After a long drive back to the DC suburbs and a full day of discussing health information technology at the AHRQ Conference, my brain has had some difficulty digesting the game from Saturday. During the game, I found my focus wandering, as I had difficulty watching the offensive line as closely as I do when I watch the game on film. Hence, I am going to do a "post game thoughts" post, and I will follow it up when I have a chance to watch the video of the game.
Watching from the stands, some of the themes I have been concerned about repeated themselves seeing the team in person, yet I continue to be absolutely impressed with the improvement in the defense. I will start reviewing them, and then finish with the offense and special teams. I am hoping that the Hokies coaching staff has been using these first four games as scrimmages and that they are not showing their true offense until Clemson comes to town.
Again, the Hokie defensive line had a stand out effort, although they did not have as much pressure as a four-man unit as they did against East Carolina. Derrick Hopkins and JR Collins had standout performances making plays from the backside as the Arkansas State offense ran their zone-read play repeatedly at Antoine Hopkins and James Gayle. DHop is absolutely unblockable unless he is doubled, and Collins was freed up to pursue down the line. Collins also delivered the best pass rush from the four man unit.
The backups also had an opportunity to get some snaps. I honestly can say that I did not notice anything remarkable about their efforts, good or bad. I did find myself focusing on Zach McCray and Duan Perez-Means when they each received snaps at right defensive end in the second half. McCray has an All-American build and he made a couple of plays from the backside that proved he could be a star. At the same time, you can see his brain tie up his feet. On two plays, he hesitated, failing to commit to pursuing the dive or staying to play the QB. He got caught in between, and the whip LB had to bail him out. If he learns to trust his teammates and have confidence in his assignments, he will be a star. Perez-Means is a depth guy. He is a nice #4, but he isn't a starting DE on a top ACC squad.
Again, my eyes played tricks on me in person. I know Bruce Taylor had a good game, but I honestly didn't notice. Instead I completely fixated on Tariq Edwards. Man, what a playmaker. The guy flys to the football, and absolutely wrecks people when he gets there. He is perhaps the best blitzing linebacker I have seen in awhile. His only weakness is that I think he may get burned overpursuing at some point, but I have not spotted it yet. JGW, well, he has been much worse than last year, but he got eaten up by a blocker on the opening touchdown. We will see how he looks against a top line running attack. If he is in on a passing down, every starting and backup QB in the ACC should be yelling "BLITZ!" because he didn't drop once into coverage on a clear passing down the whole game.
I am curious as to why we have seen so little of Telvion Clark, Jack Tyler, and Barquel Rivers. I don't like them chewing up Taylor and Edwards against lesser teams. Keep them fresh just like the defensive line.
Although Jayron Hosley was lauded loudly for his outstanding coverage, I think he got away with a couple of pass interference calls besides the one he got nailed on. That will burn the Hokies in a road game at some point in the ACC. He has to be more careful. Fuller got burned once (I would be curious to see if he was jumping the route, or did he think he had help) but he was outstanding blitzing and in coverage. It seemed like they went after Hosley much more than most teams would. I thought Chris Hill was excellent. Exum and Whitley were good again, although I can't remember a "wow" play from either one. I will remark, GET EXUM OFF PUNT RETURN. He has taken 4 penalties on special teams in 3 games, and should have been nailed with another hold that didn't get called. I am sure a second teamer can at least not take a penalty.
Great pass blocking from all involved, but the experienced group left something to be desired in the run blocking game, especially in short yardage. With the injury to Andrew Lainer, Nick Becton (who I have been a big advocate for the last two years) was so slow off the football that the interior linemen had made contact before his hand came off the ground. When he did get off on the snap count, he played high and got very poor push. That can not be sustained. Andrew Miller also struggled playing without being covered up by a nose tackle, and didn't get many opportunities to pull. He seemed a bit lost.
Still, I think that the offensive concepts of this young season and the poor vision by both tailbacks have made the offensive line look worse. Watching play after play, I saw the OL engage well on the front guys, but the plays took so long to develop secondary guys had time to come up and make plays. 5 can't block 7, much less 8, and the long, delay style runs allow those 8 to read their keys and fly to the line. Where is the off tackle plays? Where are the speed options? And, most importantly, where is the wide stretch play where the interior linemen pull and get a seal ala the old Green Bay sweep? The Hokies started to run quick hitters towards the end of the game, and Wilson/Oglesby seemed to be more effective in those sets.
I continue to be critical of Wilson. Damn, he runs hard, but again his vision just leaves us wanting more. There were clear cutback holes where he could plant and go rather than running to the sideline or trying to run through guys. It doesn't have to be this hard. Also, one of the reasons it seemed like Stinespring and O'Cain "ran off" RW34 and Evans was that they planned to use Wilson in the passing game. Other than one bubble screen, I didn't see Logan Thomas look at Wilson in the passing game.
Danny Coale is still open. He should have had around 250 yards. Also, give him the game ball for the block on the DJ Coles TD (which took place right in front of us... great football play.) Coles and Davis have to do a better job of getting open, and Thomas has to find open guys.
Drager has been a good blocker, but they need to figure out how to involve him in the passing game. Martin regressed blocking on goal line plays. Did anyone in the stadium think that George George was going to catch that play action seam route? Those are the balls where you are sure that he will drop it, and he made a play. That gives ACC D-Coordinators something else to think about in short yardage,
There were lots of positive things in the paper, but I don't think the stadium felt confident in Logan even when he made plays down the field. He has the arm. He looked more confident than ECU, but the throws are still late and behind guys, especially on the short curl routes that the Hokies ran again and again. Against a talented secondary, those throws scare me. On deep balls, he needs to set his feet and step into the throw. This offseason should be devoted to footwork drills for Logan.
That being said, he has the skillset to be very good, especially when you add his ability to be their power running back. Lets hope he can continue to improve. Oh, Danny Coale is still open.
I watched Demier and the freshman kicking before the game. It isn't close. Get the freshman on the field. He was averaging 10-12 yards more a kick, and more hang time. Demier is maxed out at 40-42 yards with so-so hang time. Unless the freshman is slow taking the snap and getting the ball off, there is no excuse for him not to be on the field. Journall makes me uneasy, Meyer just got another touchback, and Antone Exum just got called for a block in the back.