ACC Football 2013 Season Preview: Virginia Tech Hokies

Logan Thomas Tried Too Hard and It Cost the Hokies Last Year; What About 2013?

Logan Thomas Tried Too Hard and It Cost Virginia Tech Last Year; What About 2013?

Team: Virginia Tech Hokies

2012 W-L: 7-6 (4-4)

Head Coach: Frank Beamer (216-104-2; 27th season)

Returning Starters: 13 (4 Offense, 9 Defense)

Last year was a bit rough for Virginia Tech. It would be a nice season for some programs — in fact, many in the ACC — but when you’ve won 10 or more games every season you’ve been in a league, it becomes second nature to succeed at that level. When you don’t though, it’s a shock to the system. For the fans and for the players who’ve all grown accustomed to winning, there’s a gut reaction to hit the panic button and point blame. But every program goes through struggles here and there, no matter how powerful they might seem. And for Virginia Tech, it looks as if last year was just one of those years where the cards didn’t fall right. SB Nation’s Bill Connelly gets into whether or not this was a one-year event, which is a discussion well worth having, but for our purposes here, we’ll simply focus on the season immediately before us.

Last year’s offense was bad. But you probably knew that. After years of a solid running game to guide them through, there was no rushing attack to be found this past fall. On the year, the team averaged just 145 yards per game on the ground, and the Hokies’ leading rusher was QB Logan Thomas — who had 65 more carries than any of the team’s running backs. Thomas is an athlete and a threat to run, sure, but to carry the ball 174 times for just 3 yards per is unacceptable. The running backs, of course, weren’t helping their own respective cases either. J.C. Coleman, Tony Gregory and Michael Holmes all struggled with consistency and without one differentiating themselves from the pack, it was impossible to hand any of them the bulk of the carries. Tech also put the young backs behind an inexperienced offensive line which exhibited difficulty both run- and pass-blocking all season. Several of those linemen are gone, but are replaced by even less experience. Gregory’s also out for the season, so that leaves the entire run game up to Coleman, who’s unlikely to be ready for the job just yet either. This leads us to the offense’s biggest issue last year (and possibly again this year): its quarterback.

Continue reading

About these ads

ACC Football Positional Rankings 2013: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

Sammy Watkins is the ACC's Top Receiver, But Does a Different Team's Wideouts Outpace Clemson's?

Sammy Watkins is the ACC’s Top Receiver, But Do a Different Team’s Wideouts Outpace Clemson’s?

While we’re still (barely) over two months away from the season, it does indeed seem to be that time of year — when college football blogs like this one and so many others start churning out season preview materials. We’ll be holding off till July and August for the team-by-team season previews, but in the meantime, there’s nothing wrong with taking a look at each position on the field and evaluating ACC squads’ respective strengths and weaknesses.

This week, we’re on to the wide receivers and tight ends (we’ve also covered running backs and quarterbacks thus far). Like virtually every other conference in the country, you can’t necessarily call the overall receiving product in the ACC “stellar.” For some reason we’ve arrived at a dearth of talent at the position of late. But nonetheless, the league still possesses a strong group of receivers at the top, plus a ton of depth, even on the teams that are lower on this list.

Keep in mind that these are full unit rankings — not just one player — so just because one individual wide receiver or tight end is better than another, it doesn’t necessarily mean the team’s entire crop of pass catchers is. Also note: Louisville (as has been the case since November) is included here. Additionally, since these are completely subjective rankings, the difference between the seventh and eighth team is almost entirely negligible (especially in the case of this position). Still, disagree with any of these picks? Share your own selections below.

ACC Positional Rankings 2013: Wide Receivers/Tight Ends

1. Florida State Seminoles: FSU just has too many players who can catch the ball in the open field, and that’s a good thing, especially when fielding an inexperienced quarterback. After a productive season last year (57 catches, 741 yards, six scores), Rashad Greene looks ready to take a huge leap forward for this group, and could be one of the better pass catchers in the ACC. Along with Greene, look out for Kenny Shaw and Kelvin Benjamin, especially Benjamin, who could end up being a breakout player for the ‘Noles this season following a productive freshman campaign. At tight end, Nick O’Leary should continue his improvement, but with so man other players looking for the ball, it’s uncertain how many passes are thrown his way.

2. Clemson Tigers: Replacing Brandon Ford (TE) and leading receiver DeAndre Hopkins, Clemson certainly has their work cut out for them. But you can’t underestimate the receiving depth Chad Morris and Dabo Swinney have built on this Tigers roster. After an uneventful offseason, Sammy Watkins should be back to his freshman year form, which immediately takes the load off of Adam Humphries and Charone Peake. While not overly experienced, the two still caught 66 combined passes last year, which should trend even higher in 2013. Tight end is a question mark, though Stanton Seckinger likely has the inside track to starting there.

