Previewing the Hokies

Logan Thomas & David Wilson

Offense

Scoring Offense 28.5 PPG 55th Nat.
Passing Offense 227.1 YPG 63rd Nat.
Rushing Offense 188.7 YPG 30th Nat.
Scoring Defense 17.2 PPG 7th Nat.
Pass Defense 206.2 YPG 39th Nat.
Rush Defense 107.8 YPG 16th Nat.

Virginia Tech’s offense has gone through variety of changes over the years. The one constant since the late 90s has been the presence of a difference maker at QB. This year’s version of the Virginia Tech offense is not as explosive as in years past but effective nonetheless under the direction of 6’6 245lb QB Logan Thomas. Any discussion of Virginia Tech’s offense begins and ends with the running game. Tech has a run heavy offense using both RB David Wilson and Thomas primary ball carriers. For much of the season, the Hokie offense revolved around getting David Wilson the ball in as many ways as possible. Dumping off to Wilson and letting him make something happen is a standard offensive play for the Hokies. Stopping the Hokie run game and tackling Logan Thomas will be a major test for the Michigan defense and likely determine the outcome of the game. Thomas frequently bounces off of tackles and is a load to bring down or disrupt even when the defense gets into the backfield. Hitting and wrapping up will not be enough as Thomas is often still able to complete passes with defenders draped over him.

Virginia Tech recruits and signs more TEs than any other team in college football. They do so because TEs are often the more versatile and multi-talent athletes on a roster. The Hokies often take TEs and convert many of them into offensive linemen because of their athleticism and footwork. This Virginia Tech team is no exception as starting left tackle Andrew Lanier is a converted TE. Virginia Tech’s offensive line boasts 4 senior starters but they have struggled for much of the year, especially in pass protection. The interior of the Hokie offensive line has been especially poor. The Hokies have posted some impressive rushing totals but those numbers are a reflection on the talent of David Wilson not the Hokie offensive line.
 
Passing Comp. % Yards TD INT Yards/Gm.
#3 Logan Thomas 59.2 % 2799 19 9 215.3
#6 Mark Leal 69.2% 153 2 0 76.5

Virginia Tech’s uses a very basic passing game and tries to limit Logan Thomas to easy throws. The Hokies rely on the run so when they do drop back to pass they normally face one on one coverage. The Hokies run a ton of WR screens, both bubble screens and quick hitting plays if opposing corners play off. If Michigan comes out in the same off coverage look it has for much of the season, expect the Hokies to throw quick screens until there is a change in coverage. One advantage the Hokies have over most teams in the passing game is size. The Hokies have some of the biggest receivers in college football. The Hokies use three major downfield targets when teams play press coverage, Marcus Davis (6’4 231lbs), Jarrett Boykin (6’2 219lbs), and D.J. Coles (6’3 225lbs ). As a change of pace the Hokies also employ slot receiver Danny Coale and TE Chris Drager underneath and on screens. As mentioned, screens and dump offs to David Wilson are also a big part of the Hokie passing.

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Grading The Performance: Illinois

Quarterback

The QBs really didn’t have to do much in this game thanks to the play of the RBs. Denard opened up the game red hot going 6-6 through the air. Some of the same bad habits that have gotten him into trouble all season crept back in after the hot start. When pressured, Denard went back to throwing off his back foot and had accuracy issues as a result, as well as several poor decision with the football.

The pass to Koger down the sideline in the 2nd quarter should have been a TD, but it was under thrown, Koger had to wait on the ball, and the defender had time to catch up. There were also several passes that should have been picked off, but were dropped. Ball security was also an issue, as Denard put the ball on the ground several times. Denard did do some nice things in the run game and made better reads on the zone read than he has in recent games.

Devin Gardner played reasonably well in relief action after Denard was knocked out of the game. Unlike Denard, Devin has a knack for throwing on the run as his best two passes came on plays where he left or stepped up in the pocket.

Grade: C+

Running Back

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Grading The Performance: Michigan State

Quarterback

Saturday was just a rough day for the QB position across the board. While the QB play was heavily influenced by other factors, the QBs didn’t play well on their own. It is certainly difficult to make plays while under constant duress but even on plays where there was time and open receivers, both Denard and Devin struggled. The constant pressure exacerbated Denard’s poor footwork and by the 4th quarter he was completely rattled. In addition, Denard hesitated in the pocket on plays where there were running lanes available and a lot of green grass. Denard looks like a QB who has lost confidence, both in his own abilities and in what he is suppose to be doing. At this point Denard does not trust himself and is over thinking plays instead of being on auto-pilot. The only really successful plays from the QB position occurred when Denard was split out as a wing-back.

There are already calls from some in the Detroit media for Devin Gardner to replace Denard. If said individuals actually rewatch the tape they`d see that Devin struggled just as badly as Denard, just in different areas. Neither QB handled the blitz very well, which isn’t a surprise as most QBs, college or pro, struggle with defenders in their face. From a physical and mechanical standpoint Devin may be ready to play, but he’s nowhere near ready from the mental side. He failed to spot a wide open Stephen Hopkins running free in the secondary, instead choosing to throw into coverage. Devin threw a strike to Hemingway in the endzone only to have it called back because he threw the ball well beyond the line of scrimmage. Devin does a better job of throwing accurate passes to open receivers but first he has to find them. Lastly, he hasn’t reach the point where he can manage the game. It isn’t by accident that Denard is the one who called a timeout with the play clock expiring, Devin had no clue.

The only thing keeping the QB position from receiving a failing grade this week are the extenuating circumstances that had as much, if not more to do with play of the QBs.

Grade: D-

Running Back

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