TECHSUPERFANS (TM) - THE NEWSLETTER
Welcome to the 2006 Football Season!!
We at TSF are very excited about the new season and we will be listening to, watching on TV or attending every game this season. We hope you guys are even half as fired up as we are about this year because it's full of new faces and big games. Should be fun. As always, we are protesting the use of early season polls and you will see the TSF Poll along with the BCS rankings in October where they belong. Let's begin by wrapping up Summer Practice.
The summer can be wrapped up in two words - defense and youth. Let's face it - the defense has the potential to be ferocious this season. If they play as a team they can accomplish something special just like last year's squad. But there is a problem: the defense is doing a little too much talking right now. No fewer than three supposed leaders on the Hokies defense (Vince Hall, Xavier Adibi and Chris Ellis) have said the defense is going to be better than last year. There's a reason that the real leader on this defense, Aaron Rouse, hasn't said that. He remembers 2003 when he was a freshman and an insanely talent-laden defense gave up
299 points. For reference, last year's defense gave up 168. And Rouse wants to lead by example and tell everyone how much work is involved. It's about this defense staying hungry and playing football together. And they better not let this game against Northeastern mean anything considering this is the worst opponent they will play all season.
Now let's talk about youth. The youth that stepped up this spring should have Hokies' everywhere cheering for years to come. In all of my years following Tech football, I have NEVER seen the level of talent from this many freshmen and redshirt freshmen. No fewer than 21 players who have never played a down of Division I-A football are dressing for the game against Northeastern. Sergio Render is starting at right guard as a true freshman. There are 9 freshmen and redshirt freshmen on the two-deep, when last year there were only 2 (Roland Minor and Macho Harris). Yes a few of these guys have been thrust into the spotlight due to injuries ahead of them, but by all accounts from coaches and players along with the footage I've seen, most of these youngsters appear ready to play. Of course the brutal reality of top-level ACC college football is that we'll find out within several weeks just how ready to play they are. But I have seen the future and it is here - and with all the incredible talent that has already committed to the next Hokies recruiting class in 2007, it is bright indeed my friends.
Game Preview - Northeastern
I am a straight man, with a wife and a baby girl. But I could just KISS Jim Weaver (athletic director) for getting this game with Northeastern scheduled for the season opener. The Hokies need this game like Captain Jack needed The Black Pearl. Like Superman needed Lois Lane. Like Ricky needed Bobby.......well you get my point. Tech needed this game. As addressed earlier in this issue, the 2006 football team has more youth than any in recent memory. They are up against a completely outmatched Division I-AA football team, one that isn't even good for Division I-AA. I expect the Tech defense to run roughshod over these Huskies from Northeastern. I expect giving up at most 3 points. I expect the offense to put up 30 points by halftime. But that isn't what this game is about for Tech. They need to take care of business in the first half and get this youthful second string a whole lot of snaps. If the second string isn't playing by the middle of the third quarter, you won't have to wonder what I'm thinking because as long as you are in the southeastern United States, you will HEAR ME. Here is a golden opportunity to give the vastly inexperienced players on both sides of the ball a chance to develop a rhythm. To get the real feel for a football game. A feel not just limited to a meaningless series at the end of the game, but one developed by playing for several sequences. The coaches need film on whether these players are able to pick up on a detail during one series and exploit it on the next. The need to have material to coach these kids up. By God, the coaches better have the sense to take advantage of the opportuntity that Jim Weaver has given them.
No matter what team the Hokies are playing, I will never look past the team to the next week. This is one-game-at-a-time discipline and it starts now. But at the same time, the first string needs to blow Northeastern out of the water. Sean Glennon needs to get a rhythm and some confidence and so does the offensive line. But it's also important that while they build up some confidence, they keep a sense of perspective as to who they are playing. They should utilize this game for what it is - the chance to go out and hit someone else other than each other during practice and then get onto the sidelines without injuries so that the group of young players who NEED this playing time can get it. This is the best-case scenario for how this game should play out and it will be fun for Hokie fans everywhere to see their beloved team take the field to launch the 2006 campaign.
Starting Line-up for Northeastern Game
Split End - Josh Morgan
LT - Brandon Frye
LG - Ryan Shuman
C - Danny McGrath
RG - Sergio Render (true freshman!)
