“There’s times when the outside world’s criticizing you, ‘You didn’t have this type of game,’ when in actuality, I graded you out in a very positive manner,” the Hokies’ offensive coordinator said on the Tech Talk Live radio show last night.
“There’s times when he goes 18-for-21 and everyone is going to tell him he did a great job and I’m going to come in and say, ‘You didn’t play well at all.’ … There are things that are in your control and out of your control at the position.”
Saturday, according to the coaches, was one of those games. Thomas was pilloried by many for his 5-for-26, 59-yard stat line, one that didn’t show much of the refined mechanics that had been the talk of the offseason,
But a review of the game video puts many of Thomas’ 21 incompletions on the receivers. Nine of those passes were put in a position where players could have made a catch. Tech considered six of those actual drops by receivers and one by running back Trey Edmunds. The other two, it could be argued, were thrown too hard or not in easy-to-catch places that would warrant the “drop” tag.
But at least two others plays didn’t involve solid route-running or effort. D.J. Coles appeared to cut off his route on the interception Thomas threw across the middle that was returned for a touchdown by Alabama safety Vinnie Sunseri. In the fourth quarter, Coles alligator armed a pass when there was no one around him.
“I just try to encourage them the entire time,” Thomas said about the receivers’ struggles. “Obviously they know they messed up, so you don’t really need to tell them.”
Although he was only sacked once, Thomas also had five plays in which he simply threw the ball away, often on the run, because of pressure from Alabama’s front.
“I’m just going to go out here and do my own job,” Thomas said today, acknowledging that some passes could have been placed better. “If [the receivers] are not where they’re supposed to be, I’m going to just keep moving forward, keep doing my own thing.”
Thomas was more accurate two years ago, when he had future NFL receivers like Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale at his disposal. His completion percentage dropped from 59.8 to 51.3 last year when they weren’t around anymore. It’s 19.2 percent so far this year, although that’s a small sample against a premier defense.
Does Thomas’ confidence remain high?
“I mean, I’m still playing quarterback, aren’t I?” Thomas said. “Yeah, my confidence is fine. Why would it falter now? I’m just excited to see where this season is going.”
Thomas did say he had to get better with his progressions. He said he’d look at the first and second options Saturday but not get to the third. The one throw Thomas truly wanted back was the deep ball he overthrew in the second quarter to Knowles, who had a couple steps on the Alabama defender.
Still, head coach Frank Beamer isn’t concerned with his quarterback’s psyche after one week.
“He’s a realistic guy,” Beamer said. “He understands what he did well, what he didn’t do well. And he’ll be better next week. And we’ve just got to help him out in a better fashion.”
– This comes from Grant Traylor, the Marshall beat writer for The Herald-Dispatch in Huntingdon:
Former VT defensive back Donaldven Manning has joined the Marshall program. @AndyBitterVT— Grant Traylor (@GrantTraylor) September 3, 2013
Interesting landing spot for Manning, who I figured would try to get back closer to Miami. Virginia Tech plays Marshall at Lane Stadium on Sept. 21. Manning, obviously, is not eligible to play this year because of NCAA transfer rules.
– After Saturday’s special teams debacle, senior linebacker Tariq Edwards said a number of veterans — himself, Kyle Fuller, J.R. Collins, James Gayle — met with Beamer to volunteer to play on more units this week.
“Just because we’ve been all about ‘Beamer Ball’ and we kind of lost that the first game,” Edwards said. “A lot of guys want to help us get back to that point.”
It wasn’t necessarily a “Rudy”-esque moment with a crowd of players in Beamer’s office, just some passing moments in the hallways of the Merryman Center, but Edwards said he and other defensive players were motivated to do so after a post-game speech given by Bud Foster.
“This team wants to be good,” Beamer said. “It’s a very unselfish football team.”
Beamer said more experienced players will play larger roles on special teams against Western Carolina but again declined to get into specifics. Edwards thinks Tech can regain that “Beamer Ball” moniker.
“It’ll never be dead, not just off of one game,” he said. “You can always come out and work on your mistakes, look at film, see who didn’t perform and what went wrong and fix that the next week.”
– Part of the reason for the need to overhaul the special teams was inexperience, a byproduct of a depleted roster that is as young as it has been in recent memory. Nine true freshmen — Woody Baron, Chuck Clark, Brandon Facyson, Kendall Fuller, Mitchell Ludwig, Jonathan McLaughlin, Carlis Parker, Sam Rogers, Jerome Wright – played in the opener. That’s the most since nine played in 2002.
Tech had eight true freshmen play in 2012 and seven in 2011. It was thee and two the two years before that.
– Collins said he doesn’t mind pulling the double duty of playing special teams and then immediately having to go on defense.
“It’s just one play, just running down the field on the punt team,” he said. “It doesn’t really take off any energy or anything. If anything it warms me up before I get out there.”
– Beamer said WR Charley Meyer (hamstring) is going to be back this week. He thinks RB J.C. Coleman (ankles) will be ready to go.
He said Trey Edmunds and Coleman are the Hokies’ top two options at tailback. They’ll find situations to work in Joel Caleb and Chris Mangus.
– Beamer made an exasperated face and slightly exhaled when asked about tight end Ryan Malleck‘s season-ending shoulder injury, which tells you how valuable Tech thought he could be in the offense this year.
“He was a guy that kind of caused a mismatch when you shift him around and try to get him lined up on a linebacker or whatever,” Beamer said. “He was going be a big, big part of the offense. So just got to go on without him and keep on moving.”
– The Hokies’ offense featured quite a bit of triple option plays in the opener, with Thomas working out of the shotgun and Tech having the ability to hand it off to a player running laterally, up the middle with a running back or with Thomas. Edmunds’ 77-yard touchdown run, in fact, came on a play when Tech faked that option handoff.
Thomas said he’s been doing that since high school, so he’s comfortable running it. Beamer thinks that formation and all the pre-snap shifting adds something to the offense.
“I think it gives our defense problems,” he said. “I think it gives most defenses problems. Most people want to know where the strength of the offense, how you line up, and if you’re changing that, people have to make decision on the move. I think that’s good.
“And then I think the option game, it can cause problems if you’re stunting a lot. You could stunt yourself right out of a big hole that’ll be there. I think what we’re doing is good. I think it fits our personnel and I think it’s good. I like it.”
– This was in the game notes: A.J. Hughes’ 586 yards of punts against Alabama was a school record. I’d say you can file that under: signs your offense didn’t fare so well in the opener.
– Virginia Tech still stayed in the “others receiving votes” category of the AP poll. The Hokies would be 33rd if the poll extended past 25.