Linebacker Josh Trimble (hip) is doubtful. Center David Wang (shoulder) and running back Trey Edmunds (hip) are probable. Cornerback Antone Exum (knee) and offensive lineman Mark Shuman (knee) are out.
Notice that running back J.C. Coleman isn’t on there. He’ll play after missing three of the first four weeks with an ankle injury.
Now for five takeaways from both offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler and defensive coordinator Bud Foster after Tuesday night’s interviews:
1. Virginia Tech had more mistakes against Marshall than any game this season.
Loeffler was upset with the Hokies’ consistency against the Thundering Herd, calling it their “biggest mistake game, hands down.”
“We made more mistakes, left more yardage on the field last week than any game we’ve played so far,” he said. “I give credit to Marshall, there’s no question. But there were way too many mistakes in that game that left major drives stopped and also the ability to score. It was a mistake game.”
Just one example, and it was one that Tech was fortunate wasn’t costly, was the Willie Byrn touchdown catch late, which Loeffler said should have been a “walk-in.”
“Willie should have been flat. He drifted. And then Logan [Thomas] was late,” Loeffler said. “That should have been a hands down, go to the next drive mentality. But as soon as we saw the drift, as soon as we saw that Logan was a little late and put air under the ball, the ball was tipped. Even though that was positive play, we scored, it wasn’t what we wanted.”
2. Everybody was to blame.
Loeffler wasn’t going to put everything one group, because every group had mistakes.
“It was shared across the board,” he said. “You couldn’t say one position in my mind was mistake free.”
He doesn’t like anyone saying the weather contributed to the Hokies’ struggles, either.
“I believe the weather is an excuse, a complete excuse,” he said. “The weather had nothing to do with us going to the right guy, us doing the right route, us doing the right decision with the ball, us making the right cut. The weather had nothing to do with that.”
3. The plan against Marshall was to run Thomas more.
Loeffler said he thought Marshall’s defensive front was good but gave the Hokies opportunities on which they didn’t account for the quarterback, which is why Thomas ran the ball 23 times, the second most carries in his career.
Although Thomas appeared to make some poor decisions on read option plays, Loeffler put some of that on a plethora of mistakes by the offense.
“Sometimes what looked, appeared to be a bad read was actually a missed assignment by a lineman or vice versa,” he said. “In that game, it was mistakes across the board. We can’t sit here and point fingers at the quarterback, the linemen, the wide receivers. It was a collective effort.”
4. One positive takeaway? The Hokies won.
He didn’t hide the fact that he was disappointed that Tech took a step back offensively in the fourth week of the season, but he didn’t think it was a total lost cause.
“The positive was a bunch of young guys that didn’t play mistake-free football were able to overcome it and win the game,” Loeffler said. “So there was a negative. There were too many mistakes. Positive that we build off of is that we won the game and found a way to win at the end.”
5. Having offensive line coach Jeff Grimes and GA Ryan Pugh, both formerly of Auburn, on staff helps Loeffler know what to expect from Ted Roof’s Georgia Tech defense.
Loeffler was in Auburn only for 2012, so he didn’t overlap with Roof, who was the Tigers’ defensive coordinator from 2009-11. But Grimes was the Auburn’s offensive line coach then and Pugh the starting center, so they have some familiarity with what Roof does with his scheme.
Roof, who spent last year at Penn State, brings a 4-3 concept to the Yellow Jackets, different from Al Groh‘s 3-4 scheme the last several years.
“Very disciplined,” Loeffler said. “Ted’s a great defensive coordinator. He runs a scheme that’s bend but don’t break. They can be aggressive. They’re a zone coverage team that has the ability to play man. And they’re just disciplined. They’re a senior group. They’re an older group, I should say. And they don’t make too many mistakes. Let’s just put it that way.”
1. Kyle Fuller will play the whip linebacker spot.
This isn’t really news. Fuller told us as much earlier this week. But Foster confirmed it Tuesday night, and it’s especially important with Trimble doubtful with a hip injury.
Fuller played that whip spot for the Hokies in 2011, making four tackles. Last year, Tech went with Jeron Gouveia-Winslow, who played perhaps the best game of his career, finishing with 11 tackles. So the position is important. That’s why Foster went with a veteran like Fuller.
