When Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster looks across the sideline on Saturday night, he’ll see a familiar face. Well, maybe not across the sideline as much as in the coaches’ box.
If Foster were to look up there, he’d see his former comrade and former Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. Loeffler, now the offensive coordinator at Boston College, coached at Virginia Tech from 2013-2015, serving alongside Foster.
“I’ve got the utmost respect for Scot, number one,” Foster said. “I think he’s an outstanding football coach. I mean, just a very intelligent guy. I was extremely impressed with him in his time here, just his knowledge and how he approached things, his work ethic, his attention to detail.”
This isn’t the first meeting between the two former coworkers. Foster and Loeffler faced off inside Lane Stadium in 2016, with Foster shutting out Loeffler’s Boston College offense 49-0.
“It’s just kind of snowballed, in our favor,” Foster said. “That had nothing to do with me matching up against him, it was our players matching up against theirs, and things went our way.”
Loeffler’s offense has changed a bit since he coached for the Hokies. At Boston College, Loeffler and the Eagles deploy heavier sets and formations, relying on more tight ends and running backs than wide receivers. At Virginia Tech, the Hokies rarely lined up in such formations.
“I think what he’s doing up there is probably what he would have liked to have done here a little bit more maybe, if we had the personnel,” Foster said. “It’s Steve Addazio’s offense too. Those guys have worked together. Just tough, hard-nosed with that BC mentality. I think they’re better up front, offensively. Their two backs are big and physical, they’re running hard and are hard to tackle.”
The two running backs Foster is referring to are Jon Hilliman (6-0, 220, Jr.) and AJ Dillon (6-0, 240, Fr.). Both are bigger running backs, and are having moderately successful seasons. Combined, they have accounted for 623 yards on 166 carries — an average of 3.75 yards per carry — and four touchdowns. As a team, Boston College ranks 30th in FBS in total rushing.
“They have that capability,” Foster said. “I think you have a freshman running back (Dillion) there right now that has really run the ball a little more the last couple weeks. I thought their backs ran extremely well… they were able to control the clock and control the game against a – you guys just saw – a very good Clemson defense.”
Mook Reynolds said on Tuesday that Loeffler’s offense makes no bones about what they’re going to do, and that they try to impose their will on other defenses.
“They’re going to show you what they’re going to do, and they’re going to do what they do,” Reynolds said. “They don’t do anything differently. We’ve really got to study our film so we can play fast and allow us to make those checks, formations, pretty much predict and expect what’s to come. Then just act on it and make a play. It allows you to play faster if you can make the play before the play even starts.”
For Reynolds, Boston College presents a unique challenge. Instead of having to focus on defending receivers in the slot, Reynolds must play more like a linebacker on Saturday night. He relishes that.
“Just a middle drill. Got to bring it to them before they bring it to you,” Reynolds said. “I’m not the biggest guy, so I’m not going to just go in there and maul somebody or manhandle somebody. I use my strengths to the best of my ability, and hopefully that’ll work in my favor and in the team’s favor.”
Virginia Tech could decide to move Reynolds to free safety on Saturday, opting for a bigger defender closer to the line of scrimmage. The Hokies experimented with Reynolds at free safety last week vs. Clemson, and brought in Deon Newsome to play the whip/nickelback position. Even though Newsome (5-11, 200) and Reynolds (6-0, 191) are both 200 pounds or lighter, they’re two of the most physical players on Virginia Tech’s defense.
“Deon is a hard, tough player,” Reynolds said. “When he first moved to defense, he was bringing the wood. He just didn’t know his responsibilities and assignments. But he’s been in the defense for a year now, he’s gotten a lot more comfortable. He’s just waiting on his opportunity.”
“We could,” Foster said. “Obviously, Reggie (Floyd) is going to be in there for sure. Mook Reynolds is an outstanding football player, and has a knack. If it’s certain personnel groupings, we could use Anthony (Shegog). Even Deon Newsome. Deon’s a physical kid, has some lead in his pencil, so to speak. But we could do that, potentially.”
Either way, Foster will be prepared to face his former friend turned foe. The same can be said for Loeffler.
“I know this — he’s going to be well-prepared, his team is going to be well-prepared and we’re going to have to go up and play a great football game against these guys,” Foster said.
“We realize what we’re up against,” Reynolds said. “They do a lot of the things you don’t really see on the stat sheet, they play extremely hard on special teams. They’ve probably got one of the best special teams units in the country. Everybody knows you can steal a couple of possessions on special teams. So, that’ll be the challenge.”