3. North Carolina Tar Heels: In year two of Larry Fedora’s offense, it’s time opposing teams started to fear this group. Quinshad Davis put up one of the best freshman receiving seasons in ACC history last year and there’s little doubt he’ll continue to produce at that level again. And he’ll have help, too. Fellow starter Sean Tapley brings further speed on the outside, while tight end Eric Ebron will be putting his athleticism to use against linebackers and corners alike. Ebron’s slated to be one of the best TEs in the country this year, and one look at his 6’4″ 245-pound frame leaves little question as to why.

Continue reading

Too-Early 2013 ACC Football Power Rankings (June 10)

Can FSU Quarterback Jameis Winston Live Up to His Growing Hype?

Can FSU Quarterback Jameis Winston Live Up to His Growing Hype Around Tallahassee?

The college football season is in sight! No, seriously it is. I received my Athlon Sports 2013 season preview magazine a couple weeks ago. Football Study Hall was able to amass a power poll based on all the preseason rankings thus far. Things are happening! And with that, we’re edging closer and closer to late August. Until then, these rankings are just conjecture, but oh well — we all need something to pass the time until kickoff.

1. Clemson Tigers (Last: 1): Clemson’s season is very likely to boil down to the first and last weekends, with 10 trap games in the middle. Vegas obviously likes the Tigers, but will the pressures of being a National Championship contender finally get to the team at some point? That’s why they play the games, of course, but win or lose the opening game against Georgia, it’s worth circling September 19 vs. NC State and October 19 vs. FSU as some potential bumps in the road.

2. Louisville Cardinals (Last: 2): Is is ridiculous to say that anything short of an undefeated season will be a disappointment for Louisville? The Cardinals play the 90th-most difficult schedule in the country in 2013 — a nice way of saying “nobody.” Like Clemson, though, they’ll be up against the weight of expectations, which could end up being the toughest opponent they face all season.

3. Florida State Seminoles (Last: 3): Jameis Winston will need a couple of games to adjust as the Seminoles’ starting passer, but until then he’ll have plenty of support from his defense, which is more experienced than the “returning starters” numbers let on. FSU doesn’t face a major-conference team with a winning record until October (Clemson), so there’s ample time for everyone — players and coaches — to get settled in.

4. North Carolina Tar Heels (Last: 4): North Carolina had one of the top 15 offenses in the country last season, and that was just the first season under Larry Fedora’s system. As he continues to burn up the recruiting trail, this is a team poised to be even better in 2013 as they adapt to Fedora’s spread style. The Heels’ defense may be a trouble spot, but if they’re scoring as they should, it may not matter much. Continue reading

ACC Football Standout Senior 2013: Virginia Tech

Can Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas Carry the Hokies Once Again, or Collapse Under the Pressure?

Can Virginia Tech’s Logan Thomas Carry the Hokies Once Again, or Collapse Under the Pressure?

Last season’s juniors are now this season’s seniors, and with that comes extra responsibility and expectations. In the ACC, while there were plenty of players selected in the NFL Draft, the conference still returns a strong group of seniors — many of whom are set to make a strong impact in their final seasons of eligibility.

Over these few weeks, we’re going team-by-team in the ACC to identify the “standout senior” that’s key to his respective squad, and why he’s so important. Think we should’ve featured another player, though? Feel free to weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments.

Virginia Tech Hokies: Logan Thomas, QB

I’ve said this over and over again since last summer, but it bears repeating once again: Logan Thomas cannot hold this entire Hokies offense on his shoulders every week. Obviously, the return of receiver D.J. Coles will help offset that burden, as will another year of experience for the young offensive line, but looking at this Virginia Tech offense, success is still largely what Thomas can make of it. As we saw last season, that can create a fairly undesirable situation for both the player and the team, and there’s no way they can go another year as things are currently set up.

Behind a veteran offensive line in 2011, Thomas burst onto the scene as a surprise sophomore, who was quick with his feet and a strong throwing arm. He was prematurely projected to be a top-10 pick and a Heisman contender, which all seems ludicrous now. But while expectations have appropriately fallen back to earth, there’s also no reason to believe that he’s a lost cause. Again, Thomas’s burden within this offense was virtually unmatched in the conference, as no team had so few tools surrounding its “star” (loose word) quarterback as the Hokies did with him. He accounted for all but 11 of the touchdowns scored by the Tech offense, and all but 1,400 yards as well. The pressure was suffocating, as anyone who watched the Florida State game last year will tell you, when he just heaved the game into oblivion late in the fourth quarter.

Continue reading

Way-Too-Early 2013 ACC Football Power Rankings

An Early Look at 2013 Shows Clemson to Be at the Head of the Class in the ACC

An Early Look at 2013 Shows Clemson to Be at the Head of the Class in the ACC

When we last left our teams, there appeared to be hope on the horizon. Though the 2012 season was a difficult one, the bowls showed some real glimmers of great things to come, as the ACC racked up its first winning postseason record in seven years. Beyond some long-awaited hope for greater success, 2013 also brings some change to these rankings. Syracuse and Pittsburgh will now actually be participating in the conference, after two seasons appearing in the power rankings despite not doing so. And Louisville, our newest pals set to join in 2014, will also be joining the party — meaning 15 teams will be listed for the remainder of this calendar year (and slightly beyond into bowl season 2014). Cheer up! It’s less than 230 days ’till kickoff.