RT - Duane Brown
TE - Greg Boone
RB - Branden Ore
FB - Jesse Allen
Flanker - Royal
Stud End - Chris Ellis
Off End - Noland Burchette
Tackle - Barry Booker
Nose - Carlton Powell
Whip - LB- Brendan Hill
Mike LB - Vince Hall -
Backer LB - Xavier Adibi
Field Corner - Macho Harris
Free Safety - D.J. Parker
Rover - Aaron Rouse
Boundary Corner - Brandon Flowers
FG - Brandon Pace
KickOffs - Jared Develli
Punter - Nic Schmitt
Don't go looking here for your typical season preview crap. You can read about the Hokies' inexperience at offensive line and QB, Coach Beamer's decision to fine players who get personal fouls this season and Branden Ore's improvement in maturity everywhere else on the internet. Here you are going to get the in-depth straight skinny on the key points that are going to allow the Hokies to take "The Next Step", which is also the theme for this season. It's all about Virginia Tech taking another step towards the goal of a national championship. By the way until it happens you will never see TSF use the word "undefea...." in our newsletter as it
relates to the Hokies. We don't believe in jinxes or anything silly like that, but that's just bad juju. Very bad juju.
This season has the same feel early on as the 2003 Hokies. The team has talent all over the field, a solid starter at QB, an amazing physical talent at 2nd string QB, a vocal senior leader of an otherwise incredibly young defense and a Hokie Nation expecting great things. Thank God for the 2003 Hokies because the can serve as an example of what the coaching staff and players must avoid and because of them, hopefully the 2006 team can reach its full potential. Let's look at each game and what the key points to that game are right now.
Northeastern - Can the first string execute tightly enough so that the young players on second string who so badly need live game snaps can get them starting early in the second half? Sean Glennon needs to be very crisp in this game. Branden Ore needs 15 carries or less to preserve his health. The team needs to be dominant of an incredibly outmatched opponent.
At UNC - Here is where the hot fire starts. A road game in the ACC is an acid test of a team. Can the Hokies perform in a hostile environment in a game that the nation expects them to win with ease? The answer to that ever since Virginia Tech has joined the ACC has been yes. They are undefeated in ACC road game. The CRITICAL issue that will be exposed in this game is whether or not Brian Stinespring can gameplan with this offense. There is no doubt that this is the first of 11 games where the Hokies will be facing an inordinate amount of blitzes. I recall the 2004 NC State game in Lane Stadium where Bryan Randall was sacked 10 times and there was no adjustment by Stinespring. It boils down to if he can learn from that and make teams pay when they blitz. And can Glennon execute the gameplan? Can he face the blitz and deliver the quick hit ball accurately? If the answers are yes a) my faith in Stinespring will be renewed and b) the team could have a strong season. if they answers to these questions are no then the Hokies
might not even win this game, much less contend for the Coastal division title. I am skeptical but prayerful, hopeful and every other adjective you can use to describe someone who fears they know what the outcome of something is going to be but want to SO BADLY BE WRONG.
Duke - If the Hokies are lucky enough to be 2-0 at this point, can they avoid the letdown and keep the momentum going? This game will be like the Northeastern game. First string needs to be sharp and the young players need very valuable snaps. I'd like to see Ike Whitaker in this game against an ACC defense. You won't be able to tell anything if Whitaker plays against Northeastern because Northeastern is so darn bad. But while Duke is very bad on offense they have a near-ACC caliber defense and could serve as a nice test for Whitaker's mental progression. By the way, Whitaker's physical tools are ridiculous. He is a talent, plain and simple. If he gets the mental part of this game down where he knows when to take a sack and where to go with the ball, the sky is the limit with him. 2007 spring practice should be nothing short of an AMAZING battle. QB will be the Hokies strong suit in '07.
Cincinnati - A classic "look-ahead" game. With Georgia Tech coming to Lane Stadium the following week it would be so easy to overlook the Bearcats. I think this game will illustrate just how successful the coaching staff has been in instilling a sense of goals and discipline in this team. If they look sharp in this game, it just bodes so well for the rest of the season. Oh and for those of you who forgot, Cincinnati smoked the Hokies in the second game of the 1995 season (the year Tech won the Sugar Bowl), so anyone who doesn't think they can beat Tech this year is criminally optimistic.
