Today we sit down with SBNation VT blog Gobbler Country to talk Logan Thomas, two disappointing seasons, and the Virginia Tech-BC matchup on Saturday.
BC Interruption: Obviously Hokie fans can not be happy with their 4-6 start. This is completely out of character for VT. What has changed this year?
Gobbler Country: You're absolutely right, Hokie fans are absolutely devastated by this aberration of a season. While it is completely out of character, puzzling to outsiders, fair weather fans and even to some of us "experts". Certainly none of us, even those who thought there would be a serious drop off from a year ago saw this coming. I do have some ideas as to what has changed.
1. The recruiting lulls of the 2010 and 2011 are rearing their ugly heads, particularly in three areas: the offensive line, running backs and the defensive backfield. Not only were the classes some of the least impressive post-2000, but they only reeled in five total offensive linemen (one of which has seen significant action, due to injury), three cornerbacks (two of which were moved to safety before the season) and one running back. Those numbers are particularly damning as Tech lost many offensive linemen to graduation during those years, lost many defensive backs to graduation or early entry into the NFL (and to transfer, which they couldn't really help) and lost three running backs to the NFL in a two-year span (again, I can understand if prep stars weren't lining up to back up those three players). So whether that is bad luck, poor planning or a little bit of both, that is one of the biggest issues.
2. About a year ago, after Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring was removed of his play-calling duties, he decided he was of more use to the team on the sidelines, providing good coaching, and motivation to players on the sideline. As a result, the Tech offense took off. For whatever reason, Stinespring went back on his statements from a year ago, and is now back in the booth. And the offense is now a crapshoot again.
3. Tech has a tired formula. I thought that the changes they made prior to last season was what the program was looking for, and as a result, the future would be much better. But though those changes looked good on the surface, and made Tech fans giddy that the Hokies' coaching staff might be making the necessary changes to take the program to the next level. But that was just a front, because while those changes gave the appearance of a big-time shift, the same things that necessitated these changes have continued to take place. And with a team with this much of a talent and experience drop-off, this season is a prime example of what happens when you fail to admit you're wrong, adapt and make those changes.
BCI: Logan Thomas has already thrown four more interceptions this year than he did all of last year, and leads the ACC with 14. Did he take a step back this year, or are there other factors at play?
GC: This is a pretty prevalent question as well. I think people fail to understand how much of the load offensively he has to carry for the Hokies. They also fail to consider what is around him, and how those players have played (terribly for the most part). In fact, a few of his interceptions have been gifted by way of his receivers' hands. But yes, he has certainly taken a step back, and he has not played well.
BCI: VT's defense has always been consistent. Who are some of the key players Eagles fans should be aware of for Saturday's game?
GC: Well, it all depends on if they show up. Of course the Hokies expected to have a tremendous defense this year. In fact, many analysts and writers even tabbed the squad as potentially the best ever at Virginia Tech. That obviously didn't happen due to nagging injuries, the players/positions that were question marks turning out to be worse than the worst case scenario and the established players playing the worst and most inconsistent they have during their football careers. Having said that, there are two verifiable studs on this defense: linebacker Jack Tyler and rover Kyshoen Jarrett.
Other than those two, it's hit or miss. Kyle Fuller has been hampered by injuries, as has defensive end James Gayle. When the defensive line shows up, they're impressive, showing flashes of greatness that drew rave acclaim in the pre-season. But if they don't, they're completely lackluster. There's no in between. Antone Exum has been good the last couple of games, but is an NFL caliber safety playing cornerback for the first time, where he has been dreadful on the season. Even when he plays well, he can be beaten easily with deep balls, and is good for at least two pass interference/holding calls per game.
BCI: Tech needs to win their final two games to make a bowl. Do you think the Hokies will pull it off? And if they don't will there be changes in the coaching staff next year?
GC: I think they will, but then again, I thought another 10-win season would be a formality. As I've said in my answers above, it all depends on which team shows up. So while conventional wisdom says that as they're the more talented team in both match-ups, and should win, it could just as easily be the other way around, and the Hokies could finish 4-8. Which in a way, would be better for them. But, even in that worst-case scenario, until it's a multiple year thing, and maybe even then, Beamer will deflect criticism, close ranks, pretend that there is no problem and hope that it goes away.
BCI: 5. Alright prediction time. Who you got?
GC: I have the Hokies 28-17. But my confidence level is at about 55% and falling.
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