ACC Preseason Top 50 Players of 2013: #26, Jack Tyler

Virginia Tech’s Jack Tyler is #26 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Virginia Tech’s Jack Tyler is #26 on Our Countdown of the ACC’s Top 50 Players for 2013

Less than three weeks until college football kicks off! In the past, we’ve limited these lists to just the top 25 players, but this season, we’re upping our game to 50. So just about every day until the season starts, there will be a new player profile up here as we count down to the top ACC player for 2013.

Obviously these lists are always completely subjective — and thus “completely bulletproof” — so feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments, too.

No. 26, Jack Tyler, LB/Virginia Tech(Last Season: 19)

How does a former walk-on at Virginia Tech end up being considered one of the conference’s best linebackers by his senior season? By harnessing some unencumbered aggression and getting after the ball carrier in the fashion Jack Tyler has. After just one appearance his sophomore season (still, 12 tackles in that game), Tyler was at times a force of nature for the Hokies last year, racking up 119 total tackles. Every single game, he recorded at least seven stops, while also adding 13 TFLs (2.5 sacks) and managing to work himself into passing lanes as well, with three deflections. Admittedly, he’s not the most “finished” product at linebacker, but with results like this, that can be largely ignored. Tyler’s a player who’s rarely out of position and has a knack for making plays. As a former walk-on, he gets the value of hard work, and is a quick study, too.

This season’s Tech defense is a much older group than last year’s, so it won’t be short on players to fill leadership roles. And yet, Tyler is still considered among the locker room’s leading voices. As he told ESPN back in December, he’s excited to take on a larger role in that department, at the urging of defensive coordinator Bud Foster. But perhaps, he’s best served just leading by example. Despite an incredibly strong starting 11, depth is a bit of an issue for this entire defense, and what they may need more than vocal leaders are just tireless workers who can stay on the field. Tyler’s one of just three upperclassmen on the two-deep linebacker corps depth chart, and it’s imperative he (and the other experienced players) keep their health if VaTech wants to regain some defensive swagger this season.

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ACC 2013 Spring Football Preview: Virginia Tech Hokies

Logan Thomas is the Obvious Focal Point of a Turnaround for Virginia Tech This Year

Logan Thomas is the Obvious Focal Point of a Turnaround for Virginia Tech This Year

As the ACC‘s spring practices get under way, we’ll be previewing the big storylines for each of the league’s 14 (15, in this case) teams. Check back on weekdays for what to look out for during your school’s spring practices and spring game.

Team: Virginia Tech Hokies

Spring Practice Start Date: March 27

Spring Game Date: April 20

Following last year’s disappointing campaign, Virginia Tech’s spring is all about diagnosing issues. From the futile offensive attack, to a defense that certainly needs some course correction, Tech’s coaches have been diving into what went so wrong in 2012 — and how to fix those problems (at least in part) over the course of the next month. And while those calling for long-time coach Frank Beamer’s job may be a bit off-base right now, it’s likely that the 2013 season is a key point in the narrative of his career; be it a positive upswing after one lackluster year, or the start of a steady downfall.

Offensively, Virginia Tech struggled mightily in 2012, and there’s no one trouble spot there either. Behind an inexperienced line, Logan Thomas and his very green backfield repeatedly failed to find success, and never truly adjusted as the year wore on. With more experience all across the board, the test this spring will be to see just how much everyone learned. While Thomas should certainly be held accountable for his errors as the team’s leader, it must also be acknowledged that far too much was expected of him week-in and week-out, causing him to over-compensate. Newly installed offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler must understand both sides of this coin from the beginning, and stress additional accountability. Beyond Thomas, that means stark improvement across the line, and a more effective running game. At least at the onset, J.C. Coleman, Tony Gregory and Michael Holmes should be handling the bulk of the carries, and hopefully one or two emerge as a better runner than he has been in the past.

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2012 ACC Football Season Recap: Virginia Tech Hokies

Virginia Tech's Defense Was Forced to Carry the Hokies in 2012, With Mixed Results

Virginia Tech’s Defense Was Forced to Carry the Hokies in 2012, With Mixed Results

Team: Virginia Tech Hokies

W-L: 7-6 (4-4)

Postseason: 13-10 Russell Athletic Bowl win over Rutgers

Top Offensive Performer: Marcus Davis, WR

Top Defensive Performer: Antone Exum, CB

Going into the 2012 season, the biggest concerns for Virginia Tech surrounded the team’s youth on the offensive line (four new starters) and its inexperience at running back. As it would happen, both ended up having a severely negative effect on the team throughout the year. And then, when coupled with the added pressure on both Logan Thomas to deliver a standout performance (he did not), and the defense to make up for the offense’s shortcomings (also struggled)… well, it’s no wonder why VaTech failed to win 10 games for the first time in eight years.

Virginia Tech’s offensive struggles were foretold well in advance, yet that didn’t make it any less striking when fans actually saw it all in action. The Hokies finished 83rd in the country in yards per game (376.8), a steep drop from last season’s 36th-place finish in the same category. Their 25.1 points per game also underwhelmed, especially when considering how much that average was weighted by just three results (wins over Austin Peay, Bowling Green and Duke). In the Hokies’ other 10 games, they’d fall short of 20 points five different times, and average just 22.6 points per game (would’ve ranked 96th in the FBS). And it’s tough to blame just one part of the unit, either. As mentioned, Thomas fell well short of expectations, with his numbers for accuracy, completions and touchdowns going down, while interceptions and sacks spiked up. And the running backs, faced with following behind current New York Giant David Wilson, also found themselves in trouble, as five different rushers couldn’t combine for as many yards as he racked up his junior year. Of course, it’s a cop-out to blame the offensive line, but it’s hard to deny the effect of their inexperience on the overall results.

