Emerging Answers To Offseason Questions

Caleb Farley showed a lot of ability against Florida State. (Photo by Ivan Morozov)

This summer I worked up a draft of questions that’d been bugging just about everyone on TSL. After not getting it finished in time for a pre-season piece, I thought now might be a good time to revisit it. In case you’ve forgotten, the 2018 offseason at one point was chaos, at least for the fanbase. The biggest questions were with the defense (in which everyone seemed to be leaving, willingly or not) and QB (in which the prior year’s starter might’ve been leaving.)

Q: How will the young secondary hold up?

A: I singled out the secondary because while the entire defense had questions, the defensive front had a safety net of sorts in an experienced defensive line. The back four/five, though wasn’t as assured.

Today’s defenses need to be able to switch assigned receivers and zones quickly and reliably while still maintaining run fits. For example, Brian Mitchell’s cornerbacks can be assigned one of three different techniques when playing a basic Cover 2 defense, a few different pattern assignments on top of that for variations on the Cover 2 base, and probably a few additional twists for the red zone. That’s a lot of mental knowledge for just one coverage out of many. Add that to some young defenders who had little experience at the position (and several coming off serious injuries), and Tech’s secondary seemed like a recipe for trouble.

More specifically, I figured going in that there would be two scenarios where we’d see the new crew (especially the new corners) struggle. I’ll shorthand them as “Tulsa” and “Notre Dame.” Remember the Tulsa game? I barely do. I keep wanting to call them Toledo. Anyways, it was the 2015 Independence Bowl and Frank Beamer’s last game, won by Tech 55-52. Tulsa spread the Hokies out to the very edges of the field, often stacking receivers in front of each other to ensure maximum defensive displacement. It forced Tech’s DBs into playing man coverage and man-match concepts that required switching assignments rapidly, while at the same time giving Tulsa’s QB clear reads and an ability to pick on disadvantaged defenders.