W2W4 On Defense and Special Teams Against the Hokies
If there’s been one common complaint about the blog, it’s been about the length. Now, typically I’ve heard that length is supposed to be a good thing but I suppose where blogs are concerned, perhaps not. So, just for you folks who can’t handle the size, this season I’m planning on breaking up the Offensive and Defensive Previews into two segments and I’ll just link them back to one another. Let me know what you think as I’m open to changing back if that’s easier for you to read.
In the offensive preview, we talked about the multiple blitz packages that Virginia Tech will employ to try and wreak some havoc across Alabama’s reconstructed offensive line. In our defensive preview, today we’ll look at perhaps the most boring, vanilla offense that we are likely to encounter all season. I’m not exaggerating, either. Let’s put it this way – did you think Auburn’s offense (#115 in total offense and #112 in scoring offense) was horrible last season? Well, Va Tech was so bad last year that they actually hired the architect for the Auburn dumpster fire. Welcome to Blacksburg, Scott Loeffler!
Alabama on Defense
The Virginia Tech Hokies have made the song “Enter Sandman” into their famous rallying cry and, honestly, it’s pretty cool to see. But, we think they should cue up “Enter Bland-man” this season when the offense takes the field because we sincerely doubt you’ll see anything flashy from this group. We picture it looking like Mike Shula’s offense on hydrocodone.
During his time at the college football powerhouse of Temple, Scott Loeffler employed a two back, I formation set predicated on running the football. To his credit, the Owls (what is it with these tame bird mascots?) did drastically improve their running game but they simply couldn’t throw it in the ocean if they were drowning in it.
Speaking of not being able to throw it in the ocean, Hokie QB Logan Thomas was, at one time, actually listed on the periphery of Heisman Trophy candidates. Then last year happened. At 6’6 and 257 lbs, Thomas is an imposing figure who can move pretty well as a runner. In fact, last season Va Tech would run Thomas from the shotgun in short yardage situation. Unfortunately for him, running seems to be what he’s best suited for as his passing game has become so erratic that they think Loeffler can actually help him! Yikes! Thomas completed a mere 51% of his passes last season and had nearly as many interceptions (16) as he did touchdowns (18). It’s been said that Loeffler is tinkering with Thomas’ footwork, timing and throwing motion and we expect all of that work to get flushed down the toilet just as soon as the bullets start flying past his head on Saturday. Tim Tebow overhauled his mechanics, too, but when he was under pressure he reverted back to his old ways. With two freshmen tackles, Thomas will most certainly be under tremendous pressure so we look for his newly revised mechanics to get thrown out the window somewhere around the third play.
We think this game is really more about Alabama’s defense than it is about the Hokies’ offense. Saturday the front seven of Alabama should look like a wrecking ball hitting a paper machete wall and it’s hard for us to imagine any way for the Hokies to challenge it. Why? Here are some things you need to know:
- Va Tech is starting two freshmen tackles and a new center. Yikes.
- In their 8/17 scrimmage, Thomas was 5 for 15 for 72 yards and 3 picks. They had negative 3 yards rushing.
- Somehow their starting RB (JC Coleman) was able to sprain both of his ankles on the same play and is questionable for Saturday’s game.
- 73% of Virginia Tech’s targeted receivers from last year are gone.
With all of that in mind, here are the things we’ll be looking for:
- Keep an eye on Landon Collins and Vinnie Sunseri in the secondary as those are two guys who are going to be vital to the team’s success in the back half this season. Will Vinnie get beaten deep again in-game one? Will Landon Collins be the force he’s supposed to be in coverage and at the line of scrimmage? We suspect Collins will have a big game as he’s come a long way in the last year.
- The time is now for Jeoffrey Pagan to step forward and claim his spot on the d-line. He’s been much talked about but it’s now time to put up or shut up for this big man.
- Watch Ivory completely control the middle of the line. There are no concerns here.
- We can’t wait to see what the new and improved “Rabbits” package looks like. Hubbard and Devall on the outside with Stinson and Pagan on the inside? There are a ton of athletic options here and using this package Saturday will be good practice for Johnny Football.
- How will Jarrick Williams do in place of Geno Smith. He likely will not be challenged by Va Tech but if I were the OC, I’d go after Williams and Sunseri early and often.
- A’Shawn Robinson, Dee Liner and Johnathan Allen will all likely play so Saturday will be like opening three bit Christmas presents – I wonder what’s inside???
- How will Trey DePriest play after being suspended for a week? Ragland is pushing him hard so DePriest is really going to have to play his best to keep his spot.
- Will John Fulton finally step forward and lock down the starting corner position as a senior?
And, here are a few predictions for you. If you are a Hokie fan, you might want to avert your eyes. Not to these predictions but, rather, on Saturday….
- Tech will have less than 75 yards rushing. We actually think they’ll have less than 50 yards rushing but, wow, that would be going out on a limb!
- The safeties will combine for three interceptions. Thomas often sails the ball and Ha Ha, Sunseri and Collins can all catch it extremely well.
- Sacks. Lots of ‘em. We’ll go with five or more. Hubbard and Devall will combine for three of them.
- Without receiving help from the Bama offense, the Tech offense will get in the red zone (inside the 25) a grand total of two times. One will likely be in the final 5 or 6 minutes when the game is out of reach.
- Field goals. If Tech does reach the red zone, they’ll have to settle for field goals.
- If Reuben Foster plays, he will rock somebody’s world. Gauranteed!
- We suspect that there will be very few designed runs for Logan Thomas. Like Michigan did last year with Denard Robinson, I think Beamer will be concerned about protecting Thomas for the rest of the season.
- Prior to the snap, Va Tech will use lots and lots of motion in an effort to gain a numerical advantage to one side of the formation or the other. This along with the new offensive line should result in a few illegal formations and false starts so we’ll set the number at four of these occurring.
Here are a couple of things to keep an eye on when Bama is on special teams. First, Georgia blocked a field goal attempt in the championship game last season. Cyrus Jones blocked a field goal a couple of weeks ago in the scrimmage. With Cade Foster being sooooo slow to the ball, look for Beamer to create one of his famous blocked kicks. They only blocked one last year so they are kinda due here.
We like Foster’s leg for kickoffs but we think Griffith is more accurate and certainly gets the ball up faster. Saturday is audition #1 for Foster and, if he struggles, Griffith will get a shot.
If you read the Offensive W2W4 and the Defensive W2W4 then you should be expecting a big score here, right? Saban has prepared for this defense before in 2009 and the prepared for the Hokie offense last November when they schemed for the Auburn “attack”. We don’t expect Va Tech to score much at all (without a tremendous amount of help from Bama’s offense and special teams) so that will keep things nice and relaxed on Saturday. However, we do think the Bama offense will struggle early and will need to hit on a few big plays to tilt the scales towards a blowout. In the end, the Tide’s defense will be too much and Alabama’s passing game prevails…
Alabama 34 Va Tech 3
W2W4 Offense (click here)