Remember App State
by Mad Jay
Normally, the Hokies playing a I-AA (I protest the renaming of the college football divisions and will continue to call them I-A and I-AA) opponent would be considered a waste of a week. I have never liked it when teams scheduled I-AA opponents because there’s not much in it for the I-A opponent. If they kill the I-AA team, they were supposed to. If the game is close, it’s cause for panic. And if they lose to say, someone like Appalachian State, the season goes to hell in a handbasket. Meanwhile they are exposing the players to injury risk and when it’s all said and done, a win against a I-AA opponent doesn’t even count towards total victories in determining bowl eligibility.
This week is different. The offensive line needs a confidence builder, which is a very polite way to put it. Putting it my way, these guys need a swift kick in the ass. They need reps to work on timing and just playing football together. This offensive line has to look at every week as a chance to get better and make massive improvements over the week before. The size of the improvement can get smaller as the year goes on, but based on their play right now, there is HUGE improvement needed before the ACC part of the schedule begins. The interesting thing about offensive lines is that they, moreso than any other unit on the entire team (with the possible exception of long snapper-holder-kicker), have to work together in order to be successful. Sure you need teamwork in all of the groups, but in every other group special individual achievement can sometimes overcome a mistake by one of your teammates. Individual super-achievement on the offensive line means very little because if one of the members breaks down on the play it almost always doomed to failure.
Freshman quarterback Tyrod Taylor, despite all the hype - some of which you may have read here – is still a true freshman. Lord knows he needs as many opportunities as possible; from making reads and throws all the way down to simple things like handoffs and play fakes. More snaps can only help but he has to remain cautious that plays that might be there against William & Mary won’t be there against faster, tougher competition. That being said, if the Hokies are up by more than 4 touchdowns at the end of the third quarter, Taylor doesn’t see a single 4th quarter snap if yours truly was the coach. That would give Sean Glennon a chance to play some more as well as a deserving Cory Holt who has been a real team player amidst all of the chaos at the QB position in 2007.
From a defensive standpoint, I do truly expect William & Mary to move the ball and score some points, something in the 10-13 ballpark. Their QB Jake Phillips is outstanding and as long as their offensive coordinator isn’t Bryan Stinespring, he will have some quick pass plays like slants, hooks, and screens available to offset the heavy rush that will result from William & Mary’s offensive line being so vastly outmatched by the Hokies. Remember that this is the top offense in Division I-AA and unlike when the Hokies offense is on the field, the Hokies defense will be seeing schemes and playmakers that are closer to what one would see in Division I-A football.
This is also a perfectly timed week in that it gives several injured Hokies a chance to continue their recovery. Jason “All” Worilds, the Hokies defensive end with the high ankle sprain, won’t play and this will give Steven Friday some HIGHLY anticipated reps at end. I can’t wait to see what this young man brings to the table. Branden Ore, who has bruised ribs, probably won’t play in the second half at all and it will finally force Coach Hite to play Kenny Lewis, Jr more as well as Jahre Cheeseman. I also don’t expect to see any 3rd or 4th quarter snaps taken by Macho Harris, who still has a sore hamstring and Brandon Flowers, with his ankle unless the game is nightmarishly close. All in all, it gets these players more recovery time and gets more valuable snaps for the backups.
While I still disagree overall with I-AA opponents playing I-A, Appalachian State did prove that the best of the lower division can compete with the upper division. I would put William & Mary’s offense up as one of the best of the lower division so don’t think that the Hokies can sleepwalk through this game and get a blowout. I want to see crisp execution by the first string on both sides of the ball and the most made by Taylor and the offensive line of the reps they do get. I expect to be able to tell a lot about the Hokies headed into the UNC game next week based on what I see on Saturday. But the team better leave that “looking-ahead” business to Superfans like me and focus on playing their best against William & Mary.