Sunday, January 17, 2010

GobblerCountry Blogger Roundtable

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!!

Monday, January 11, 2010

TSF Poll Final

Ahh... TSF had it right all year. The problem with doing a preseason poll is that once a team is number one and they remain undefeated, they'll stay number one. Florida was number one all year and it took a loss to shake them. Anyhoo, it was also unanimous that Boise State is number two. Our Hokies settled in to a respectible number 8.

1 Alabama (3) 75
Boise State 72
3 Florida 68
4 Texas 66
5 TCU 64
6 Cincinnati 56
7 Ohio State 55
8 Virginia Tech 54
9 Penn State 48
10 Iowa 46
11 Pittsburgh 45
12 BYU 37
12 Oregon 37
14 Nebraska 36
15 Georgia Tech 34
16 Utah 31
17 Wisconsin 27
18 LSU 21
19 Central Michigan 19
20 USC 17
21 West Virginia 16
22 Mississippi 14
23 Miami 12
24 Rutgers 8
24 Texas Tech 8

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Hokies Big Win To End Non-Conference Play

The Hokies improve to 12-1 to start the 2009-2010 season with a 103-92 win over the Seton Hall Pirates in Cancun, Mexico. [I wish I were there!] This is Tech's best opening record since the 1995-1996 season. The win also concludes Tech's regular season non-conference play.

The Hokies were able to squeak out the win without team leader Malcolm Delaney who was injured last week in the win against Longwood.

Dorenzo Hudson stepped up to fill in the void left by Delaney. He led all Hokies with a whopping 41 points. Jeff Allen also was in double digits with 23 points.

Jeremy Hazell led the Pirates with 24 points but he made too many mistakes--turnovers and poor shot selections--to give Seton Hall a chance.

The Hokies next face the North Carolina Tarheels, next Sunday, to open ACC play with this win to boost this very young team's confidence. The march to 12-1, though impressive, was not filled with the greatest of power ranked opponents. The Hokies have a full week to get ready. Maybe they can take a dip in the Caribbean before they start. They've earn it.

Friday, January 01, 2010

3 Key Plays - 2009 Chik-Fil-A Bowl VT vs. Tennessee

This is probably the easiest 3 Key Plays I have ever written. Anyone who watched the game last night knows what the 3 Key Plays were.

1) After Tennessee roared back from a 14-0 deficit to tie the game at 14 with 18 seconds left in the first half, everything looked like a repeat of the 2006 Chik-Fil-A Bowl that the Hokies lost to Georgia. But with 9 seconds left, QB Tyrod Taylor uncorked a screaming bomb to WR Jarrett Boykin that traveled 65 yards in the air (Taylor has been amazing with his accuracy on balls traveling more than 50 yards in the air this season) and hit Boykin behind the defense. Boykin was down at the 4 yard line and the clock appeared to expire but the officials reviewed it and saw that there should have been 2 seconds left. Since the Hokies had a timeout left they were able to kick the chip shot FG and go into the half leading 17-14.

2) After being bottled up most of the first half, including a twisted ankle, RB Ryan Williams took the handoff at midfield on VT's first possession of the 2nd half and ripped off a 32 yard run that included a burst through the line, moves in the open field and two broken tackles. In other words it was a microcosm of the type of running he did all season. With this run, he moved the ball deep into Tennessee territory setting up a QB sneak for a TD (which I was screaming at the TV for the Hokies to run and when they did I was so relieved) to put the Hokies up by two scores and broke the spirit of the Tennessee defense. A quick shout-out to the offensive line for putting it upon themselves to manhandle the smaller UT defense after halftime. Wang and Render were beasting people all over the left side in that 2nd half last night and it was great to see.

3) With 13 minutes left in the game and the Hokies up 27-14, Hokie FS Kam Chancellor got completely toasted on a move by UT receiver Denarious Moore. QB Jonathan Crompton delivered a perfect ball and the Vols were about to put the game back to within one score at 27-21 and completely change the complexion of the 4th quarter. But Moore dropped the easy TD pass and took out what little wind was left in the Tennessee sails. Game over.

As a final note, there is an honorary key play. The final play of the game was a 4th and 10 with 52 seconds left. Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin, down 23 points, had the gumption to call a timeout to try and score a meaningless TD. As a result, Coach Foster dialed up a blitz from rover Dorian Porch and Porch blasted in on Crompton and popped him into the turf. Crompton ended up with a minor concussion. I hope he's OK, but I think that says everything you need to know about Coach Foster. The game is 60 minutes long and if you want to tangle the entire time, he's ready to go. I sure am glad VT locked him up with a 5 year extension. Zero points given up in the 2nd half of 5 straight games should tell you all you need to know about Foster's ability to make adjustments. One more time, I'll say he's the greatest defensive coordinator in college football and certainly one of the top 5 of all-time.