In an absolute STUNNER, the offense looked terrible and the defense looked unbelievably good in the first spring scrimmage for the Hokies. For what has been a hotbed of offensive innovation and execution, both fans and beat reporters alike stood slack-jawed as they watched the usually timid and outmatched defense muster up a stone-cold shutdown of the offense. 11 sacks, 2 interceptions and vicious hits at every turn had people wondering if they were in the Twilight Zone.
Ok, so obviously the defense destroyed the offense. In the past 18 years, I can't remember a spring practice where this hasn't the case. You've already read all the stats and interviews with coaches so let's get to what you came here for - there are four main takeaways that you need to know from this scrimmage:
1) Our area of number 1 concern headed into the spring..........is still our number 1 area of concern. The offensive line was completely manhandled, whamboozled by blitzes and stunts and flat out beat in some of their one-on-one battles. James Gayle, Dadi Nicholas and Luther Maddy each had spectacular plays from their defensive line positions. The O-line needs to get some chemistry and quick.
2) I can't believe I'm typing these words, but I'm giving Coach O'Cain the benefit of the doubt on this awful performance by the offense during the scrimmage. Coach O'Cain has implemented parts of the pistol, spread and option offenses during this offseason and there is so much the players are trying to learn that it is completely understandable if they aren't in sync yet. The ridiculous number of false start and procedure penalties are a strong indicator of that. Now traditionally, under Stinespring, the offense would end up in sync by about the end of November, and they can't afford for that to be the case with all these new bells and whistles in 2012. But the offense looked good from the opening gun in 2011 so again, I'm going to take a bit of a wait-and-see approach to what kind of progress the offense makes over the next week or two.
3) Special teams is a mixed bag to be sure. Coach Beamer is still giving everyone a look at the various positions but Conor Goulding seems to have sneaked into the lead for FG kicker, although look for Branthover to give it a go in the next scrimmage. On the plus side, Kyshoen Jarrett had a pretty punt return for a TD and looks like he has good vision and quickness.
4) The defense is as advertised. The defensive line which was such an area of concern last season, looks very strong as mentioned above. But even more incredible was how the revamped secondary handled all the different blitzes and coverages. Coach Foster has got to be tickled with how Detrick Bonner seems to have stepped up at rover, being a vocal leader and playing well. And newcomer to the whip position - Ronnie Van Dyke seems to be making an extremely strong and unexpected push at whip. Nick Dew, who has always been so unbelievably athletic just can't seem to get the mental part of the position down. And if you listen to Coach Foster, it seems like Van Dyke is actually pushing Alonzo Tweedy for playing time this year (although that could just be motivation for Tweedy at this point).
So there you have it. Don't take away too much from the offense at this point, let's save our panic attacks for the spring game. And hopefully we'll see more growth at the linebacker position during this next week as well. Looking forward to another week of offensive gameplan install, and hitting the blocking sleds for the offensive line. Coach Newsome is going to be working up another case of heartburn.