The ACC Kickoff (aka media days) is fast approaching. I’ll be using the blog to count down to what we media members consider the unofficial start of the football season. This isn’t a list of the 25 best players on Virginia Tech’s roster. It’s a list of 25 things/people that will determine whether the Hokies’ 2012 season is a success or not. That includes players and coaches from both Virginia Tech and, occasionally, a few of its opponents.
No. 4: Bryan Stinespring and Mike O’Cain, offensive coordinator/play-caller
In Year 1 of the a new play-calling arrangement, with offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring helping institute a game plan during the week and quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain calling plays from the booth, Virginia Tech’s offense did pretty well.
Quarterback Logan Thomas broke the school’s single-season total yardage record. Running back David Wilson did the same for the rushing mark, taking ACC Player of the Year honors. Receivers Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale put the finishing touches on their accomplished careers. And a veteran line, led by the ACC’s top blocker Blake DeChristopher, tied for the fewest sacks allowed in the ACC during the regular season.
Yet, fans just can’t help themselves when it comes to complaining about the play-calling, a time-honored tradition in football.
There were a few legitimate reasons for grumbling last year. The Hokies were not as efficient in putting up points as they could have been, ranking 35th nationally in total yards (413 ypg) but only 57th in scoring offense (27.9 ppg).
They scored points on 74 percent of their trips inside the 20, ranking 103rd nationally. (In 2010, the Hokies ranked 5th nationally and in 2009 16th, so yes, it was a considerable step back.) That was in plain sight in the Sugar Bowl, when a touchdown instead of a field goal on any one of Virginia Tech’s stalled red zone possessions against Michigan would have meant a victory and a much different tone this offseason.
Complaints persist about predictable play-calling (ie. running on first down in the red zone every time), and coaches admit they need to vary things up, particularly when they get down near the goal line.
The task again falls to Stinespring and O’Cain. They added some wrinkles this offseason by installing the Pistol formation, wanting a look that keeps Thomas in the shotgun without losing a downhill running game that can easily go to either side of the formation. Early returns in the spring on the few occasions the team used it during scrimmages seemed positive.
There have been talks of spreading things out and pushing the tempo, although a full-scale shift in offensive philosophy is probably not going to happen. Frank Beamer has succeeded a certain way over his years (ball control, defense, special teams), so odds are you’re not going to see the Hokies break out the Air Raid any time soon.
But Stinespring and O’Cain can make tweaks to what Virginia Tech has done offensively and still be within the constraints of the team’s overall plan. If they can improve red zone play-calling and efficiency even a little bit — and that means not just getting points, but putting the ball in the end zone — it would certainly ease much of the criticism about the offense.
Coming Thursday: He’s from the 757. That’s all you get.
- No. 25: Randall Dunn, senior tight end
- No. 24: Donaldven Manning, freshman cornerback
- No. 23: Pick a punter
- No. 22: J.C. Coleman, freshman running back
- No. 21: Georgia Tech’s option offense
- No. 20: Antoine and Derrick Hopkins, defensive tackles
- No. 19: EJ Manuel, Florida State quarterback
- No. 18: Bud Foster, defensive coordinator
- No. 17: A fourth wide receiver
- No. 16: Cody Journell, junior kicker
- No. 15: Brent Benedict and David Wang, offensive guards
- No. 14: Dyrell Roberts, senior wide receiver
- No. 13: Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett, safeties
- No. 12: Dabo Swinney, Clemson head coach
- No. 11: Key reserves
- No. 10: Frank Beamer, head coach
- No. 9: Bruce Taylor and Tariq Edwards, inside linebackers
- No. 8: Marcus Davis, wide receiver
- No. 7: Beamerball
- No. 6: Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum, junior cornerbacks
- No. 5: Michael Holmes, redshirt freshman running back