Our friends over at GobblerCountry are hosting a blogger roundtable and have 5 questions for discussion (along with a bonus question). Here's TSF's contribution and we look forward to your comments, including any ideas you have on the bonus question:
1) Do you think the 2009 season was a successful one for Virginia Tech?
Success depends on whose standard is being measured against. By the coaching staff's standards yes, it was successful. Depth was built along the offensive line and defensive lines and in the secondary as young players got a lot of playing time. A superstar (Ryan Williams) emerged to pick up for an injured superstar (Darren Evans). The Hokies won 10 games including an exciting win over Nebraska and a high profile bowl against an SEC opponent and they landed a very solid recruiting class for 2010. Losses against GT and UNC marked the low point of the season, but they team did rebound to finish strong. All that said, fans have expectations of competing for the ACC title, which is where the yardstick for this program should be. By that standard it was not a success.
2) Did Bryan Stinespring and the Hokie offense finally turn a corner in 2009 or are you still pessimistic about the future of the offense?
There is no doubt that the Nebraska game was a turning point for this offense. Coach Stinespring seemed to really take it to heart about what type of offense the team should be when he stepped back for his first real self-assessment, probably of his career. For the remainder of the year, the playcalling was much more in line with a man who wanted to establish an identity that fit his players on offense - in this case the identity was a power-running game setting up an effective roll-out/play action passing game that will go vertical at opportune times (normally right after a big play by the defense). That said, Coach Stinespring does NOT get the most out of his players and he doesn't set a high enough standard for execution from his offensive coaches, nor the players themselves. The number of critical mistakes on offense (offensive lineman tripping and falling, missed plays against a blitz, etc) were ridiculous to watch and definitely cost VT a win against Georgia Tech and North Carolina. Stinespring's clearly improved, but he's only approaching the corner, he hasn't turned it yet. The heat may be off his replacement for now, but we're still pessimistic, and it's safe to say that next year will go a very long way in determining if the Hokies will ever reach their potential on offense since it will be the greatest combination of talent and experience in the program's history.
3) Can the inconsistency of the defense this season be blamed mostly on youth at linebacker and injuries to key players like John Graves or were other factors at play?
We don't entirely accept the premise that the defense played inconsistently. First, they opened the season against the eventual national champs (that's the 3rd time in 6 years the Hokies have played the eventual national champion during the regular season). The more difficult opponents came early in the schedule as opposed to later. Against quality competition the Hokies typically have a very low time of possession as compared to their opponents, which puts the defense on the field too long and makes their job that much harder. That's not to say there weren't improvements in the defense as the season went along. There were two coaching moves made - benching Dorian Porch at rover for Davon Morgan and benching Jake Johnson at backer for Lyndell Gibson - and the results speak for themselves. The defense didn't allow a single 2nd half point on 31 opponent possessions to close out the season. That is a ridiculous, maybe even a preposterous achievement for Coach Foster and his junkyard dogs.
4) Which player was the biggest surprise to you in 2009, good or bad?
The obvious answer would seem to be Ryan Williams. After Darren Evans went down due to injury, nobody expected Williams to go out and set the school record for rushing. But remember that there was a huge buzz about Williams going back to his redshirt year and then the spring game. While Williams' success exceeded expectations, it was somewhat foreseeable. So no, the biggest surprise on the entire team was probably the emergence of Rock Carmichael. Not only did we not expect great things from him at the field corner this season, but then Stephan Virgil went down with a knee after the Bama game thrusting Rock into the island that is the boundary corner position. NOBODY, including Coach Gray, expected Rock to rise up and play the boundary so well. He ended up leading the team in interceptions with six and just played with great physicality and a strong mental approach in every game after the Nebraska game, adding to what was previously a one-trick pony - his speed. Honorable mention goes to Jarrett Boykin who we thought was one of the least talented of an admittedly amazing WR recruiting class in 2008. He re-took the starting spot from the uber-physically impressive Xavier Boyce in the third game of the season and Boykin then went on to have one of the greatest receiving seasons in VT history.
5) If the Hokies could go back and replay one of their three losses, which one would you replay?
Georgia Tech, hands down. If the teams met ten times, the Hokies would probably win nine, but they didn't win the one that mattered. The Hokies would have won the ACC if they won that game in Atlanta and if they had another shot, the offense would not play as miserably as they did in the first half of that game. A win there might have changed the result against UNC the following week as well.
Bonus - Write a haiku about Ryan Williams. Here's ours:
Seeing green spaces
He runs like an antelope
out of control, SCORE!!