“Kyle’s had that experience,” Foster said. “Just a short week, we’re trying to keep as much of our continuity with what we’ve done with this scheme in the past.”
That puts true freshman Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson as the starters at corner, although Foster’s not worried about them.
“Those guys have played good football right now,” Foster said. “Obviously that’s a tremendous challenge for them, because they’re going to take some shots on them for sure.”
2. The Yellow Jackets are going to gain yards. The Hokies have to limit the big plays.
Foster is well-versed in playing Paul Johnson‘s option offense, so he knows Georgia Tech is going to move the ball. He said giving up 190 rushing yards is akin to holding another team under 100.
“They’re going to gain yards now, man. That’s what they do,” Foster said. “What we’ve been able to do the last couple years is not give up the explosive plays.”
That means making Georgia Tech work for its yards and not giving up big chunks of yardage on single plays. Foster also said keeping the Yellow Jackets in second- or third-and-long is important, since Johnson likes to go for it on fourth down if the distance is reasonable.
“We’ve got to get in the mindset that it’s a 60-minute fist fight,” Foster said.
3. He expects Paul Johnson’s offense to have some new wrinkles.
Foster mentioned the Yellow Jackets have already shown some diamond formations. In past years, Johnson has added something new to his offense. Last year, it was a spread look.
“We had heard through the grapevine and we hadn’t seen anything,” Foster said. “We went on the Internet and we looked at high school film and stuff like that.”
The Internet? High school film?
“We just got on the Internet and typed in ‘spread offense’ or ‘spread bone’ or whatever,” Foster said.
Whatever Georgia Tech might unveil, Foster said the Hokies need to be prepared to roll with it. Foster doesn’t cross paths with Johnson much outside of this game, but he makes a point to talk to him before the game.
“I let him know how much of a pain in the tail he is, man, for all of us to prepare for,” he said. “And I think he likes that. But he is. He’s good at what he does and they’re good at what they do. And we’re going to have to play a great football game, bottom line.”
4. Experience helps, especially on a short week.
The freshmen cornerbacks are the only defensive players who haven’t seen this Georgia Tech option offense up close and personal before. Everybody else has, which helps, considering the short week.
“There’s a lot of little things that we’re doing that are totally different than what we do in regular offenses,” Foster said. “That if a young guy is not ready to play, he’s not going to play.”
He mentioned a few years ago that J.R. Collins slid inside to tackle because Luther Maddy, then a freshman, was struggling with one particular technique that could have been costly against the Yellow Jackets.
To combat the short week, Foster said the Hokies have used parts of Sundays in recent weeks to get used to Georgia Tech’s unique offense. They haven’t done that before.
Given the turnover this defense will have after this year, Foster said Virginia Tech might do some prep work on the Yellow Jackets in the spring, just to get players who haven’t seen it used to facing it.
“The more reps you can get with this offense the better, I think,” Foster said. “We’ve got to have reps, reps, reps, reps, reps.”
5. He’s not a fan of Thursday night games on short rest.
This isn’t a response to having less prep time to play Georgia Tech. It’s about turning around and playing a game five days after the last one.
“I’ll say this: I think it’s totally absurd, ludicrous — you guys can quote me,” Foster said. “Whoever scheduled this game, whether it’s TV, whether it’s the ACC, it’s totally not right. If they’re looking for safety of the kids, this is not right, especially in a game with this kind of opponent or you’re playing off of a short week. It’s just not right.
“And I’m not saying we should always have seven or eight days to prepare for Georgia Tech. I don’t care who it is. It’s not fair for Georgia Tech to turn around and play us. I don’t think it’s right. Especially if we’re playing on the road too, which is crazy. Anyway … I’m letting off some steam.”
Foster would prefer both teams to be coming off byes, like Clemson and N.C. State were last Thursday night.
Bonus: Bud Foster got an interesting voice mail from ESPN ACC blogger Heather Dinich.
Foster started his interview by talking about a phone message he got from Dinich after the Marshall game.
“She called, left me a message,” Foster said. ” ‘I’m looking at the stat sheet and what happened? It doesn’t look like the same team that showed up with Alabama.’ … I left her a message too, as you guys can imagine.”
Foster went on to say how good he thought Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato was in that game.
“The kid played a hell of a game,” Foster said. “You’ve got to give him credit.”