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In a quick turnaround, Virginia Tech will take on the Furman Paladins on Saturday afternoon in Lane Stadium. The Hokies will look to collect their first win over the season, as well as evaluate new starting quarterback Brenden Motley and whoever backs him up.
Furman: Bad Last Season, but Improved This Year
Last season was not a good one for Furman. After winning their first two games against Gardner-Webb and Mercer, the Paladins lost nine of their final 10 games. With a season opening loss to Coastal Carolina this season, Furman has now lost 10 of their last 11 football games.
Here were their scores from a year ago…
Gardner-Webb: 13-3 W
Mercer: 25-20 W
Presbyterian: 10-7 L
South Carolina State: 17-7 L
Western Carolina: 35-17 L
Coastal Carolina: 37-31 L
South Carolina: 41-10 L
Samford: 45-0 L
VMI: 31-15 L
The Citadel: 42-35 L
Wofford: 31-14 W
Chattanooga: 45-19 L
Furman’s offense was fairly young and inexperienced, and they struggled for much of the season. However, this appears to be an improved football team in 2015, as they took #1 Coastal Carolina down to the wire last weekend. They should not be able to compete with Virginia Tech, but still, they are better than last season.
The Furman Offense
Here’s a look at Furman’s starting offense…
QB Reese Hannon (6-1, 209, r-Jr.): 23 games, 22 starts
RB Antonio Wilcox (6-2, 216, So.): 9 games, 3 starts
FB Ernie Caine (6-0, 220, r-Sr.): 32 games, 17 starts
WR Jordan Snellings (6-2, 195, r-Sr.): 36 games, 15 starts
WR Andrej Stuttles (5-10, 185, r-Jr.): 27 games, 22 starts
WR Logan McCarter (6-1, 182, r-So.): 13 games, 1 start
TE Kevin Mall (6-2, 241, r-Jr.): 26 games, 2 starts
LT Jackson Buonamia (6-3, 292, Jr.): 22 games, 5 starts
LG Justin Floyd (6-4, 290, r-Sr.): 23 games, 16 starts
C Eric Thoni (6-1, 260, r-Sr.: 22 games, 22 starts
RG Joe Turner (6-3, 270, r-Sr.): 38 games, 35 starts
RT Matthew Schmidt (6-3, 290, r-So.): 9 games, 9 starts
Furman’s offense is very experienced, particularly at quarterback, wide receiver, and the interior offensive line. Here are the numbers they put up on Coastal Carolina last week…
Reese Hannon threw a couple of interceptions, but other than that their offense hummed right along against the #1 FCS team in the Coaches Poll.
That being said, look at the size of the interior offensive line. The center is 260, and the right guard is 270. These guys should not be able to block Virginia Tech’s bigger, faster and more physical defensive tackles.
The Furman Defense
Here’s Furman’s starting defense…
DE TJ Warren (6-2, 222, r-Jr.): 27 games, 9 starts
DT Daniel Butler (6-4, 266, r-Fr.): 1 game, 1 start
DT Jaylan Reid (5-11, 274, r-Fr.): 1 game, 1 start
DE Brian Ross (6-5, 235, r-Jr.): 27 games, 1 start
LB Carl Rider (6-2, 225, r-Jr.): 27 games, 15 starts
LB Cory Magwood (6-2, 232, Sr.): 34 games, 18 starts
SS Dillon Woodruff (6-0, 213, r-So.): 10 games, 6 starts
CB Reggie Thomas (6-0, 186, Sr.): 38 games, 36 starts
CB Jamarri Milliken (5-11, 190, r-Jr.): 27 games, 13 starts
FS Trey Robinson (6-1, 212, Jr.): 24 games, 13 starts
FS Richard Hayes III (6-0, 194, Jr.): 26 games, 2 starts
The Paladins don’t have a ton of experience up front, but they’ve got good experience at linebacker and enough experience in the secondary. Here are their defensive numbers from the Coastal Carolina game…
It’s easy to see what stands out on Furman’s defense. Their starting defensive tackles are extremely undersized r-freshmen who will be playing in just their second college game. Wyatt Teller, Augie Conte and Eric Gallo should be able to have their way with the interior of the Paladin defense.
Virginia Tech’s Quarterback Situation
That’s a very quick primer for Furman, for two reasons. First, it’s such a short week, and time is limited. Two, this game isn’t about Furman…it’s about Virginia Tech.
All eyes are going to be on Brenden Motley, and whomever else the Hokies decide to trot out there at quarterback. With Michael Brewer going down, Virginia Tech’s season rides on the performance of their quarterback(s) until their starter returns. We don’t know when that return will be, but a decent estimate could be around six weeks. Tech plays losable games between now and then, so it’s important to get good quarterback play.
