2009 ACC Football Preview: Virginia Tech

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Virginia Tech Hokies

Returning Starters: 16 (9 offense, 7 defense)

Key Returnees: QB Tyrod Taylor, WR Danny Coale, WR Jarrett Boykin, WR
Dyrell Roberts, TE Greg Boone, TE Andre Smith, OG Sergio Render, OT Ed Wang, OT
Blake DeChristopher, DE Jason Worilds, DE Nekos Brown, DT John Graves, DT
Cordarrow Thompson, WHIP Cam Martin, WHIP Cody Grimm, CB Stephan Virgil, FS Cam
Chancellor, ROV Dorian Porch, ROV Davon Morgan, P Brent Bowden

Key Losses: QB Sean Glennon, RB Darren Evans (inj.), OG Nick Marshman, C
Ryan Shuman, DE Orion Martin, LB Brett Warren, LB Purnell Sturdivant, CB Macho
Harris

Overall View

On paper, Virginia Tech should be a much stronger team in 2009 than they were
in 2008. The 2008 Hokies were somewhat fortunate to win the ACC, with such a
limited offense. This year’s team has many weapons on the offensive side of the
ball, and Bud Foster’s defense also returns seven starters.

Tech has talent at every position on offense and defense, and even questions
at defensive end and linebacker are being answered in a positive way. However,
Tech doesn’t have any experience at quarterback behind Tyrod Taylor. Keeping him
healthy is critical to the success of the 2009 Hokies.

Offensive Strength

Starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor is a rising junior and is ready to take
the next step towards being a complete quarterback. Taylor has the ability to
throw the football, and we all know he is very dangerous on the run. This year
he will have help, as defenses must account for Virginia Tech’s threats at wide
receiver. Last year it seemed that at times the Hokies’ only threat was a
quarterback draw by Taylor.

With more weapons at wide receiver and big play threats in the backfield,
Tyrod Taylor won’t have to do it all this year. Tech’s passing game should be
much improved.

Offensive Weakness

Tech’s backup quarterbacks are very young, with no game experience.
Ju-Ju Clayton has been in the system for a year, but his physical skills are not
on par with Logan Thomas. Both are in a competition for the #2 quarterback
position, but the Tech coaching staff isn’t confident that either of them could
win ACC games for the Hokies this year.

Tech is lucky that their main offensive weakness might not matter. Tyrod
Taylor is due to have a year in which he doesn’t miss a game with an injury. If
he stays healthy all season, then it won’t matter who holds the title of backup
quarterback.

Defensive Strength

Charley Wiles has done a great job at building depth on Tech’s defensive
line
since last season. In 2008, Tech won the ACC with just three defensive
ends and three defensive tackles. Now Tech has four defensive ends that appear
to be capable of contributing, and they also go five-deep at defensive tackle.

The Hokies always put their best defenses on the field when they can throw
waves of defensive linemen at offenses. It’s important for the starters to still
be fresh in the fourth quarter, and that shouldn’t be an issue this year. Jason
Worilds is a rising star at defensive end, and if he can find a complementary
pass rusher, the Hokies’ defensive line will be hard to handle.

Defensive Weakness

The Hokies are breaking in two new inside linebackers at the mike and
backer positions. Barquell Rivers and Jake Johnson are only sophomores, and they
will be full-time starters for the first time. They are expected to play well
against the run, but how they do in the passing game is a major question mark.

We should find out very early in the season how good they are. Alabama will
attack these two positions, particularly Jake Johnson, who is only a true
sophomore. How he responds could be the difference between a win and a loss.

Key Game

October 17th’s trip to Georgia Tech could turn out to be the biggest
game of the season for the Hokies. The two Techs are expected to be the top
teams in the Coastal Division, and things could come down to their head-to-head
meeting in mid-October.

The Hokies have won four of the five meetings since joining the ACC. Each
game in this series had been decided by double digits until VT’s narrow 20-17
win in Lane Stadium last year.

Chris Coleman’s Thoughts

If Virginia Tech won the ACC with last year’s team, there’s no reason to
believe they can’t do it again this year. Sure, the rest of the ACC will be
improved, but the Hokies are bringing almost their entire team back. Those
freshmen receivers who struggled for much of last season will now be sophomores.
More talented freshmen are added to the mix, such as Xavier Boyce, Marcus Davis,
Ryan Williams and David Wilson.

On the defensive side of the ball, Bud Foster has to replace both inside
linebackers, but the defensive line should be very stout, and Torrian Gray has a
lot of experience to work with in the secondary. This should be yet another good
defensive for the Hokies.

However, there are things that still concern me. I think Virginia Tech is the
best team in the ACC, but a couple of things could derail their quest for a
third straight ACC Championship. If Tyrod Taylor gets hurt, I don’t think the
Hokies have another quarterback who could navigate the team through this
difficult schedule. ACC offenses are improved this year, and Tech won’t be able
to use Bud Foster as a crutch anymore. The Tech offense is going to have to
score points on its own, and I’m not sure they can do that without Tyrod.

I’m also concerned about a possible ACC Championship Game matchup against
Florida State. Tech has beaten FSU just once under Frank Beamer, and that was in
Lane Stadium against a 7-5 Seminole team. The Hokies clearly had more talent
than the ‘Noles that year. I think Tech still has more overall talent than FSU,
but quarterback Christian Ponder has a year under his belt, and the FSU
offensive line could be the best in the ACC. Not to mention the ACC Championship
Game would be played on a “neutral” site in Florida. I wouldn’t like
Tech’s chances in that situation. That’s why I’m hoping Clemson, Wake Forest or
NC State can manage to win the Atlantic Division this year.

Despite the injury to Darren Evans, I think Tech still has talent in the
backfield with Ryan Williams, and I think David Wilson will be very good by the
end of the season as well. I think the Hokies will have a pretty productive
offense, and I’ll probably pick them to go 10-2 again and advance to the ACC
Championship Game at the very least. This is still a young team overall, and
they should be playing their best football in 2010.

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