What the Hell is Wrong?

Virginia Tech’s offense continues to languish in historical ineptitude. A closer look reveals that the issue goes deeper than play calling.

[Mark Umansky]

There was a time when Virginia Tech football was on the cutting edge of offensive innovation.

The year was 1972, when newly-minted head coach Charlie Coffey centered a high-octane passing attack around quarterback Don Strock. Strock, who would go on to have a 17-year NFL career, led the nation in passing yards that season and broke numerous school records that still stand today.

Unfortunately, the success was fleeting. After Strock's departure, Tech bottomed out with a 2-9 record in 1973. Coffey was fired and would go on to work in the private sector in relative obscurity.

Since then, the land-grant institution in Blacksburg, Va. has adopted one mantra for their football program's offense: establish the run.

In hindsight, Coffey might have been on to something.

I don't know what to make of Virginia Tech's offense this year. The Hokies rank 90th in offensive SP+ and 110th in FPI. That is a considerable improvement from last year — which was a historically bad unit at the Power 5 level. Something is seriously wrong.

In their 24-17 loss to Purdue on Saturday, the Hokies averaged 1.6 yards per designed run. They had 3.3 total line yards — yards which are attributable to offensive line play. Their rushing EPA per play ranked in the 0th percentile of all games this season. In other words, that was the least-efficient rushing attack put forth by any team in any game this year.

Left tackle Xavier Chaplin ranks 220th among 227 qualified offensive linemen graded by PFF. Right tackle Parker Clements ranks 222nd. Benji Gosnell is the lowest graded run-blocking tight end in the ACC; Bhayshul Tuten is the second-lowest graded running back. As a team, Tech ranks 122nd in yards per rush against football titans Old Dominion and Purdue.

How do things get this bad? I have a few theories.

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