Talented Hokies face early season challenge
Virginia Tech looks poised for another title run in the Atlantic
The Hokies defense has designs on being the school’s best ever.
The offense is led by 6-foot-6, 260-pound quarterback Logan Thomas,
who passed and ran his way in to Virginia Tech’s record books last
They won’t have to wait for their first test. The Hokies open
with a Monday night game followed by another contest five days
later. Two years ago that schedule left them 0-2 with losses to
Boise State and James Madison.
Virginia Tech plays Georgia Tech and its triple-option offense
on Sept. 3, followed by Austin Peay on Sept. 8.
Coach Frank Beamer said the big difference between 2010 and this
year is the Hokies play the Yellow Jackets in Blacksburg.
”When you’re playing at FedEx and you get back in here at 5
a.m. and you’ve got a short week, I don’t think you ever get caught
up,” Beamer said.
His team showed it in 2010, too, losing its second game to
FCS-level James Madison.
It’s the second time in three years the Hokies open with the
short week. Beamer said the national television exposure makes it
hard to ignore.
”I don’t particularly like it, but … if you play well, you
really help your program, I think. It’s a big boost. A lot of
recruits are watching that game,” the coach said.
After using the preseason to build depth in the secondary, the
Hokies are hoping to show the makings of a defense like the 2005
and 2006 version – both of which were No. 1 in the nation.
On the first night of camp, several defenders paged through the
record book, looking for standards. The 2005 team led the nation in
total defense, allowing 247.6 yards per game. The 2006 unit trimmed
nearly 30 yards off that average, leading the nation at 219.5 yards
The 2006 team also led the country by allowing just 11 points
”We feel like we have the talent on our side of the ball to be
the best defense that’s ever come through here,” said Antone Exum,
who moves from safety to cornerback this season.
Linebacker Bruce Taylor, who missed the last six games of 2011
and all of spring practice with a foot injury, was in on the
research session. He also thinks the unit can be No. 1.
”We know, and coach has reinforced it, that we have the talent
to do it,” he said.
While the defense has grabbed more than its share of the early
attention, the Hokies’ offense – led by the record-setting Thomas –
also will create matchup problems for opponents.
Thomas set a school record with 3,482 yards of total offense
last season, his first as a starter. He threw for 19 touchdowns,
ran for 11 more and is still learning the position.
Thomas, who came to Tech as a tight end, is as likely to run
over a defender as around him. His coaches said they want him to be
smart about taking hit, but not change his style.
The Hokies will also move more toward a spread offense this
season, expanding his options.
”We’ve talked to him about not taking unnecessary hits, being
smarter with the ball, but in the nature of the spread offense, he
becomes an additional ball carrier,” offensive coordinator Bryan
Stinespring said. Most quarterback injuries, he said, come from
hits in the pocket.
The pocket, though, is a concern too. Virginia Tech will have
four new starters on the offensive line, new starters at wide
receiver and inexperienced, young tailbacks.
The spread, Thomas said, will be a way to mitigate their
”I feel like teams are just going to try to pressure me more
than in the past, so that means I’m going to have to hang in the
pocket and make a quick throw to one of the receivers and let them
do the rest because they’re great athletes as well,” the redshirt
The return of Dyrell Roberts from a broken arm and elevation of
Marcus Davis to first team gives the Hokies two experienced
receivers. D.J. Coles will be a third once he returns to form
following knee surgery.
In the backfield, Michael Holmes emerged from the spring as the
starter. Coach Shane Beamer said that while Holmes doesn’t appear
to have the breakaway speed the Hokies have become accustomed to at
the position, he surprised the coaches with several long runs in
Freshmen J.C. Coleman and Trey Edmunds also will figure into the
The Hokies’ special teams got a boost when placekicker Cody
Journell was reinstated. He missed the Orange Bowl while suspended
and later pleaded guilty to misdemeanor trespassing.
In addition to the two games in five days start, the Hokies face
a tough three-game stretch later: They’re at Clemson on Oct. 20,
and then play back-to-back Thursday night games at Miami on Nov. 1
and at Lane Stadium against Florida State on Nov. 8.