The ACC Kickoff (aka media days) is fast approaching, something we media members consider the unofficial start of the football season. That’s not until July 21, however. In the meantime, it’s as good a time as any to start taking a closer look at Virginia Tech.
This isn’t a list of the 25 best players on the Hokies’ roster. It’s a list of 25 things/people/ideas that will determine whether Virginia Tech’s 2013 season is a success or not. Next up is …
No. 9: Bud Foster, defensive coordinator
The Hokies’ defense was all over the map last year. It couldn’t have played much better in shutting down Georgia Tech’s spread option, nearly upsetting Florida State or during the three-game winning streak to end the year. And it couldn’t have played much worse in losses to Pittsburgh and North Carolina.
The rest of the year was scattered with hit-or-miss performances, with the defense doing all it could to make up for the struggles of the offense, although more often than not eventually breaking under the pressure (ie. Cincinnati, Clemson, Miami).
But the overall numbers, while not the greatest Foster has had in Blacksburg, were still pretty good. The Hokies still ranked 18th nationally, giving up 333.15 yards per game. The 22.85 points per game the Hokies allowed was a little lower at 32nd, although some of that might be attributable to the type of field position opponents started with (it was certainly the case against Clemson).
Still, Foster has to be encouraged by how his group played down the stretch, once the changes in the secondary from the previous spring had time to take shape and Alonzo Tweedy was inserted as the whip. With nine starters back and what should be better depth in the secondary, expectations for this year’s group are high.
There remain roadblocks, and not just the fact that Tech plays Alabama in the opener. While Foster has generally done a good job of figuring out how to limit Georgia Tech’s spread option, a new challenge exists in the hurry-up offense run in North Carolina by Larry Fedora.
The Tar Heels torched Virginia Tech for 48 points and 533 yards last year, so Foster will have to come up with something to combat that kind of pace. Although the scoreboard hasn’t shown it in recent games, his defenses have actually held Clemson’s similarly-paced offense to well below their yardage averages. The Hokies can hope an altered version of that gameplan will carry over to UNC now that Foster has seen Fedora’s attack in person.
Foster tweaked his scheme last year as the season progressed. The linebackers, particularly Tweedy, blitzed at will, and the safeties seemed to be more involved closer to the line of scrimmage. It looked like a more aggressive group, and the sack, TFL and turnover numbers in the second half of the season bear that out.
The hope is that more aggressive group shows up from the get-go in 2013.
Coming Saturday: One’s a junior. One’s a freshman. Both will probably start. Both never have before.
- No. 25: Ryan Malleck, tight end
- No. 24: Defensive subs
- No. 23: Andrew Miller, center
- No. 22: BeamerBall
- No. 21: Ronny Vandyke, whip linebacker
- No. 20: D.J. Coles, wide receiver
- No. 19: Cody Journell kicker
- No. 18: Tariq Edwards, inside linebacker
- No. 17: Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett, safeties
- No. 16: A.J. Hughes, punter
- No. 15: J.R. Collins and Dadi Nicolas, defensive ends
- No. 14: Demitri Knowles and Josh Stanford, wide receivers
- No. 13: Kyle Fuller, cornerback
- No. 12: Derrick Hopkins and Luther Maddy, defensive tackles
- No. 11: Young cornerbacks
- No. 10: Jack Tyler, inside linebacker