Georgia Tech - Just as it was in 2004, this game against the Yellow Jackets will probably prove to be the critical game of the season. Georgia Tech's defense is just fantastic this year and if you thought that the Hokies had seen blitzes up to this game, think again. I'll bet anyone that there will be less than 10 plays the entire game where Jon Tenuda doesn't send 6 or more defenders into the backfield on a blitz. And looking at the Hokies O-line and QB I would do the same thing. On defense, the Hokies need to have their injured secondary back at full strength by the time this game rolls around. Calvin Johnson is bar-none the best receiver in college football and VT needs all the help they can get back there. The outcome of this game determines a great deal in
the ACC this year and the winner will likely win the Coastal division. A huge game. The fact that it's in Lane (and if GT beats Notre Dame this weekend, ABC will make it a night game) is a big deal.
At Boston College - This game as always will be nothing short of a test of Virginia Tech's manhood. There are few surprises or wrinkles on either side of the ball at Boston Colege. The Eagles are tough and physical and they are coached extremely well to play together as a team. I think this plays to a strength of the Hokies which is why they've had success recently against the EAgles, but we'll find out if this year's edition of the team has the "want-to" to go into Chestnut Hill and win this game. Don't be surprised if Virginia Tech trails in this game and boy would we learn a lot about the team if they do.
Southern Miss- a dangerous game in that Southern Miss has played all the big boys and isn't going to be intimidated. They played Alabama very tough last year. Again, a game that will be easy to look ahead to Clemson from. By now there had better be some serious contributions from the young players on the squad because the tough stretch starts this week against Southern Miss and the starters need to be healthy.
Clemson - could be the biggest game in the ACC this year if Clemson and Tech live up to their potential. Both teams are so damn fast on both sides of the ball it should be a lot of fun to watch. This game will be the introduction of Hokie football to my new daughter and I can't think of a better time than a night game at Lane Stadium. It's awful hard to go into Blacksburg and win on
Thursday night but this year's Tigers are a team that could do it. This is going to be a good football game.
At Miami - I think Miami has the physical talent to beat anyone in the country. I think the disarray in the coaching staff and the pressure on that entire team will keep them from having the mental concentration to win the ACC this year. This will be a struggle in mental toughness. It's the same formula as 2004 when VT won the ACC at Miami. If the Hokies offense can just play mistake-free football, the defense will get some stops and key turnovers and they can win the game. Of course with all the youth on the team this year that is a helluva lot easier to type here than it is to go to Miami and do.
Kent State - A good week to recover from Miami, win or lose. THere will be some hurt players after the hard-hitting past two weeks and again the first string needs to be sharp if they want to get off the field early. The final score of this game will be closer than people think just because of how drained the Hokies are going to be. Again, thank goodness it's in the friendly confines of
At Wake Forest - VT had better get it's stuff together if they want to go in to Wake Forest and win. This team pushed the Hokies down to the very last play in 2004. They are bringing back 17 starters from last year's team. I am seriously concerned about this game and I expect the Hokies to be sluggish early on. Wake will be the opposite of Miami. They won't make the mental mistakes and will probably force a few from the younger Hokies. At this point in the season, we will find out exactly why I'm so intense about the 2nd string and young players getting so many valuable snaps in earlier games. It will be about outplaying a physically undermanned but mentally tough squad on their home turf. It's going to take a lot of good performances to do it.
Virginia - The Cavaliers suck. Yes I always hate them and always say they suck, but this year their team is just bad. They've lost a lot of coaching and players and their starting QB is a male model. Need I say more? Unfortunately, yes. You see this is a rivalry game and it is a cliche. but cliches are cliches because they are so often true - you can throw out the records in a rivalry game. The Wahoos are going to give it everything they have in this game, likely because they will need a win to be bowl eligible, and if they're not it means this is their last game of the season so they will just try and ruin VT's season. I don't care about the analysis of this game, it's going to be about putting away the playbook and going out there and surviving a desparate team that
hates the Hokies.
We won't be predicting any ACC championship or BCS championship games. We'll preview those if they come to pass.
Here is the slate and it all begins Saturday at 1:30 PM. It's time to take The Next Step.