11 Returning Starters (4 Offense, 7 Defense)
The Hokies should have another good team in 2006, but at this point no one is
exactly sure how good. The defense should be stellar, as usual, but the offense
has major holes at some very important positions. Tech also brought in four new
assistant coaches in the offseason, so things are looking a lot different around
the Merryman Center.
Without question, the Hokies’ best unit on offense is their wide receivers.
Tech has a senior in David Clowney and four experienced juniors in Josh Morgan,
Eddie Royal, Justin Harper and Josh Hyman. They have a great blend of size,
speed, agility, hands and playmaking ability.
The best thing about having so many good wide receivers is that some of them
will match up well against certain teams. No matter what team the Hokies play,
they should have at least one wide receiver who creates a matchup problem. Eddie
Royal has blazing speed and deceptive strength, while David Clowney gets better
separation than any other receiver. Justin Harper has speed and height, while
Josh Morgan is basically a combination of all the major strengths a receiver
could possess. Josh Hyman is steady and reliable, and he started for the Hokies
back in 2004.
The Tech receivers will have to stand out for the Hokie offense to be
successful this season. Look for the receivers to be employed in more three and
four wide receiver sets, with even more motion to spread out the defense and
create confusion pre-snap. There will be a look of three-step drops and short
passes, which play to Sean Glennon’s strength and help the offensive line pass
block. The receivers will need to improve on getting off of press coverage to be
Most would probably say offensive line, but I’m going with the tight ends.
Virginia Tech does not have a tight end on the roster who has taken a snap in a
college game. Sam Wheeler was set to start, but a toe injury has forced him to
miss a lot of practice time. Converted quarterback Greg Boone is now the starter
by default. He could potentially develop into a great player at that position,
but he needs time.
For the past two years, the Hokies have used a lot of two tight end sets. Don’t
look for that to happen this year. With an experienced senior fullback in Jesse
Allen, you might see Tech go back to the more traditional I-formation on many
occasions. As noted above, the lack of a proven tight end will also force the
Hokies to spread the field more with their talented corps of wide receivers,
which could end up being a good thing.
Virginia Tech could potentially have the top secondary in the ACC this
season, despite the loss of Jimmy Williams and Justin Hamilton to the NFL. TSL
has been told by one source that NFL scouts are looking at Aaron Rouse as
possibly the best strong safety prospect in the 2007 draft. He should have a big
year, and D.J. Parker returns bigger, stronger and faster at free safety.
At cornerback, Macho Harris and Brandon Flowers drew rave reviews in the
spring. Looking back, it is amazing that Harris did as well as he did since he
spent the first half of spring practice at tailback. Flowers is probably the
best pure cover corner on the team, and Harris is just a silky smooth athlete.
The only problem with the secondary right now is the lack of depth, thanks to
the dreaded injury bug. Former starting cornerback Roland Minor had surgery
after a late July car accident (out for up to six weeks), and the other backup
corner, Jahre Cheeseman, had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee
(out for up to five weeks). Both are expected to return sometime in the month of
September. Backup free safety Cam Martin is also out with a hernia (three
weeks), and Cary Wade has been moved from rover to back up D.J. Parker at free
Defensive tackle gets thrown around a lot in this discussion, but whip
linebacker could be the real weakness of the Tech defense in 2006. Brenden Hill
is set to start at whip, and Corey Gordon will see a lot of playing time as
well. Hill is a former receiver and safety who has finally settled in to the
whip position. Hill is a solid player who knows what to do, but there are
concerns about his athleticism, in particular his speed. Other teams will
probably try to isolate Hill in man-to-man coverage with a wide receiver, and he
probably will not be very effective in that role.
Corey Gordon is the best candidate for whip linebacker from an athleticism
standpoint, but he has yet to master the game from a mental standpoint.
Considering he is a r-junior, it’s time to start wondering if he ever will.
Look for Hill and Gordon to split playing time as the coaches try to get a feel
for which player is better in game situations. Their playing time could also
vary depending on the opponent and matchup problems.
After the Northeastern beatdown on September 2, Tech won’t waste any time
before they play a crucial game against UNC. The Tar Heels aren’t as physical
as the Hokies, but they have plenty of athletes that can create problems for
Tech at certain positions. The biggest question is how Sean Glennon will respond
in his first real challenge as a starter. How the offensive line handles itself
against a decent UNC front seven will also be something to keep an eye on. The
UNC game could set the tone for the season, for both Glennon and the OL.