It’s Now the Offense’s Time to Shine (From Chris Colston’s Hokie Football Annual 2010)

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WHAT IS CHRIS COLSTON’S HOKIE FOOTBALL ANNUAL?

The premier Hokie Football Annual is unlike anything you’ve seen
before.

Think of it as a media guide with personality, packed with full-color
photos and unique information. When you see it for the first time, you
will be blown away. No ads, just 112 pages of 100% Hokie football.

At 8.5″ X 11″ and over three-quarters of pound in weight,
it’s hefty and durable. It needs to be, since it has features you’ll
devour prior to the season. It’s also a guide you will want to reference
all year–and a commemorative you’ll want to keep for years to come.

While it features commentary by “The Voice of the Hokies,”
Bill Roth, this is no athletics department PR piece. “The Annual” is
not officially affiliated with Virginia Tech, although it has strong ties
inside the department. It’s an independent publication by Tech fans, for
Tech fans.

For
more information, and to order a copy, click here.

For the last few years, defense has carried Virginia Tech.

Now it’s time for the offense to return the favor.

It’s hard to remember a Tech attack with so much firepower. Frank Moseley
never had anything like this. Neither did Jerry Claiborne. Or Jimmy Sharpe. For
sure Bill Dooley never did. Even the Don Strock teams under Charlie Coffey
lacked the running backs that the 2010 Hokies possess.

Let us count the blessings:

  • A five-star senior quarterback who can throw, run and provide outstanding
    leadership.
  • The two greatest freshmen running backs in ACC history in one backfield.
  • A potential Heisman Trophy candidate.
  • An H-back who could start at tailback for a lot of teams.
  • Potentially the best group of wide receivers in the Frank Beamer era.
  • An agile offensive line that is finally fulfilling the vision of coach
    Curt Newsome.
  • A backup quarterback who looks like he could bench-press a beach cottage.

The Hokies are so loaded that they’re contemplating a redshirt for the state’s
top player in 2008, tailback David Wilson.

How good can this attack be? Better than Michael Vick’s 1999 offense that
finished the regular season ranked ninth in total offense at 451.82 yards per
game?

“I’m very guarded about using terms like ‘loaded’ and ‘great,'” offensive
coordinator Bryan Stinespring says. “I think those terms should be set aside
after you’ve achieved something.”

Also, this excitement should be tempered by a sobering fact: Despite good
talent on paper, the Hokies offense struggled to gain yards from 2006 until the
last five games of 2009.

The numbers are brutal. From 2006-08, Tech had an average total offense
ranking of 101. Keep in mind there are only 120 FBS (Division I-A) teams.

Last year Tech finished No. 50. But in the last five games of 2009, Tech
averaged 436 yards per game. Over the course of a season, that figure would’ve
been good for No. 15 in the country.

Some might argue those numbers came against a slate of slouch defensive
teams, but that’s not really true. Three of them came against teams among the
top half nationally in total defense. The breakdown:

  • East Carolina (71)
  • Maryland (83)
  • N.C. State (55)
  • Virginia (52)
  • Tennessee (22)
  • Average: 57

For the record, Georgia Tech was No. 54, Duke No. 61 and Marshall No. 66.

In their first eight games the Hokies faced three top 10 defenses (No. 2
Alabama, No. 6 North Carolina and No. 7 Nebraska) and five Top 30 defenses
(Boston College finished No. 26, Miami No. 29).

Frank Beamer has to feel vindicated by this strong finish, since he stuck
with Stinespring when a vocal chunk of the Hokie Nation clamored for a change.
It got so bad that someone created a website and Twitter feed advocating
Stinespring’s dismissal.

Was the criticism justified? You can talk to fans of just about every team,
and unless they won the national championship, they’re going to pound their
fists in frustration over their team’s play calling. I have a friend who is a
Florida Gator fan, and he ripped coordinator Steve Addazio all season. The
Gators finished sixth in the nation in total offense and fifth in the final BCS
standings.

But there’s no denying it; from the time quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers left
after the 2005 season to join the Minnesota Vikings up until about the middle of
last season, the Hokies’ offense — for whatever reason — was a liability.

It wasn’t like Tech didn’t have any talent on those teams, either. Players
like Eddie Royal, Brandon Frye, David Clowney, Justin Harper, Josh Morgan and
Duane Brown were all NFL draftees. So fans were left to wonder if it the scheme
was to blame. That’s a topic for football gurus to argue. But to a layman’s eye,
it’s fair to say the offense lacked an identity. It tried a little bit of this,
a little bit of that, never to consistent effect.

When things went wrong, the offense’s troubles were almost always blamed on a
lack of execution. Oftentimes, it was just one or two players who failed in
their assignment. Was it simple human error? Were the Hokies spending too much
time during the week emphasizing defense and special teams instead of offense?
Did the offense not have enough repetitions to perfect all of its plays? Were
there too many plays in the playbook?

The point is, Tech’s problems might have been far more complex than simply
the play-calling.

But as the 2009 season progressed the offense gained an identity as a tough,
smash-mouth running team that could throw the ball effectively enough to keep
teams honest.

It culminated in a balanced 438-yard effort against Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A
Bowl. The Volunteers had two defenders (Eric Berry and Dan Williams) taken in
the first round of the NFL draft. And their defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin,
was an NFL coaching veteran, one of the shrewdest defensive minds in the game.
But the Hokies gained 229 yards rushing and 209 passing.

The signature drive of the season came in the third quarter. On an
eight-play, 74-yard scoring march, Stinespring called tailback Ryan Williams’
number seven consecutive times. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor finished the drive with
a quarterback sneak, another smart call. It put the Hokies up 24-14. Tech won
the game 37-14. Soon after, UT head coach Lane Kiffin Knoxville left for
Southern California.

The way the offense finished the 2009 season, a coach would be foolish to
shake things up. And Frank Beamer’s no fool.

What he is, is loyal. If you criticize Stinespring, then you criticize Frank
Beamer. Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson can win the ACC title and still fire his
defensive coordinator, but Beamer doesn’t roll like that.

Everybody in Blacksburg knows offense must come through now. It can’t rely on
a defense that must replace nine key contributors. At least early in the season,
a No. 50-ranked attack won’t be good enough to beat a high-powered team like
Boise State.

Stinespring knows this. This summer, Rogers returned to Blacksburg. He and
the Tech staff holed up in day-long meetings for three days in late May,
brainstorming. Stinespring called it the best three-day session his staff ever
spent.

Can the Tech offense continue its renaissance? Stinespring, Tyrod, Williams
and Co. have some momentum going, and it’s going to interesting to see how they
take it to the next level in 2010.

WHAT HAS US EXCITED:  The offense showed vast improvement in
the last five games of 2009 – and looks ready to continue that success in
2010.

WHAT WORRIES US:  With so much talent, will the Hokies try to
do too much and get bitten by the "lack of execution" bug again?

About
Chris Colston:
An 11-year veteran of the Virginia Tech athletics
department as editor of The Hokie Huddler, Chris Colston (Marketing
1981) has written four books on Tech football. (Virginia Tech Vault
– 2009; Virginia Tech Sideline – 2003; Turn Up the Wick!
2000; The Hokies Handbook – 1996). Colston covered the NFL and NBA
for USA TODAY from January 2006-December 2009. From 1996-2005 he
served as a writer and editor for USA TODAY Sports Weekly. Colston
has won numerous awards and has done one-on-one interviews with some of
the biggest names in sports, such as Peyton Manning, Kobe Bryant, and
LeBron James. For information on all of Colston’s projects, follow him on
Twitter: @chriscolston.
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