesby will see time. How much, and what will the balance between the two will be like is the question. I have the utmost confidence that David can bang the ball between the tackles when it matters, but so can Oglesby. I won't soon forget him taking control at Duke in 2009 by popping off two 10+ yard touchdown runs in the fourth quarter. However, even if DW's not getting the ball, he needs to the be on the field. His presence alone will loosen things up.

Tony Gregory is the only other returning tailback with game experience, but the speedster is recovering from a torn ACL. Incoming freshman Michael Holmes (Harrisonburg, VA) will have a chance to earn playing time in the summer, as for the spring, look for some guys buried elsewhere on the depth chart with running back experience, like James Hopper, to get a look.

We catch the balls.

Every wide receiver from the 2010 roster is back. This may be Tech's most talented group of wide receivers ever, or at least since 2006's quartet of Eddie Royal, Josh Morgan, David Clowney and Justin Harper.

2006 Eddie Royal 31 497 16.0 49 (TD) 3
2006 Josh Morgan 33 448 13.6 54 (TD) 4
2006 David Clowney 34 424 12.5 60 0
2006 Justin Harper 21 324 15.4 49 1
Total 119 1,693 14.22 8
2010 Jarrett Boykin 53 847 16 69 (TD) 6
2010 Danny Coale 39 732 18.8 59 3
2010 Dyrell Roberts 21 303 14.4 43 (TD) 2
2010 Marcus Davis 19 239 12.6 46 2
Total 132 2,121 16.07 13

If there's one position you should feel solid about, it's wide receiver. Jarrett Boykin, Danny Coale, Dyrell "STRAIGHT BURNER" Roberts and Marcus Davis can ball. Dyrell is going to be a question mark heading into spring because he's recovering/rehabbing from surgery for compartment syndrome in his thigh. If he practices, look for him in the blue non-contact jersey.

Like last year, I'm most interested in seeing how much Marcus Davis has improved. Since switching from quarterback to receiver in 2008 he's gotten better each year at catching balls and running routes. Last season he was underutilized as a scoring option in the redzone, you saw what he could do in the third quarter at UNC. The kid is as strong as an ox (Super Iron Hokie) and during winter testing broke Pierson Prioleau's 14 year vertical jump record by leaping 44 inches. I'm really hoping he can push Coale at flanker to earn more PT.

D.J. Coles is another guy to keep an eye on. He's physically gifted, but it still hasn't clicked for him yet. He didn't seize his opportunity last season, dropping balls in limited action, but hopefully he can put that behind him.

The Uglies

Beau Warren has been holding down the offensive line at center for the past two seasons. He's flown under the radar over his career, and for a lineman that means he did his job well. Left tackle might be the most important position on the offensive line, but center is the hardest to replace. With the added responsibility of snapping the ball and making all the line calls a good center is a split second faster, both mentally and physically, than his counterparts. Luckily Beau's the only 2010 starter not returning in 2011, unfortunately, as a unit, the 2010 offensive line underachieved.

Andrew Miller served as the primary backup to both Beau Warren and right guard Jaymes Brooks. He got playing time at both positions, regularly substituting in for Brooks at guard. Miller also wrestles for the Hokies. He could provide a little edge and nastiness that has been sorely lacking from the front-five these past few seasons. Michael Via looks like another viable option (see what I did there) to replace Warren. In 2009 Via filled in for Warren when he was injured against North Carolina. He started the following three games and played pretty well, albeit against East Carolina, Maryland and NC State. Via spent the beginning of 2010 recovering from ACL surgery, then backing up Blake DeChristopher at right tackle. The boy is 6-7, 300 and the coaches probably feel that type of frame is best suited on the outside.

As mentioned above, the rest of the cast remains the same. Andrew Lanier (LT), Greg Nosal (LG), Jaymes Brooks (RG) and Blake DeChristopher (RT) will all be seniors, and that much experience is a real luxury to have. Nick Becton will challenge Lanier to regain the starting left tackle job he lost due to turf toe during fall camp. To be frank, regardless of who played, both Lanier and Becton were the weak spots along an already average line. I hope the competition brings out the best in both of them. If they both have disastrous springs Via could be an option.

Vinston Painter and David Wang figure to be starters on either the maroon or white team that could see significant action in the fall. At the time of his signing Painter was a highly regarded four star recruit who most thought was on the fast track to playing time. That hasn't happened yet. Painter switched to defensive tackle during his redshirt year in ‘08, was moved to guard through 2009-10, and hasn't played much outside of mop up duty. To be fair Curt Newsome's philosophy, good or bad, is that most linemen won't be ready to play in his system until their third year. Wang, who will be known from this point forward as Lil' Wang until he gets a better nickname, saw more significant time than Painter as a redshirt freshman backing up Nosal at left guard. During winter testing Lil' Wang set the mark in push jerk (370), power clean (380) and put up a more than respectable 410 pounds on the bench (Painter posted a team high 465!). You might think at 6-1 Lil' Wang is at a disadvantage size wise, but he's much stronger for his frame and age, and at that height it's easier for him to maintain a lower center of gravity. Judging by his playing time last season Lil' Wang has already convinced Newsome that he can trust him, probably in part due to his brother Ed. I don't think Painter is quite there yet. If both can get to the point where they are nipping at the heels of the starters, I'd feel much better about our overall line depth going into the season.

