People seemed to like the format last week, so we’ll keep it the same this week. Here are five takeaways from both offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler and defensive coordinator Bud Foster on Wednesday night:
1. Alston Smith’s move to offensive guard sounds like a success already.
It was buried in yesterday’s release about Corey Marshall‘s return to the team, but Smith, the son of NFL Hall of Famer Bruce Smith, moved from defensive tackle to the offensive line. Both Frank Beamer and Loeffler have been very impressed thus far.
“It’s one of those ‘wow’ deals,” Loeffler said. “It could be. He’s athletic, he can move, he can run and he is tough. It’s very rare that whenever you move a guy over a day and you turn on the tape and you go, ‘Wow.’ I mean, it’s that noticeable. So that was a blessing.”
Loeffler said the 6-foot-2, 281-pound Alston looks natural at the part but said it’s impossible to teach someone offensive line technique in two weeks. He’ll take some time.
“But in terms of what you’re looking for, it’s pretty impressive for Day 1,” Loeffler said.
2. Loeffler said playing receiver D.J. Coles as much as Tech did in the opener was “wishful thinking.”
It sounds like all the coaches at Tech understand the full gravity of how much Coles’ knee injury from last year is still affecting him.
“You want a guy to play 100 miles per hour every snap and we got to find a way to get him back to that,” Loeffler said. “Because you watch his tape from previous years before that injury, he played 100 mph.
“Whenever he plays full speed he’s a really good player. And it’s not lack of will, or a lack of want. The fact of the matter is he had a really, really bad injury and we need to try to help him so can play full speed.”
3. Tech spread the ball to a bunch of different receivers last Saturday, although Loeffler would like to see even more diversity.
Ten different Hokies caught passes against Western Carolina. Only four of them were to receivers (Josh Stanford, Willie Byrn, Coles and Demitri Knowles), however.
“In the perfect world, I would love that whenever you looked at a stat sheet that seven guys caught the ball,” he said.
Eleven of the Hokies’ 20 completions against Western Carolina went to receivers. Four more went to tight end Kalvin Cline, while five running backs had one catch apiece.
Loeffler, by the way, is the source of Byrn’s “Paper Boy” nickname.
“He looks like my paper boy and he just keeps delivering,” Loeffler said.
4. The Hokies planned not to run quarterback Logan Thomas at all last week.
Thomas didn’t have a carry for the first time in his career against Western Carolina. That was by design. The Hokies didn’t want to expose him to unnecessary punishment, especially against an FCS team.
Would Tech like to see him in the pocket that much going forward?
“We’ll see,” Loeffler said, not tipping his hand.
As for Thomas’ interceptions Saturday, the first one Loeffler pinned on the quarterback — he should have checked down when the deep throw wasn’t there. The second one was more on Knowles.
“It should have been a back pylon throw and the DB was able to close the cushion and we didn’t vertical press and we didn’t create separation,” Loeffler said, spouting off some football jargon. “That should have been a touchdown. That’s the look as a coach that should be a walk in.”
5. The injury picture still isn’t clear for Saturday.
RG Andrew Miller and RB J.C. Coleman were still in blue, limited jerseys Wednesday. Tech will have a better idea about their status by the time Thursday’s injury report comes out.
Coleman’s injury, and Joel Caleb‘s Week 1 suspension, has prevented the Hokies from truly defining the roles for all their running backs.
“It’s been a little bit shifting in and out,” Loeffler said. “I’d like to try to give them a role that they have. And we have specific roles. But kind of unfortunate circumstances took them a while.”
WR Charley Meyer didn’t practice Wednesday because of a hamstring issue still. Loeffler called him day-to-day but “improving.”
1. He really thinks highly of East Carolina quarterback Shane Carden.
“I don’t know if I’ve seen a more accurate guy, to be honest with you,” Foster said, regurgitating Frank Beamer‘s line about it being tough to complete 80 percent of your passes against a pass skel, let alone in a game. (Or maybe Frank stole it from Bud?)
Carden doesn’t run a whole lot, but Foster said he can move in the pocket to buy time for his receivers.
“He doesn’t escape and run,” Foster said. “He escapes and buys time for his guys to get open and just puts the ball on the money. I haven’t seen him make very many poor decisions.”
2. Tackling, as usual, will be key.
ECU will try to spread Tech’s defense out, throwing to the perimeter and making the Hokies defend the entire width of the field.
“We can’t assume anything,” Foster said. “They might make a guy miss a play in space, but if we can turn him back into our help, where our help is coming in hard, we just can’t assume anything [unless] the ballcarrier has been tackled, the whistle has blown.”
What makes the Pirates tough is they’ll throw a lot of screens, but they’ll also have a counter to that if the defense begins to key in on one play too much.
“They’re either going to run a quick screen or they’re going to run a quick screen and go,” Foster said. “You run a smash route or you’re going to run a smash with a jet or a smash and go. … They always have a wrinkle off of everything they do.”
3. The defense’s focus is still on stopping the run.
Foster says this every week, so it should come as no surprise. He referenced the 17-10 win in Greenville in 2011 as a good example. The Hokies held the Pirates to negative 15 yards rushing, with sacks included. ECUs’ two tailbacks ran for 11 and 10 yards total.
“You can’t just allow a team like this to have any success running the football,” Foster said. “Make them one-dimensional.”
Foster said ECU shows a little more two-back or diamond formations in the backfield than it used to, which is a new wrinkle. The Pirates used to be almost exclusively one-back.
4. Antone Exum looks like he’s being brought into the fold a little more.
The senior cornerback worked some with the second defense, going against the scout team Wednesday. Foster guessed that Exum is about 85-90 percent healthy, but he still hasn’t been fully cleared, so Tech is being cautious with him. Foster thinks he’s still probably a couple weeks away.
“He’s still got to get back to playing with a bend in his knees and transitions and all those things,” Foster said. “Just kind of get back in a football flow a little bit.”
Exum got some more work because Kyle Fuller was under the weather. He’ll be OK for Saturday, but Foster didn’t get into specifics of his ailment.
“We have ladies here,” Foster said, glancing around at the group of reporters. “It’s just one of those days.”
5. There’s still no word on if Corey Marshall will travel for this week’s game.
The defensive tackle re-joined the team Tuesday after a three-week absence. He worked on some scout team stuff and brought good energy to the practice, coaches said.
“If he plays, I think he can add an element there for us,” Foster said. “I think he’s got fresh legs. But again, he’s been away from it for a few weeks, so sometimes your timing and some of those things will be off.”
Foster said the decision about Marshall’s status for the game will be up to Beamer.