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What’s Wrong with the Virginia Tech Defense?

Unlike Past Seasons, Virginia Tech’s Defense Has Frequently Found Itself Out of Place in 2012

Returning Starters

If you read any of the preseason articles about Virginia Tech‘s 2012 football team, there was one thing that was stated over and over – the Hokies were returning almost everyone on defense, so it was conventional wisdom that the Hokie D should be even better than last year. That was a very seductive argument, which unfortunately ignores some basic facts.

For example, one writer pointed out that nine of the 11 starters were returning, which was technically true. However, when you look at the 2012 defense vs. 2011 position-by-position, you see a slightly different picture

Now you can see the rest of the story – while those 9 players may have returned, only 5 players started the season at the same position.

Another thing you have to look at it who did not return.

  • Tariq Edwards – still on the team, but underwent surgery to alleviate pain associated with a stress fracture in his shin during the offseason; he missed first three games and may not be 100-percent recovered even now.
  • Jayron Hosley – a star on last year’s defense, Hosley came out early, and is now a New York Giant in the NFL.
  • Eddie Whitley – provided senior leadership last year, and is now a Dallas Cowboy in the NFL.

The loss of Hosley in particular was a real blow to this defense, since his presence in the defensive backfield allowed the team to do some things in the front seven to compensate (honestly) for a lack of size in the defensive line.

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ACC Football 2012 Power Rankings: Week Seven

On the Arm of Backup QB Anthony Boone, Duke Recorded Yet Another Big Win Saturday

More upheaval in the ACC over the weekend, and as a result, the league now has zero legitimate national championship contenders or Heisman candidates. But such is life. In better news, the league’s parity (seen as a hindrance in many circles) will also produce one of the country’s most exciting conference championship races as the season winds down. How are the teams currently jockeying for position, though? Read on…

1. Florida State Seminoles (5-1) (2-1) (LW: 1): Another disappointing loss for the Seminoles, but they retain their top spot due to the fact that they actually play defense, as well as their win over the next-best squad just two weeks ago. What made this team so exciting early on was not only their aggressive play on defense, but their willingness to take risks on offense, too. As that risk factor has diminished over these past two weeks, that’s where the cracks in the armor have developed. Jimbo Fisher needs to put faith in his playmakers to win games, instead of just coasting toward the finish line.

2. Clemson Tigers (5-1) (2-1) (LW: 2): Tajh Boyd and DeAndre Hopkins have become a clinic on how to run a lethally effective passing offense — so much so that it no longer matters who’s throwing or catching the ball (see Saturday’s Hopkins-to-Boyd two-point conversion). Admittedly (as mentioned above), the Tigers’ defense still needs a boatload of work. But with the offense firing on all cylinders like it has been this season, there are few teams capable of out-gunning them.

3. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (4-2) (3-0) (LW: 3): Miami kicks off a four-team block of questions with very few answers. Which Miami team is the “real” one? The squad that’s lost to Kansas State and Notre Dame by a combined score of 93-16, or the one that’s 3-0 in ACC play? Luckily some of this gets sorted out this coming weekend, as the ‘Canes take on North Carolina.

4. Duke Blue Devils (5-1) (2-0) (LW: 5): Are the Blue Devils among the favorites in the Coastal Division? Until they lose a conference game, we’ll have to include them in the conversation. But all the signs of a contender are there. Duke’s been without several players due to injury, and even started backup QB Anthony Boone on Saturday. Yet they just keep winning. Should they come up with another W this weekend, they’ll not only clinch a bowl bid, but also take control of the division and potentially find themselves ranked, too.

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ACC Football 2012 Week 6 Lessons: Florida State Still Not Ready for National Title Talk

Once Again, Florida State Suffers a Disappointing Loss to End Any Shot at a National Title

Each Monday morning, we compile our top five takeaways from the weekend’s action. Here’s what we got out of Week 6 of ACC football action:

1. Florida State struggles to remain “elite”: Just two weeks after their primetime win over Clemson catapulted them into the national championship conversation, the Seminoles were knocked right back down to earth by NC State. Year after year, we continue to see signs of FSU being “back,” yet each and every time, they’ve managed to reject contender status by inexplicably losing to inferior opponents. Now, the ‘Noles could still very well run through the rest of the ACC slate and make a BCS game. But come year’s end, what we’ll remember most is this loss.

2. Could Duke be the Coastal Division favorite?: It might have seemed farfetched as recently as a week ago, but the Blue Devils are on a roll, and could effectively take control of the division with a win against Virginia Tech this coming weekend. What’s been most impressive about Duke is how they’ve managed their five wins, though. Riddled with injuries — including one to Sean Renfree‘s elbow that kept him out of this Saturday’s win — they’ve still managed to overmatch teams on both sides of the ball. It’s hard to compete with that sort of depth, as they’re now proving to everyone.

3. Virginia Tech’s defense is a shadow of its former self: Top-10 in scoring defense last season, the Hokies brought back nine players on that side of the ball and were slated to repeat their elite performance from 2011. Instead, it appears the wheels have finally come off, after years of manhandling their ACC foes. Bud Foster’s group has been regularly outplayed this season, most glaringly in this past weekend’s blowout loss to North Carolina. Should this team get back on track, it’ll have to start with the defense.

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