Will this be the year we finally have a dominate offensive line? Will they be better suited to protect a less mobile quarterback? We've seen glimpses of excellence down the stretch in ‘09 and ‘10, but only after a slow start out of the gate and mostly against inferior competition. We've been out-physicaled by opposing front-sevens in our biggest games: Alabama, Boise State, Stanford, and until we can control the line of scrimmage against respectable defenses we will never take the next step. Stinespring taking over the responsibility of coaching the tackles was a smart move by the Frankinator. Stiney is proven, and Curt Newsome wasn't producing. Experience and size is prevalent along the entire two-deep. I'm cautiously optimistic the play in the trenches will improve. But then again, I am every year.

"And the Charlie for best Supporting Actor goes too..."

Andre Smith followed in Greg Boone's foot steps as our underutilized, yet ultra productive when used, tight end. Kudos to Smith for nabbing 5 touchdowns during the middle season and sporting a 4:1 reception to touchdown ratio in an offense that seemed to frown on throwing to the tall athletic guy in the back of the end zone.

One of the few personnel shortcomings of the 2010 offense was the lack of a reliable second tight end to compliment Smith, especially in the run game. Among other things, Tech really likes to use a two tight end look to attack a 3-4 defense (the BCO can go into great detail about this) and to maximize pass protection. This made fullback Kenny Younger that much more important. Not only did he fill the traditional fullback role, but he lined up as wing, most notably against Boise State, to help seal the edge in goal line situations.

Filling in the Holes*

Once again, depth at tight end is a concern. That's really shocking to me considering we recruit no less than 3,500 tight ends a year. Chris Drager is moving from defensive end to tight end because of the need and because it's the best fit for his skill set and gives him the best opportunity to go pro.

From 2007-08 he caught 5 balls for 60 yards working as the second tight end. The receiving statistics, skills and experience are a moot point for me, we don't throw many balls to our tight ends, so I'm more concerned with how well they can block. I think Drager spending the last couple seasons at end will end up making him a better blocker. Having a better understanding for what the guy lined up across from you is going to do, and how he plans on doing it is a good thing. Drager is a gritty kid and I have no doubt he'll get the job done, it's finding/developing that second tight end that's going to take some time.

Eric Martin was that second tight end last season, but he wasn't particularly solid, only starting against Boise State. He'll only be a redshirt sophomore in the fall and was injured midway through the season, so there's room to grow, and his play got better towards the end of ACC play. Incoming freshman Ryan Malleck (6-5 230) might become part of the conversation as fall approaches. In my perfect world both Lanier and Becton shine and Lanier is able to move outside to tight end and Becton can fill in at left tackle when need be.

I think it's pretty safe to say that Josh Oglesby won't be playing fullback in the traditional sense. That experiment failed miserably because 1) he wasn't a good lead blocker and 2) his didn't seem to embrace the position. As last season progressed he was on the field in two back sets, but most (or all) were split out of the shotgun. I'm going to put my money on Joey Phillips being the man. He's a Super Iron Hokie who saw some playing time last year at fullback and in goal line sets.


Mike O'Cain

Even though the Frankinator says it's no big deal, Mike O'Cain replacing Bryan Stinespring as offensive play caller (coordinator) is a significant change. In theory Stinespring is still responsible for developing the game plan. I don't think he'll be able to take sole ownership with his increased recruiting and on the field coaching responsibilities. Also, as the play caller and quarterbacks coach it's not logical for O'Cain to not have a major say in things. My guess is it will be a collaboration among the offensive coaches and the Frankinator (which probably is how it's always been). Regardless, of who's coming up with the week's packages or who's calling the plays I expect the philosophy to remain the same, I just hope it's more focused, less obvious and better executed.

Logan Thomas

I remember two things from watching Logan practice last year. The first was him vomiting on the sideline just minutes after Friday sacked him during the spring game. (Tyrod had a good time busting on him for that.) The second was a ten yard pass across his body to Austin Fuller that sounded like Skipper had just fired when the ball hit Fuller in in the pads.

Everyone is anxious to see how Logan will do, and rightfully so, but keep in mind first year Beamer quarterbacks don't put up gaudy numbers, they usually just manage the game and... it's only spring. I won't lie, when he completed that 24-yard strike on 3rd and 16 against Miami I got excited, and my expectations for him rose. I've had to remind myself to temper them. First things first, has he improved his accuracy, is he releasing the ball quicker, does he have a mastery of the playbook, is he a leader, is he getting the guys in and out of the huddle efficiently? I don't think we'll see anything fancy out of him during spring ball, just more development as a quarterback. However, at some point I do see him running his fair share of option. His combination of speed and size in space is too hard to stop.

By the end of spring ball I'd like to:

  1. Feel better about our second tight end.
  2. Hear another fascinating story about David Wilson.
  3. See some toughness and nastiness from the offensive line.
  4. Feel like Logan is in command of the offense.
  5. Think of a better nickname for Lil' Wang.

What are your questions, comments and concerns about the offense this spring?