Hokie, Hokie, Hokie, Bye
By Matthew Osborne
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Virginia Tech returns just three starters from an offense which finished 57th in the nation in scoring offense a year ago.
All things considered, 2011 was yet another successful campaign for Frank Beamer and the Virginia Tech Hokies.
The Hokies finished the regular season with an 11-1 record, and just missed out on winning the ACC championship for the fifth time in their first eight seasons in the conference. Despite missing out on a fifth ACC championship, Tech did manage to become the first team in ACC history to earn an at-large bid to a BCS bowl game.
In a game highlighted by controversy, the Hokies went on to lose to Michigan 23-20 in overtime in the Sugar Bowl.
While the Hokies assuredly would have liked to end the year on a more favorable note, there is no doubt that Tech has set the standard for excellence and consistency in the ACC. Including last season’s 11-3 record, the Hokies have now won 10 or more games in eight consecutive seasons, tied for the third-longest streak in the modern era.
The backbone of Virginia Tech’s tremendous success over the last decade has been defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s blue collar defense. If the Hokie offense were to ever take the next step, and improve enough to match the production of the defense, it is scary to think how good the Hokies could be.
However, looking ahead to 2012, it is difficult to imagine that the Hokies will be able to make that jump on offense this season.
Virginia Tech returns just three starters from an offense which finished 57th in the nation in scoring offense a year ago. Included in the departing offensive players is four starting offensive linemen, the starting tight end, the Hokie’s two leading rushers from last season and the two leading pass catchers in Virginia Tech history.
With such an expansive amount of experience and production vanishing from the Hokie offense, Tech will rely heavily on second-year starting quarterback Logan Thomas to provide some stability and leadership to a largely unproven unit.
Thomas threw for over 3,000 yards and completely nearly 60% of his passes in his first year as starter last season. However, his attempt to improve upon that production will prove increasingly difficult with the losses of Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin.
Senior wide receivers Dyrell Roberts, Marcus Davis and D.J. Coles have all proven to be serviceable pass-catchers during their time in Blacksburg, but none have ever been called upon to be a primary focus of the passing attack. With all three standing above 6-2, however, one would reason that the Hokies would become less averse to throwing the deep ball this season.
In the backfield, this will mark the second straight year in which the Hokies have lost their two leading rushers from the previous season. With Josh Oglesby lost to graduation, and David Wilson leaving school early to enter the NFL Draft, there is a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the tailback position this spring.
Daniel Dyer and Tony Gregory are the only returning running backs that received carries last season, combining for just 25 carries on the year. Gregory will miss spring practice with a knee injury, and could be moved to the secondary when he returns to 100%.
In all likelihood, the bulk of Virginia Tech’s production in the ground game this fall will come courtesy of three freshmen: Michael Holmes, J.C. Coleman and Drew Harris.
Holmes impressed the coaching staff with his performance in practice as a redshirt freshman last season, while Coleman and Harris are two of the gems from Tech’s 2012 recruiting class. Coleman is already on campus and is participating in spring drills.
For the Hokies to continue with their tradition of dominant rushing attacks under Frank Beamer, Tech will need four of their returning offensive linemen to emerge as quality starters prior to the opener against Georgia Tech. Center Andrew Miller will provide veteran leadership with his 14 career starts, but the remainder of the line vacancies will be subject to extreme competition this offseason.
If there is reason for hope for the Tech coaching staff, it is that many of the offensive linemen competing for starting positions have been limited in their game action due to a variety of issues. Michael Via (injuries), David Wang (broken foot) and Brent Benedict (Georgia transfer) are all players that have not had their opportunity to prove themselves on the playing field, but who the coaches believe have exceptional potential.
Ultimately, the success of Virginia Tech’s 2012 campaign will likely be predicated on how well these new offensive players adjust to their increased roles. The Hokies return nine starters (Jevon Gouveia-Wilson included) from a defense that ranked seventh in the FBS in scoring defense last season.
Head coach Frank Beamer has set the standard for winning in the ACC. However, for that trend to continue at a level which will appease his fan base, Beamer will need many of his unproven offensive players to step up and become consistent contributors this fall.