The best way to learn about an opposing team is to talk to their writers and fans. Today we spoke with Joey Coogan of The Key Play, a Virginia Tech blog.
BCI: Many VT fans seemed pretty excited to get rid of now BC offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. What was it about his system that turned Hokies fans against him? And the offense scored 31 points a game last year, there must have been positives right?
The Key Play: Loeffler certainly wasn't the most beloved man in Blacksburg. And while I was always (and still am) quick to poke fun at Loeffler, I'll say this: the offense got better under his watch. The talent cupboard was largely bare when he arrived back in 2013 but saw drastic improvements on an annual basis throughout his tenure. Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges should both be high NFL draft picks whenever they choose to leave, and sophomore tailback Travon McMillian's potential appears promising as well. The drawback to Loeffler was always the over-complexity of his system. Loeffler seemed to out-think himself regularly, often resulting in pre-snap penalties that drew great ire from Hokies fans. The prevailing thinking among much of The Key Play staff was that Loeffler would be better suited for an NFL job, one that would give him seasoned professionals to work with as opposed to 19-year-olds trying to balance football, classes and a social life. But for as much as we like to rag on Loeffler, I really do think he'll be a good fit in Chestnut Hill.
BCI: Now onto the VT coaching staff. Frank Beamer has retired, and former Memphis head coach Justin Fuente is in. What are your thoughts on the new head coach so far and how has the program changed since Beamer left?
The Key Play: It's definitely different without Frank Beamer roaming the sidelines. As a recent graduate of Virginia Tech, Beamer was the only coach I've ever known in Blacksburg. The family atmosphere, the special teams, Frank's famous Southwest Virginia drawl - it all made Virginia Tech unique. And while we'll always miss Beamer, I think everyone realized it was time. Justin Fuente brings a fresh perspective to Blacksburg, a proven track record of offensive success that should mesh well with the defensive philosophy of Bud Foster. The pairing has seen mixed results through two games - nine fumbles doesn't exactly help the cause - but I think the general feeling among Hokies fans is one of excitement for this next era of Virginia Tech football.
BCI: Brendan Motley is the new starting quarterback this year. What makes him dangerous, and what limitations have you seen so far in his game? FYI: Jerod Evans is the new starter, so make sure to edit that before publishing :-)
The Key Play: Much like the Hokies' offense, Evans has been up-and-down through two games. A junior college transfer recruited by Fuente and Co., Evans beat out redshirt senior Brenden Motley and true freshman Josh Jackson in fall camp to earn the starting quarterback job. Evans impressed in Week 1 against Liberty despite a pair of turnovers, but seemed far shakier against Tennessee at Bristol Motor Speedway. Part of that can certainly be attributed to spotty offensive line play, but serious concerns linger about Evans' ability to throw the deep ball. He was inconsistent throwing downfield against Liberty, and the Tech coaching staff completely abandoned the deep ball against Tennessee after Evans severely under-threw a wide open Isaiah Ford on the Hokies' first possession. The potential is there, but it might take a few weeks for Evans to put it all together.
BCI: I have to admit, I love Bud Foster, but his defenses ruined my 2007 & 2008. They held Tennessee to 330 yards last weekend, who are some of the game changers that we should be aware of?
The Key Play: This Foster defense should be another good one. Up front, the Hokies are led by senior defensive end Ken Ekanem, a former four-star recruit who has blossomed into an All-ACC performer over the last two years. The Hokies will rotate four bodies in at defensive tackle, but senior Woody Baron is the best of the bunch. Linebacker remains the big question mark. Both Andrew Motuapuaka and Tremaine Edmunds show flashes at times, but poor tackling, especially against mobile quarterbacks, has been a prevalent concern of late. The Hokies' strength once again lies in the secondary. Senior safety Chuck Clark leads the group, but Tech has loads of youthful talent at the corner and rover position. Foster has preached all offseason that the Hokies would look to get more eyes on the football in the back-end this fall, and early dividends have been good as the secondary has recorded four interceptions through two games.
BCI: What are the expectations for the program going into this season? What are you expecting as the ceiling for 2016?
The Key Play: I predicted 8-4 before the season, and I think I'm still right around that number after two weeks. I never truly expected the Hokies to beat Tennessee, though it certainly would have been a special moment for the program. A November road game in South Bend will be a tough one as well, but Texas showed that Notre Dame is beatable. Tech once again avoids Florida State and Clemson, so if the offense can rid itself of the turnover bug, I still like the Hokies to win 7 or 8 games and go bowling for a twenty-fourth straight season.
BCI: Final question, prediction for the game?
The Key Play: I like the Hokies to win at home, but I don't think it'll be pretty. Virginia Tech 21, Boston College 13.