01 September 2009
After a long summer of doing basically nothing (except our pesky day jobs), the staff at BSR is getting back in the swing of things as the 2009 college football season is finally here. Just like last year, we will go ‘In the Film Room’ and take a look at Bama’s weekly opponents by breaking down depth charts and schemes with an eye toward providing some insight to what you might see on Saturdays this fall.
This week is the Chic-Fil-A College Football Classic against Virginia Tech in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Or as it should be called, the Alabama – ACC challenge. Tech comes into the game ranked somewhere in the top ten, along with Alabama, in all of the major preseason polls. This is clearly the type of match up the Eat More Ckikin folks had in mind when they cut the check for these games.
The Hokie offense will go as far as quarterback Tyrod Taylor takes them. The junior has started for most of his time in Blacksburg. He will remind most Tide fans of Jordan Jefferson of LSU (or vice versa since Jefferson is only a sophomore)- he moves the pocket and makes plays with his feet or arm. The passing portion of Taylor’s game has been the cause of some consternation among Tech faithful, evidenced by his meager 86 yard average a year ago. Couple that with the 1036 yards passing and 57% completion percentage and you can see why the Hokies are known as a run first football team.
The ground game is where Taylor makes hay, however. With the preseason injury to starting tailback Darren Evans, the junior QB is their leading returning rusher with 884 yards last season. Looking to replace Evans’ 1310 yards and 11 touchdowns will be a trio of backs likely headed by Ryan Williams. Williams is a highly touted redshirt freshman who has battled a sprained ankle in fall camp but should be good to go for Saturday.
The other two backs looking to earn snaps are Josh Oglesby and David Wilson. Oglesby was a small contributor a year ago, tallying 88 yards rushing for the season and Wilson is a true freshman. Both players have also been battling injuries this fall, Oglesby an infection in his foot and Wilson has had a shoulder sprain.
The receiving corps looks to be a deep one for Va Tech. Danny Coale returns for his sophomore season after leading the Hokies in catches and yards per catch with 36 and 31.5, respectively. Redshirt freshman Xavier Boyce has supplanted returning starter Jarrett Boykin, sophomore, at the other wide out position.
The offensive line has historically been a strength for Va Tech and this season appears to be no different. All five linemen at the top of the depth chart have starting experience led by Ed Wang and Sergio Render.
Bud Foster’s group finished last season ranked seventh in total defense. They have some holes to fill with some key departures at linebacker and corner back but Bama fans can appreciate the fact that, like in Tuscaloosa, they just reload in Blacksburg.
The defense is lead by end Jason Worilds. The fact that Nick Saban has mentioned him by name in his press conferences should be all you need to know about the guy. The junior tallied 62 tackles and 8 sacks a year ago. Senior Nekos Brown steps in at the other defensive end position this season after racking up 22 tackles and two sacks last season in spot duty.
Senior Cody Grimm is the lone returning starter from the linebacking corps. Grimm was the third leading tackler for the Hokies in 2008 with 71. Barquell Rivers and Cody Grimm step in to man the outside positions with high expectations for both.
In the defensive backfield, Stephan Virgil appears to be the guy who won the coin toss (or lost perhaps) and gets to match up with Alabama’s Julio Jones. Virgil is Va Tech’s leading returning corner with six interceptions in 2008. Senior safety Kam Chancellor has the size to play on Sundays at 6-4 226lb. He and Virgil are joined in the secondary by corner Rashad Carmichael and safety Dorian Porch.
What To Expect
I bet head coach Frank Beamer is wondering the same thing. With an offense that ranked 103rd in the nation last season that lost its’ leading rusher, Beamer has to be concerned about getting first downs much less scoring. Taylor is a great athlete at the quarterback position but he has to improve his passing in order to take some of the pressure off of the youngsters stepping in for the injured Evans.
Defensively, the Hokies will obviously try to use their depth and experience on the defensive line to create problems for the new starters on Bama’s offensive line. Expect to see numerous stunts and blitzes designed to get some pressure on Greg McElroy as well as shut down the running lanes Mark Ingram and company will be looking to exploit.
Even though it hasn’t been mentioned to this point, the real key to this game will be Alabama’s kicking game. More specifically, the protection in said kicking game. Beamer Ball blocked five kicks in 2008 and hurried countless more - often causing poor field position for opposing teams. If the Alabama’s offensive line can give PJ Fitzgerald and Leigh Tiffin time to get their respective punts and kicks away then Va Tech will have some problems in this game.
Looking into my magic 8-ball, I see the Hokies blocking a kick or punt to keep the game close. The difference in this game will be how effectively Bama’s defense can keep Taylor in the pocket and not allow him to move the chains with his feet.
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