After an inconsistent year, Hokies still looking for offensive answers heading into Russell Athletic Bowl
Virginia Tech’s offseason was filled with hope. Tweaks to the offense, new formations and a fast-paced tempo were supposed to bring the Hokies’ offense up to speed with the rest of the ACC and play to the team’s strengths.
Instead, the Hokies’ offense took a major step back, plagued by inconsistency, the lack of a dependable running game and quarterback Logan Thomas‘ uneven play.
Virginia Tech finished the season ranked 71st nationally in total offense (391.8 ypg) and 78th in scoring offense (26.1 ppg), leaving many on the outside and within the program unsatisfied.
“We haven’t played as well as we expected to play this year. So to be satisfied? No,” said oft-criticized offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, who some are calling to be removed from his position, although head coach Frank Beamer has been mum on any potential changes. “I think there are some things we’ve done well. I like the direction that we’re going in what we’re doing offensively. Now the job and now the emphasis is doing it better.”
The Hokies added more misdirection in the offseason, put in a Pistol formation that was supposed to play to Thomas’ strengths and introduced some hurry-up elements, all to make the offense more diverse.
But Tech took a step back offensively across the board. Part of that is due to the loss of running back David Wilson, receivers Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale and four senior offensive linemen. But part of it was from the execution — or lack thereof consistently — from their replacements.
That was especially true of the running game, a bedrock of Virginia Tech’s offense for years. From 2008-2011, the Hokies never finished below 35th nationally in rushing offense, averaging at a minimum 174.3 yards per game and one season topping the 200-yard mark. This season, Tech ranked 64th nationally, with a 157.8-yard average that near dipped to the 2007 level.
“You’d like to have those guys that can step up and be difference-makers,” Stinespring said. “Like J.C., we’ve got young guys. Michael has been set back some with some injuries. It’s pushed back his development a little bit. Tony has shown his moments, but we’ve just got to have a guy in that backfield that is going to be productive week-in and week-out. But running the ball is like playing run defense. It’s team oriented. It’s all 11.”
That includes the blocking. The offensive line, which had its share of injuries on the interior, didn’t pave the way for its runners with any consistency this season. In addition to losing the strong perimeter blocking of Boykin and Coale, Tech lost D.J. Coles, the team’s best blocking receiver, to a knee injury.
“I really think it’s a combination,” head coach Frank Beamer said. “I don’t think you can say, ‘OK, that’s the problem, that’s the issue.’
“No. 1, I thought our effort overall was good. But I think at times we weren’t consistent blocking and at times we weren’t consistent in running the football. All the way through, we wanted to get it to like two guys, and get them the work in practice and be more consistent on Saturday. But we just couldn’t separate. I think we’re closer to that now, where we are right now going into the bowl game.”
The team’s offensive struggles have had the Hokies’ coaches paring back what they intend to do in the Russell Athletic Bowl against Rutgers. They hope that helps the team be more consistent in what it does run.
“We’re going to be very conscious of what we put into the game plan,” Stinespring said. “It’s not so much how much we put into the game plan, but what we can execute in the game plan. So I think we’ll be very conscientious of what goes into this game plan.
“We’re not going to have a call sheet loaded up just to say that we can lead you to a toolbox and pull something out. Whatever we’re pulling out to call and play, we need to do it well.”
The Hokies over the years …
Total offense (national rank)
- 2012: 391.8 ypg (71st)
- 2011: 413.0 ypg (35th)
- 2010: 402.3 ypg (41st)
- 2009: 392.1 ypg (50th)
- 2008: 303.4 ypg (103rd)
Rushing offense (national rank)
- 2012: 157.8 ypg (64th)
- 2011: 186.9 ypg (28th)
- 2010: 198.7 ypg (23rd)
- 2009: 208.2 ypg (14th)
- 2008: 174.4 ypg (35th)
Passing offense (national rank)
- 2012: 234.1 ypg (61st)
- 2011: 226.1 ypg (66th)
- 2010: 203.6 ypg (72nd)
- 2009: 183.9 ypg (95th)
- 2008: 129.1 ypg (111th)
Scoring offense (national rank)
- 2012: 26.1 ppg (78th)
- 2011: 27.9 ppg (57th)
- 2010: 33.9 ppg (21st)
- 2009: 31.9 ppg (24th)
- 2008: 22.1 ppg (90th)