2008 Football Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Furman

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Saturday, September 6th, 2008, 1:30

TV: none

Forecast (from WeatherBug.com):

Click the “Blacksburg Weather” link to the right.
Game time forecast, as of 3:00 pm Wednesday: Mostly cloudy. Rain likely with
scattered thunderstorms in the morning…then a chance of thunderstorms and rain
in the afternoon. Some thunderstorms may produce heavy rainfall. Highs in the
mid 80s. Chance of rain 70 percent.

Click here for TechSideline.com’s VT/Furman roster card
Large print version now available!

Game Preview: Virginia Tech (0-1) vs. Furman (1-0)

by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com

Virginia Tech welcomes the Furman Paladins to Lane Stadium on Saturday
afternoon. Furman is one of the best 1-AA programs in the southeast, and they
have put a major scare into some 1-A teams over the past few years. This one
isn’t likely to be nearly as much of a walkover as most 1-AA opponents are. The
Hokies will need to come to play.

Furman has played five 1-A opponents since 2001. Though they haven’t won one
of those games, they’ve come very close on several occasions.

Recent Furman Games
Against 1-A Opponents






38-10 L



45-42 L



41-38 L (OT)



28-17 L



20-14 L

Their average loss comes by just 10.2 points, with last year’s game against
Clemson making things look a lot worse than they are. Twice in the last four
years, Furman has come within three points of beating a 1-A team. Back in 2001,
they only lost by six at Wyoming. In 2003, they lost by just 11 in Death Valley,
a very respectable outcome.

In 2006 against UNC, they had over 500 yards of total offense. Last season at
Clemson, despite losing by 28, they had 11 tackles for loss and five sacks. They
are a very capable team on both sides of the football.

House This Saturday at Kent Square Condominiums
10:00 a.m. to noon

Bottom line, they will not be intimidated on Saturday.

The Furman Offense

Furman is a strong offensive football team that scored 66 points on Mars Hill
last week. They like to move the football up and down the field quickly. They
are a fast-paced offense, but they are balanced between the run and the pass.

The offense is led by junior quarterback Jordan Sorrells (6-2, 205, Jr.).
Sorrells, a left-hander, is a good fit for their offense. He had a very good
opening game against Mars Hill, completing over 70% of his passes and throwing
three touchdowns. This is his first year as a full-time starter, but he has seen
spot starting duty in the past.

Ten different players had at least one reception for the Paladins against
Mars Hill. So far, the favorite target on offense has been Adam Mims (5-9, 187,
So.). He had six catches for 67 yards against Mars Hill. The other starting
wideout is normally R.J. Webb (6-2, 200, Jr.), who had a touchdown reception on
Saturday. However, he tore his ACL on Saturday, and is out for the season.

Furman is a very small team up front, particularly on the interior of their
offensive line. Here is a look at their starting offensive line.

Furman Offensive Line







Joel Bell





Tyler Haynes





David Menocal





Heath Cockburn





Thomas Slaughter




The tackles, particularly Joel Bell, have good size. However, the interior of
that line is small, even by 1-AA standards. Starting center David Menocal is
downright tiny, by offensive line terms.

Last week we saw Virginia Tech’s defensive tackles beaten at the point of
attack by a strong, physical East Carolina offensive line. The Furman line isn’t
likely to have the same success. I don’t see David Menocal getting much of a
push on John Graves or Cordarrow Thompson. If the Tech defensive tackles
struggle again in this game, then it’s a very bad sign of what’s to come.

Reminder: This game
is a white out! The Hokies will be sporting white
throwback uniforms, and fans are encouraged to wear white.
here for more details and a pic of the uniforms

Running behind that small offensive front is a small running back. Mike Brown
(5-8, 176, So.) isn’t going to be running over many linebackers, but he is a
very effective player. As a freshman in 2007, he averaged 6.5 yards per carry.
He had a good game against Mars Hill, carrying the ball 13 times for 93 yards
and a touchdown.

Tank Baker (5-9, 205, r-Fr.) should also see time at tailback in this game.
He is the bigger, more physical of the Furman ball carriers.

The Furman Defense

Just like their counterparts on offense, the Furman defensive front is small.
Here is a look at their front seven.