We already know that Brenden Motley is going to be the starter. He should play well, because he’ll be facing an FCS opponent. I’ll be looking to see if he makes quick decisions in the passing game, which is something he struggled with against Ohio State. Still, there’s only so much we can learn about Motley against Furman. We’ll likely have a much better idea about his ability following the Purdue game.
What I’ll be watching for in this game is how much playing time the backup quarterbacks get. You can bet that more than one quarterback will play. The only questions are whether both Chris Durkin and Dwayne Lawson play, and in which order?
Frank Beamer said this week that the coaching staff never intended to redshirt Dwayne Lawson in 2015. If that’s the case, then the Furman game would be the obvious game to give him his first taste of college football.
While Motley is the starter for now, Scot Loeffler and Frank Beamer will have to quickly decide on their backup quarterback. They can’t go on repping three guys during practice. The NCAA limits teams to 20 hours per week, and that includes the actual game and film work. There simply isn’t enough time in the day to get three quarterbacks ready. Therefore, a decision must be made very quickly.
Perhaps that decision has already been made, or perhaps Loeffler wants to play both backups against Furman, and then make a decision. It’s hard to say at this point, and he remained non-committal in yesterday’s interview sessions.
Regardless of which quarterback is in the game, it will be very important to get that player more experience in the passing game. All three guys are mobile guys who are capable of helping the offense in the running game. Scot Loeffler needs to evaluate how they operate the passing game in a real contest, not to mention that all three guys desperately need experience.
If three quarterbacks play, I’d like to get all three between 10 and 15 passing plays. If only two quarterbacks play, I’d like both guys to get between 15 and 20. It would normally make sense to just run the ball on Furman, keep the clock running, and escape the game with no injuries. However, the Hokies face a unique situation this week. They are going to win this football game either way, and I want those quarterbacks to gain as much passing experience as possible, even if it makes the game ugly. That experience will be important in upcoming games against FBS opponents.
It’s Furman on a short week. I don’t expect the Hokies to look flawless or be completely into the game mentally, but I expect them to assert themselves at the line of scrimmage and come away with a relatively easy victory.
I don’t want Kendall Fuller to play on Saturday. He’s obviously hurt, and there’s no reason to risk him in a game we don’t need him. Save him for the rest of the season. I go back to the 2013 Western Carolina game, when JC Coleman was brought back too early for a meaningless game. As it turned out he wasn’t ready to return, and ended up missing the next two games. Let’s not go the same route with Fuller. Sit him.
Picking a score for a game like this is never easy. Tech could beat them by 50 if the Hokies are mentally into the game. It could also be a fairly ugly (though still relatively easy) victory if Tech just goes through the motions.
Chris’ Prediction: Virginia Tech 38, Furman 10
Will Stewart’s Take: In the old days, the Hokies would run the ball in this game about 60 times, and pass it maybe 10. You know, like they did in the 2000 UCF game (61 runs and 8 passes), when Michael Vick was out, backup Dave Meyer got hurt, and third stringer Grant Noel was inserted into the game. Get the W, get outta Dodge.
Man, was that game boring to watch.
Granted, VT had a guy named Lee Suggs back then (30 carries, 143 yards that night). But that used to be the philosophy: get the win, period. In that game, when Meyer got hurt midway through the third quarter, Noel entered the game and Tech ran the ball their last 20 plays of the game. There was no effort at all to get Noel some experience in the passing game. VT was facing a bye week the following Saturday, and the coaches knew that Vick would be back for Virginia two weeks later. He was, and VT beat the Hoos 42-21 behind Vick and Suggs.
These are very different circumstances, though, and you would think that passing development with the young QBs has moved up the list in importance. This is about more than the W. When I sit and watch this game, I’ll be charting runs and throws for each quarterback, trying to figure out what the coaches are looking at with each guy.
“We’ve got a really good plan with the whole deal,” Loeffler said yesterday. I don’t doubt he does. I like Scot a lot and think he’s a good coach, and it’s a shame that just as he was hitting his stride here at VT, he lost the starting QB that he’d been developing for a year. But I’ll bet he’s got an interesting, thoughtful approach for Saturday.
With Motley, will they work on his passing, while getting in a few read option runs? Maybe. Will they focus strictly on the running game with Dwayne Lawson, and sprinkle in some passes as the games go on? I could see that, and as a matter of fact, I’ll be looking for that. Where does Chris Durkin fit in? I have no idea. Durkin was gutsy and ran well in one summer scrimmage, but he was clearly gimpy while he was doing it. (I admired his toughness that day.)
It’s going to be interesting stuff. Hopefully, the Tech defense can play a great game, get Furman off the field, and give Loeffler maximum time to rotate his QBs (which I think he’ll do) and work on them.
Do I have any idea what the score is going to be? Pfffft. No.
Will’s Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Furman 9