The Hokies look to make their sixth appearance in the ACC title game since 2005.
By: Athlon Sports | 5/14/12, 6:05 AM EDT
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#16 Virginia Tech
ACC Coastal PREDICTION
HEAD COACH: Frank Beamer , 209-98-2 (25 years) | OFF. COORDINATOR: Mike O’Cain | DEF. COORDINATOR: Bud Foster
It’s quarterback Logan Thomas’ show now that the Hokies have to replace eight starters, including four offensive linemen, the school’s two all-time leading receivers and running back David Wilson, the ACC Player of the Year. Thomas seems fine with it, having set the school’s single-season total yardage mark (3,482) and accounting for 30 TDs as a first-year starter.
It’s the rest of the offense that will need to come together, particularly an offensive line that’s light on experience. Center Andrew Miller and left tackle Nick Becton return, but the rest of the inexperienced group will have to jell quickly.
If it can, the skill players will have a chance. Three veteran wideouts return, including 6'4", 228-pound Marcus Davis, who has all the makings of a No. 1 receiver if he can put it all together. Redshirt freshman Michael Holmes will get first shot at replacing Wilson at running back, although early enrollee J.C. Coleman, a spitfire back, could compete for time.
Can the Hokies Win the ACC Title in 2012?
With eight starters back, coordinator Bud Foster is hoping his defense can get back to the days like 2005 and ’06, when the Hokies led the nation in total yards. A relentless D-line helps. The Hokies led the league with 41 sacks last year and return everyone, including All-ACC ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins and the massive Hopkins brothers — Derrick and Antoine — at tackle.
Injuries are a concern at linebacker, with Bruce Taylor (Lisfranc), Tariq Edwards (stress fracture) and Jeron Gouveia-Winslow (Lisfranc) being limited or out this spring. But all three are expected to be ready for the fall. If either Taylor or Edwards isn’t ready, Jack Tyler, a one-time walk-on, has filled in capably the last two years.
The Hokies shuffled the secondary, moving safety Antone Exum to cornerback to pair with Kyle Fuller and switching one-time corners Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett to the safety spots. The move was geared toward creating depth with players versatile enough to play anywhere on the back end. Tech is perilously thin in its secondary. One injury would create major problems.
David Wilson, RB
Wilson was the ACC's Player and Offensive Player of the Year in 2011, rushing for a school-record 1,709 yards. He averaged nearly six yards per carry and finished eighth in the nation in both rushing and all-purpose yards per game.
Logan Thomas, QB—Set the single-season school mark for total yardage (3,482) and accounted for 30 touchdowns in first year as a starter.
James Gayle, DE—Slowed by injuries in 2011, the All-ACC second-teamer hopes to be a pass-rushing force off the edge and build on his seven sacks.
Kyle Fuller, CB—The team’s defensive MVP last year moved around a lot but will be asked to lock down one corner spot this season.
|Sept. 3rd||Georgia Tech|
|Sept. 8th||Austin Peay|
|Sept. 15th||at Pittsburgh|
|Sept. 22nd||Bowling Green|
|Sept. 29th||at Cincinnati|
|Oct. 6th||at North Carolina|
|Oct. 20th||at Clemson|
|Nov. 1st||at Miami|
|Nov. 8th||Florida State|
|Nov. 17th||at Boston College|
Virginia Tech is trying to revive Beamerball, once the hallmark of the program. But the Hokies blocked only one punt last year and struggled with both punting and kick returns. Dyrell Roberts, the leading kick returner in school history, is back from injury. Placekicker Cody Journell was suspended for the for the spring due to an off-the-field incident but was reinstated in late July.
For all that Frank Beamer has accomplished in his 25 seasons at Virginia Tech — 209 victories, 19 straight bowl appearances, eight straight 10-win seasons, seven league titles in the Big East and ACC — his postseason struggles remain a glaring black mark on an otherwise sterling résumé. Last season’s deflating 23–20 overtime loss to Michigan in the Sugar Bowl, a game in which the Hokies outgained the Wolverines two-to-one, was the latest example. It dropped Tech to 1–5 in BCS bowls.
Still, the Hokies will be in contention in the ACC again with a Beamer formula that has worked for years: a known quantity at quarterback in Thomas and a shutdown defense. Georgia Tech will challenge in the Coastal Division, and Clemson and Florida State will likely enter as the favorites to win the conference title; but Virginia Tech has proven it can overcome such odds before, winning four ACC titles in eight years. It’s in the high-profile non-conference and bowl games that many fans would like to start seeing more Ws.