Furman Front Seven







Phillip Morris





Daniel Leagans





Justin Brown





Shaun van Rensburg





Brandon Williams





Hunter Twitty





Julian Hicks




From a size standpoint, they are very similar to the 1-AA team the Hokies played
last year, William & Mary. The Tribe was very small up the middle on
defense, and so are the Paladins. Of course, William & Mary shut down Tech’s
running game last year (38 carries, 133 yards, including 65 yards on 2 carries),
with the exception of one 45-yard run by Tyrod Taylor. The Hokies will likely
play a lot better up front against Furman. If they don’t, things look bad for
the rest of the season.

Despite being undersized, nose guard Justin Brown (5-10, 254, Jr.) is the
best player on the defensive line for Furman. He was a First-Team All-conference
selection in 2006, and Second Team in 2007. He’s quick and gets off the ball
quickly. The other three starters up front, Morris, Brown and van Rensburg, are
first-time starters. Strongside linebacker Brandon Williams (6-1, 213, Sr.) is
also a new starter.

Open House this Saturday, 10:00-noon!

Furman uses the 4-2-5 defense, with the Bandit being sort of a hybrid
linebacker and defensive back. Juliam Hicks (5-11, 189, Jr.) mans that position
for Furman, and he has part-time starting experience at outside linebacker.

In the secondary, Furman uses a field corner and a boundary corner, just like
the Hokies. Field corner Masharn Austin (5-8, 185) is a first-time starter.
Boundary corner William Middleton (5-10, 188, Sr.) is a solid player. He is in
his third year as a starter, and he collected three interceptions and six pass
deflections last season.

Free safety Thomas Twitty (5-10, 193, Sr.) is the twin brother of starting
linebacker Hunter Twitty. He was a Second Team All-Conference pick in 2007.
Joining him in the deep secondary is rover Max Lerner (5-11, 191, So). Lerner is
a first-time starter.

Last season, Furman’s defense was bad, allowing nearly 400 yards per game,
finishing 86th in total defense in the 1-AA ranks. This year they are breaking
in a lot of new starters. This is a fairly inexperienced defense.

Special Teams

Furman used two place kickers against Mars Hill last week. Trent Hawk (6-0,
179, Jr.) hit a 40 yard field goal, while Matt Cesari (6-0, 173, Sr.) was good
from 32 yards out. Neither player has much experience kicking field goals at the
college level. Hawk also doubles as Furman’s punter. He averaged 38.4 yards per
punt a year ago.

The Paladins were very effective on special teams last season. They were 9th
nationally in kickoff returns, and 14th in punt returns. To have a chance
against the Hokies, they’ll have to hold up on special teams.


This was setting up to be a pretty boring game. With Tropical Storm Hanna
bearing down on the east coast, it might be a pretty wet one as well. However,
the news that Tyrod Taylor’s redshirt is being pulled has made this one a lot
more interesting. Which quarterback will start? Who will get the most reps? Is
this Sean Glennon’s final meaningful game? Some of those questions will be
answered on Saturday, and the last one as the season progresses.

Furman is small on both sides of the ball, even for a 1-AA team. I don’t
think they’ll get much push against Tech’s defense. I’d like to think that
Tech’s offense will be able to move the ball pretty easily against a very small
Furman defense. I thought that last year against William & Mary though, so
I’ll believe it when I see it.

Furman is a good team overall, but they lack the talent and depth of the
Hokies. Tech will breeze through this one, though I don’t think the margin of
victory will be huge. We won’t really learn a whole lot more about this team
until they take on Georgia Tech on September 13.

Chris’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 38, Furman 10

Will Stewart’s Take: My comments here aren’t about predicting a Hokie
victory or the final score. I usually put a lot of thought into that, but not
this week. Unless something shocking occurs, the Hokies will win, and I’m not
really hung up on what the margin of victory is.

I’ll be watching the following
two items:

1.) Which QB starts? How many snaps do the two of them take?

2.) What style of offense will the Hokies run while Tyrod is in the game?

Regarding item #1, I expect Tyrod to get more snaps than Sean, perhaps many
more. One thing about deciding to take the redshirt off: If you’re going to take
it off, then take it off. Commit to Taylor as the future, and start
developing him. That means the large majority of the snaps should go to TT.
There’s no looking back.

With regards to item #2, I’m no offensive guru, but I’ll be looking for clues
that the Hokie offensive staff is seeking to take advantage of Tyrod’s mobility
and unique talents. Do they roll him out? Do they run some spread-type offense?
Will he be in the shotgun, or will they put him under center?

Other than that, I’m not sure you can draw many conclusions about what you’ll
see Saturday. Saturday will be all about getting the win, because Furman has
played some D1-A teams close, and working on improving at the same time.

Will’s Prediction: VT 31, Furman 13