1. Clemson Tigers (Last Year: 2): Tajh Boyd‘s back, and the defense is improving steadily. So even without DeAndre Hopkins and Andre Ellington, this team will still be fine in 2013. In year two under defensive coordinator Brent Venables, expect an even more aggressive front-seven as the coach works on improving linebacker play in particular. That secondary will still get burned, but be certain they’ve also learned some lessons from last year, too.

2. Louisville Cardinals (LY: NR): After the show Teddy Bridgewater put on during the Sugar Bowl this year, the Cardinals are an extremely hot commodity, and are likely to start strong in their final season of Big East football. It’ll be interesting to see how coach Charlie Strong and his team respond to having a target on their backs from week one, when they’ll likely be handed a top-10 ranking to start the year.

3. Florida State Seminoles (LY: 1): They’re losing a lot on the defensive side of the football, along with QB and senior leader, EJ Manuel. But like those old, Bobby Bowden-coached teams of teams of the 90s, this ‘Noles squad has already reloaded. The offense may take a few to warm up, but the defense will still be very much their strength heading into next season.

4. Miami (FL) Hurricanes (LY: 5): After sitting out two straight years of postseason berths, the ‘Canes are really hoping they’re given a break from the NCAA in terms of leniency. With a ton of young talent eager to get a shot at a conference title, and arguably the best QB/RB tandem in the ACC in Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson, Miami could very well be out for blood come opening kickoff this fall.

Continue reading

ACC Football 2012 Week 3 Lessons: Pitt Panthers Show Signs of Life Versus Virginia Tech

Pitt Ran the Ball Down Virginia Tech’s Throats on Saturday, Coming Out with a Very Unexpected Upset

Each Monday morning, we compile our top five takeaways from the weekend’s action. Here’s what we got out of Week 3 of ACC football action:

1. Pitt‘s season has been resuscitated: There’s no doubt the Panthers heard the talk about their season being dead in the water (guilty!) and were glad to prove everyone wrong. For a full 60 minutes, it was very easy to forget those first two losses, and instead, see the team we all expected to begin with: fantastic running game, sound defense. Ray Graham looked a lot like his old self, while Rushel Shell is sure to give the rest of the ACC nightmares while imagining him in Pitt’s backfield for the next four seasons.

2. Virginia Tech‘s offense is a major concern: We questioned this unit’s effectiveness in the offseason, and that was before D.J. Coles was lost for the year. Now, with an iffy offensive line, unproven receivers and a very green running game, there’s a lot of concern surrounding how they’ll be able to score points. QB Logan Thomas looked shaky against Pitt, and will need to take full ownership of his role if this team hopes to continue winning ball games.

3. Coastal Division confusion: Georgia Tech was its most impressive team this weekend, but they’ve already lost to Virginia Tech. Miami is 1-0, but there’s uncertainty on defense. North Carolina is ineligible. Virginia was just waxed by the Yellow Jackets. This group has lacked the strength of the Atlantic since the league split into divisions, but 2012 may set a new bar for parity.

Continue reading

ACC 2012 Season Preview: Virginia Tech Hokies

Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas Looks to Be the Difference-Maker for a Team Lacking Offensive Experience

Team: Virginia Tech Hokies

2011 W-L: 11-3 (7-1)

Head Coach: Frank Beamer (209-98-2; 26th season)

Returning Starters: 12 (3 Offense, 9 Defense)

An eighth straight 10-win season is rarely a disappointment, regardless of your team or conference. Of course, you’d also assume this string was part of a larger resume of success in that time frame. If you’re Virginia Tech, this is not the case, unfortunately. Sure, they’ve collected four ACC championships, but that’s not what we remember. Instead, they’re seen as the team that’s gone 1-4 in BCS games in that stretch, and one that has a knack for losing big games. True or not, they’re now battling perception. And only a huge postseason win is going to get them a victory in that conversation.

The Virginia Tech offense will be in transition this season, but it won’t reduce the stress on junior signal-caller Logan Thomas. Over the offseason, he lost his running back to the NFL Draft, four-fifths of his offensive line and his top two wide receivers. But if his steady improvement last year is any indicator, he’s more than capable of overcoming those numerous obstacles. An imposing 6’6″ and 260 pounds, he’ll again be hard to stop as a runner, and his passing ability just continues to get better. If the revamped offensive line cooperates (never a sure thing), he’ll need to quickly develop rapports with his new primary targets. D.J. Coles has plenty of experience, and appears ready to jump into a new, expanded role in the passing game. But there’s still question marks around Dyrell Roberts. Throughout his Tech career, he’s never really “made the jump,” so to speak, so there’s questions as to whether the fifth-year senior can finally make it happen. He’ll be given plenty of chances, so it’s up to him to make it happen.

Continue reading