Sunday, August 17, 2008

2008-09 Hokies Football - Here We Go!

TSF welcomes you back to Hokies football fpr the 2008-09 season!!! We will be providing a season preview/positional breakdown as the roster clears up closer to the end of spring practice. Then we will break down the ECU game that kicks off the season. But first, let's get into a topic that's near and dear to our hearts - the coaching staff, specifically the two coordinators.

Did you ever see the M. Night Shamylan movie Unbreakable? For context, Bruce Willis played the indestructible super hero and Samuel Jackson, as the villain, had a genetic disorder that resulted in broken bones, even if he just tripped and fell over. Keep those two characters in mind, I'll come back to that later. 

This year, in order for the Hokies to have success (defined as 10 or more wins), both Bud Foster and Bryan Stinespring are going to have to perform at a very high level. There is so much experience being replaced on both sides of the ball. The season will come down to the ability of Foster and Stinespring to identify talent, put together a gameplan to fit the talent and then motivate the players to play up to their potential and execute.

I think we can all rest easier at night when looking at the defensive side of the ball, because there has probably never been a better defensive coordinator than Bud Foster to coach in the game of college football.

Consider this - when Oklahoma led the nation in total defense in 85, 86 and 87 (the last team to do it and one of only two to ever do so) their offense was a dominant juggernaut and they were simply head and shoulders above every other team in the Big 8 except Nebraska. Recently over the past 4 years LSU has had the 3rd best total yardage defense in the country, and an offense that ranks 34th best in the country. Impressive numbers to be sure and it's no surprise that both the Sooners and the Tigers won national titles in those timeframes.

The Hokies for comparison purposes have had a 4th, 1st, 1st and 4th in total yardage defense in that same timeframe for an average finish of 2.5, just ahead of LSU. But unlike LSU and Oklahoma, the Hokie offense has averaged 80.5 out of 119 teams over the past 4 years. That sounds crazy. How can the defense be that good without help from the offense? Hmmm, well you know what they say about statistics, right? There's lies, damned lies and then there's statistics. You can make a number say anything. Tell you what - let's dig a little further.


What about scoring defense? LSU’s average scoring defense over the past 4 years is 17th. Okahoma in their defense dominant years of 85-87 had on average, the 2nd best scoring defense. Both Oklahoma in the mid 80’s and LSU recently almost always were playing with a lead and/or the opposing offense was deep in its own end following a kickoff. Teams had to drive the field an awful lot to score on LSU and mid-80’s Oklahoma which certainly helped their defensive numbers. Not to mention these dominant offenses were able to keep their defenses well-rested (especially in Oklahoma’s case). 

Meanwhile, the Hokies average finish in scoring defense the past 4 years is 2nd!! Their worst finish in that timeframe has been 3rd which was in 2007 and that included giving up 48 points to who? You guessed it – LSU. Ok so that is impressive and I think the numbers are starting to tell us something here. Let's keep digging.

A-ha! I think I've found something. I'd like to compare total offense ranks to scoring offense ranks. After all, the scoring offense and total offense should be close to each other in the rankings. So let's look at LSU and mid-80's Oklahoma.

2004-2008 LSU Total Offense - 26th, 11th, 60th, 38th

2004-2008 LSU Scoring Offense - 11th, 9th, 42nd, 41st

1985-1987 Oklahoma Total Offense - 10th, 2nd, 1st

1985-1987 Oklahoma Scoring Offense - 11th, 1st ,1st

As you can see, those numbers show a close correlation between total offense ranking and scoring offense.

Now look at the Hokies from 2004-2008 (I know it's painful but grit your teeth)

Total Offense - 100th, 99th, 57th, 66th

Scoring Offense - 53rd, 49th, 17th, 24th

I think what really elevates Foster to demigod status is looking at this difference between the Hokie total offense and scoring offense. The scoring offense on average ranks 35 PLACES HIGHER than the total offense!!! The defense scores (and so does the special teams) but the hidden reason why there is a huge discrepancy in total offense and scoring offense is how often the defense gives the offense a short field. Turnovers or big returns that don't lead to scores but still give the offense great field position to score from. Now I'm completely convinced that there is one reason, and one reason only, that Virginia Tech has been competing nationally over the past 4 years - Coach Bud Foster.  Remember these years fellow Hokie fans, I think we are witnessing once-in-a-lifetime greatness by a defensive coach. The Hokie defense will probably be alright in 2008 despite the huge loss of NFL talent because Foster is the defensive coordinator. He's like Bruce Willis in Unbreakable.

Dare we even discuss the offensive side of the ball? You've already seen the disastrous rankings on total offense and scoring offense. I mentioned the importance of keeping the defense well-rested. In reviewing how the Hokies fared in Time of Possession over the past 4 years, the answer is 66th, 83rd, 7th, 49th. 

Other than 2005 (is it a coincidence that the Hokies had their best record in 2005? Hmmmmm) the offense did nothing to help keep the defense rested. In fact, when you put all of the information together in one place like I've done, imagine if you were an employer paying an employee over $250,000/year and you were seeing results like what I've outlined above. Wouldn't you make a DAMN CHANGE?!?!?!?! Wouldn't any sane person???

Ok, so it's insane that Stinespring is the coordinator, but guess what - that's the deal for 2008. And frankly in 2008, he can repair an amazing amount of damage due to the size of the coaching task in front of him. This offense is going to require a great deal of misdirection and utilizing the tight end weapons the Hokies have. Yards will be at a premium so there needs to be excellent downfield blocking to spring tailbacks for big gains when they make it through the line. Speaking of the line, it looks like it will be ok, for a change. But balancing all the complexity needed is the need for simplicity early on in the season due to the inexperience at RB and WR and the QB carousel that is bound to occur in the backfield. 

Now I have said on several occassions that I could have done a better job as offensive coordinator than Stinespring and I've meant it. Just look at the WR talent (looks like three of the four Hokie WR's from last year's team are going to be playing on NFL rosters and two of them appear to be headed for starting jobs). I honestly could have produced better results than Stinespring; however, the task on offense this year is a bear and I'll freely admit it would be more than I could do. So if Stinespring surprises, (don't hold your breath), I will gladly give him a great deal of credit. But before we start singing Kum-Ba-Yah and lighting some incense let's do a quick recap.

Bud Foster has had the best yardage defense two consecutive years (’05 and ’06) and a top 4 total defense in 4 consecutive years. And the Hokies have an average finish of 2nd in scoring defense in that same timeframe.  HIS DEFENSE HAS CARRIED THE 80th BEST OFFENSE IN THE COUNTRY WITH THE 52nd BEST TIME OF POSSESSION OVER 4 STRAIGHT YEARS. What he and those players have done is essentially impossible. They play the game with one-hand tied behind their back by an offense that is completely inept and yet, somehow the defense isn't just competitive, it's dominant. Foster and Stinespring are the two opposite ends of the spectrum, just as Bruce Willis and Samuel Jackson were in the movie Unbreakable. If the offensive performance matched the defense or was even within shouting distance of it, the trophy case in the Hall of Legends would have a diamond football in it already. That being said, 2008-09 is Stinespring's chance to prove that he has made a quantum leap and is ready to lead the offense of a top-flight football program. Here's to hope {raises glass} and to the 2008-2009 Virginia Tech Hokies!


1 comment:

Hokie Guru said...

Excellent preview... you can be assured that the Hokie Guru at Fire Bryan Stinspring Dot Com will hold the offense accountable this year.