Addressing the Gaps: Virginia Tech Spring Game Review Part 1

The Hokies entered the 2024 spring camp with concerns at offensive line and linebacker. The spring game was a step forward for run blocking, but linebacker play continues to plague the Virginia Tech defense. 8-play, 2,500-word breaking down the performances of those two groups.

[Mark Umansky]

After a winter filled with optimism, the Virginia Tech football team took the field on a blustery spring day in Blacksburg looking to showcase offseason development. There were a lot of positives, especially on offense, as Kyrone Drones and company repeatedly opened gaps in the opposition defense. Several young players flashed improvement, particularly Keyshawn Burgos, who had his hands in multiple negative plays and caused an interception. Other young players who weren't expected to contribute had moments of excellence, earmarked primarily by a huge day for PWO P.J. Prioleau, who scored two touchdowns.

If there were two areas of consternation coming into the spring game, they were consistency of the offensive line and the desperate need for an improvement at linebacker. Those two positions were anchors around Virginia Tech's chances for success in 2023, and any ACC championship aspirations will depend heavily on being better at those positions. The results I saw were mixed, with some positives and some continued glaring needs which may result in more portal action.

Offensive Line: Better Suited to the Scheme?

Virginia Tech's offense shifted radically through the course of last season, with way more reliance on stretching the defense with outside zone and freeze optioning interior defenders. The scheme changes worked except when the interior linemen struggled to take flatter angles and gain outside position against defensive tackles. In this regard, the Tech incumbents, particularly Braelin Moore and Bob Schick, looked much more comfortable with the footwork and aiming points. The pressure the offensive scheme puts on the defense helps the offensive line by forcing the defense to play slower.

Here is a wonderful example from early in the spring game. The Hokies run an outside zone read with three options. Drones could hand off on the outside zone into the boundary for Malachi Thomas (No. 24). If the field defensive end, CJ McCray (No. 56) crashes on the handoff, Drones could run, provided the MIKE linebacker Sam Brumfield (No. 3) or STAR linebacker Gabe Williams (No. 12) chase slot receiver Xayvion Turner-Bradshaw (No. 5) into the field-side flat. For added measure, Turner-Bradshaw's initial step was to his right, feigning as a lead blocker for Thomas, before delaying and leaking out in the opposite direction.

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