2011 Record: 11-3 (7-1 in ACC)
Head Coach: Frank Beamer (209-98-2 at VT, 110-37 in ACC)
Four Year Win Trend: 10.5 wins and 3.25 losses overall; 6.5 wins and 1.5 losses in conference
Last Bowl Game: 2011 season Sugar Bowl: lost to Michigan 23-20
Out of Conference: 9/8 vs Austin Peay, 9/15 at Pitt, 9/22 vs Bowling Green, 9/29 vs Cincy
Revenge: 10/20 at Clemson
Swing Games: 9/3 vs GT, 10/6 at UNC, 11/8 vs FSU
Stat to Cheer: opponents converted just 32.29% of third downs (1st in ACC)
Stats to Fear: only scored TDs on 50% of trips to red zone (9th in ACC)
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: (Offense: 3; Defense: 9; Specialists: 1)
Key Defensive Returnees: LB Bruce Taylor (53 tackles, 5 sacks in 8 games), DE James Gayle (38 tackles, 7 sacks), DT Derrick Hopkins (51 tackles,3 sacks), CB Antone Exum (89 tackles, 1.5 sacks), DE JR Collins (57 tackles, 6 sacks), LB Tariq Edwards (71 tackles, 2 INT, 3.5 sacks), CB Kyle Fuller (65 tackles, 2 INT, 4.5 sacks)
Key Offensive Returnees: QB Logan Thomas (19 TD, 10 INT), WR DJ Coles (36 rec), WR Marcus Davis (30 rec, 5 TD), C Andrew Miller
CFBZ: Did anybody stand out this spring as potential replacements for David Wilson?
VirginiaTechFan.com: This may sound confusing but a short answer here would involve the word “no” but a long-winded answer would involve the word “yes.” I’ll do my best to explain as briefly as possible. This spring possessed an anti-climatic feel to it because the spring game was stormed-out for the first time that I can remember. The last year we didn’t have a full spring game was in 2007 after the April 16th tragedy.
I was able to attend the two open practices that Frank Beamer opened up to the public. In both of those scrimmages, I didn’t see any of our running backs do anything that made me say “wow.” We don’t have another David Wilson or Ryan Williams handy right now. That’s where the “no” comes into play.
Where the “yes” comes into play is that we have some very good freshmen. In fact, I think our two leading rushers from the running back position this year will be freshmen. Redshirt freshman Michael Holmes ran with the 1st string for most of the spring and did well. He’s a bit of a mix between Brandon Ore in 2006 and Shyrone Stith in 2000. He hits the hole well but doesn’t have that Wilson-esque athleticism to him.
I like the two potential change-ups we have at running back. True freshman J.C. Coleman was a top 250 recruit that ran for well over 2000 yards last year. He’s a speedy back that lacks size and power. A lot of Tech fans want to compare him to Darren Sproles in the NFL but Sproles’ right leg is bigger than Coleman’s entire body. He’ll be a good running back in time. The other option we had this past spring is converted fullback Martin Scales, who is a redshirt senior. Scales is a good north-south runner but he doesn’t have the foot-speed to be a major threat. He’ll see some reps but I’m not sure he is a viable 2nd string option right now. We also have four star Trey Edmunds and three star Chris Mangus on campus right now. They’ll have a chance to earn the starting job as well once fall camp beings.
CFBZ: What are the biggest reasons for optimism with this Virginia Tech squad?
VirginiaTechFan.com: Anytime you have one of the highest regarded quarterbacks in college football, you have a chance for a special season. Look at our Michael Vick years in 1999 and 2000. With Logan Thomas back for what could be his last year in maroon and orange, Thomas will have free reign on offense. That ability normally leads to better results in college football. Plus, he’ll be needed more in the running game this year with no David Wilson behind him. If Thomas can keep himself healthy, I think we’ll win no less than 10 games again this season. Those other four games will depend on who else steps up and how our defense performs.
CFBZ: What areas do you see as the Hokies biggest potential weaknesses this year and who needs to step up in those areas?
VirginiaTechFan.com: The Hokies need to have some of our starters return from injuries and be healthy. The injury bug has killed Virginia Tech over the past few years. Thankfully, that has allowed some depth to develop in a few critical areas like WHIP linebacker and defensive end.
As far as a true weakness, I would have to look at wide receiver and maybe depth along the offensive line. The Hokies lost their top two all-time leading receivers last year in Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale. Their route running abilities will be missed. However, we do have more athletic receives out wide with seniors Dyrell Roberts, Marcus Davis, DJ Coles, and Corey Fuller returning.
On the offensive line, I like our starting five but the health of right guard Brent Benedict, who transferred here from Georgia, will be critical. I think he’s still having some trouble moving laterally with his surgically repaired knee. We also need redshirt senior Michael Via to stay healthy for an entire year because he could provide depth at every single position on the offensive line.
CFBZ: What is your gut feeling on the final record for the 2012 season and what makes the season successful in your eyes?
VirginiaTechFan.com: I think anything less than 10 wins would be a major disappointment. With the Hokies returning talent on defense and Logan at quarterback, I think most Hokie fans are looking for something like 11-3 and 12-2. For this season to be a true success, I think we need to go 4-0 in out of conference play and do whatever it takes to make it back to Charlotte for the ACC Championship game. Whether that’s 7-1 or 6-2, just making it back to Charlotte is a must. There’s nobody else in the Coastal that I feel has equal talent to us, especially with UNC on a post-season ban this year.
It’s hard to make a prediction but I think 11-3 would be a good guess. That trip to Clemson will be tough and we have to follow it up with a trip to Miami. You never know which Miami team is going to show up. Then we have a bye week before we play FSU on Thursday night in Blacksburg. That’s a rough three game stretch. I think we could easily drop another one as well whether it’s the opening game against Georgia Tech or perhaps to one of the Big East teams on our schedule. There’s a lot of little landmine games this year. I think we’ll be favored in every game except Clemson but I don’t see our record playing out that way, it very rarely does.
Since the ACC started their Championship Game, Virginia Tech has been a fixture with five appearances in seven years. The Hokies also have the most conference championships since 2005 with three. Nobody else has more than one.
This year Virginia Tech has a lot of talent to replace on offense including David Wilson's 1709 yards rushing, Jarrett Boykin's 61 receptions and Danny Coale's 60 receptions. In his first year as starting QB, Logan Thomas had some ups and downs but at times flashed the ability of an elite player. Thomas is a dual threat who threw for over 3000 yards and added 469 yards and 11 TDs on the ground. This year a lot more responsibility will be on his shoulders. The Hokies success will be defined by Logan Thomas and how well he can get his support staff involved.
Defense will be the strength for this Hokies squad. Virginia Tech routinely has one of the best defenses in the ACC (and the Nation) and that will be no different this season. Last year they lost Bruce Taylor, Jeron Gouveia-Winslow and Antoine Hopkins to injury half-way through the season (or earlier). If those guys are back at full health, watch out. The Hokies return eight of their top ten tacklers and out of their 41 sacks none of them came from seniors. Virginia Tech will easily have the best defense in the Coastal Division. Now they just need to figure out how to get over that Clemson hurdle, unless of course FSU finally fulfills their promise.
2012 Prediction: 10-2
Top 25 Countdown
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