|Aug. 30||East Carolina (in Charlotte, NC)|
|Sept. 13||GEORGIA TECH|
|Sept. 20||@North Carolina|
|Oct. 4||WESTERN KENTUCKY|
|Oct. 18||@Boston College|
|Oct. 25||@Florida State|
2007 Results: 11-3 overall, 7-1 ACC (ACC Champions); lost to Kansas 24-21 in the Orange Bowl
Offense: Sometimes it pays to procrastinate. In doing so, this Hokie preview of mine just became very timely and hopefully a lot more accurate. Tech coaches announced today that backup QB Tyrod Taylor will be redshirted this fall, leaving the offense in the experienced but uninspired hands of senior Sean Glennon. Lord knows why the Hokies made this move. Securing Taylor for three years as starting QB starting in '09 seems like a reasonable idea, but that means Glennon will basically have free-reign and a very long leash this season. Now if Glennon goes down to injury early, they'll likely scrap Taylor's redshirt and play him, but in terms of general performance, the Hokies have loaded up on the Glennon train for the long haul. And that concerns me because Branden Ore - last year's leading rusher - was booted from the team in the spring, and 2007's top four receivers have departed as well. As of this posting, junior Kenny Lewis (57 carries in 2007) will be the starting tailback, and two freshmen are the first-team receivers. There is some relief when it comes to the OL; they're experienced (they lose just one starter, and all of the second-teamers return), but they were pretty sketchy last year (54 sacks allowed). TE Greg Boone is heck of a talent and may lead the team in receptions early on. Last year's offense had it's moments, but struggled far too much given the talent they had. With last season's top five skill players gone - and with Glennon returning - I see little reason to expect improvement in 2008.
Defense: And the hits just keep on coming. The losses: LBs Xavier Abidi and Vince Hall, three of the starting linemen (chief among them DE Chris Ellis), and two starters in the secondary. The good news is that most of their replacements have some decent game experience, but depth will be a major issue all year as most of this year's second-teamers have scant if any experience . As for the starters that do return, they're among the best in the league, including Macho Harris (5 picks, 11 pass breaks-ups last year) at corner and Kam Chancellor at safety. It's been a long time since the Hokies were hit this hard by the graduation bug, but Bud Foster has a pretty damn good track record in developing carnivorous defenses with whatever talent he has at his disposal. Tech won't finish #5 overall in total defense as they did last year, but top-half in the ACC is a safe bet and since that usually equates to Top 30 or so in the country, this is not the portion of the team that should concern Hokie fans.
Special Teams: Look for more punt blocks and a few return TDs this season, as the Hokies are a broken record in this category. As far as personnel goes, the returners and placekicker will be new this season, but punter Brent Bowden and 42.5 yards per boot are back. What Frank Beamer has done with this unit over the last 20 years speaks for itself and there's no point in really trying to analyze how Tech will do this year. They'll be good, opposing punters will soil themselves, water is wet and the sky is blue.
Coaching: One day in the very near future, Frank Beamer will be the grand old man of active college football coaches. He's currently the third-winningest active coach behind Death Race participants Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno, and his 209 wins are 46 more than fourth-place Steve Spurrier, so Beamer will hold the "winningest active coach" title for the remainder of his career once Bowden and Paterno are nudged out by their schools or by the Almighty. At 61 years old, it appears to be a longshot for Beamer to reach 300 victories, as he'd need nine straight ten win seasons to hit that mark by age 70. Regardless, Beamer - faults and all - has left a huge mark on the college football landscape already and he still has time to deliver that elusive national title to Blacksburg. A big reason for Beamer's success has been his stalwart defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who is quite simply the best assistance coach in college football today. I have no idea why Foster hasn't been snatched up as the head man elsewhere, but each year he spends in Blacksburg means it's another season the Hokies stay in the national discussion. The same cannot be said for offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring; after six years as the OC, the best finish the Hokies have managed nationally in total offense is 38th in 2003. The last two seasons saw finishes of 99 and 100. Tech is at a level where those results warrant a pink slip. Can you imagine where the Hokies would be today - and what type of hardware they might own - had they simply halved their total offense placements the last six years?
Odds & Ends: For all my gushing about Beamer, he has a few albatrosses hanging 'round his neck and a big one is his 5-24 record against Top 10 competition since 1987.....Beamerballed: the Hokies led Clemson 31-8 at the half last year despite gaining just 88 yards of total offense, thanks to two special teams touchdowns (along with a defensive score).....last year's 40-21 victory over Florida State was the Hokies' first win over the Seminoles in their last 15 meetings, dating back to 1975
Schedule Analysis: The Hokies draw the short end of the stick on the road, but get lucky in terms of the ACC scheduling rotation. Clemson and Wake Forest (along with NC State) are absent from the schedule, but none of the five road games are easy, highlighted by their first trip to Florida State since 1989 along with a non-conference matchup at Nebraska. And that pesky little stop in Chapel Hill in week four will probably settle the Coastal Division title early on. The two bye weeks are helpfully placed, before the trip to BC and before the Thursday-nighter with Maryland. This is a terrible slate for the Lane Stadium faithful, as they get just three home games before November and those are Furman, Georgia Tech and Western Kentucky. And lest I forget, that opener in Charlotte with East Carolina is becoming everybody's favorite week one upset pick.
Projected Wins: Furman, Georgia Tech, Western Kentucky, Maryland, @Miami, Duke, Virginia
Projected Losses: @Nebraska, @Florida State
Toss-Ups: @East Carolina, @North Carolina, @Boston College
Primo Hokie Blogs: Gobbler Country, Tech Superfans, Wild Turkey College Football Report
3rd & 31