Why can’t the Hokies have an SEC-sized offensive line?

It seems whenever the SEC plays, I see Hokie fans on message boards and on Twitter pose the question, “Why can’t we have an o-line like [insert SEC team here].” In a recent Twitter conversation with @hokiesmash, he posed the question why can’t the Hokies have an offensive line at least as good as Pitt or BC’s? Pitt and BC might not be the gold standard for great offensive play but they are consistently good in the ACC and should be a model for the Hokies to follow. So the question is, why are Pitt and BC’s offensive lines better than the Hokies? Let’s look deeper into if that’s true and if so, why?

Recruiting

Where do Pitt and BC recruit their linemen from and how talented are they perceived to be when they enroll?
* Star values come from 247sports.com’s composite rankings

Pittsburgh

2014 Commits: PA (2), MI, CT
1 4stars  3 3stars

2013 Commits: PA (3), OH, NY
1 5star3stars 1 2stars

2012 Commits: PA, WI
1 4stars 1 2stars

2011 Commits: PA, NY
1 3stars 1 2stars

States Represented: PA (7), NY (2), CT, OH, MI, WI
Average Stars: 3.08 stars 3stars

Pittsburgh

Boston College

2014 Commits: MA (2), GA
3 3stars

2013 Commits: No Offensive Line Commits

2012 Commits: VA, MA, NJ
3 3stars

2011 Commits: MA (2), IL (2), PA, MD
4 3stars 3 2stars

States Represented: MA (4), IL (2), NJ, PA, MD, VA, GA
Average Stars: 2.77 stars 3stars

BostonCollege

Virginia Tech

2014 Commits: NJ (2), PA, OH
4 3stars

2013 Commits: VA (3)
3 3stars

2012 Commits: VA (2), PA (2)
1 3stars 3 2stars

2011 Commits: VA
1 3stars

States Represented: VA (6), PA (3), NJ (2), OH
Average stars: 2.75 stars 3stars

VirginiaTech

Do the Hokies recruit the same areas as Pitt and BC? Yes. All three schools have recruited the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.

Do the Hokies have roughly the same recruiting success as Pitt and BC? Pitt’s offensive line recruiting has been better than both BC and VT. Pitt has one 5-star and two 4-star offensive line recruits. BC and VT have no 4 or 5 star offensive line recruits.

How have the results been different on the field been different over the last 4 years?

Pittsburgh

2014 Rushing Offense Ranking: 19th
2014 Sacks Allowed: 51st

2013 Rushing Offense Ranking: 102nd
2013 Sacks Allowed: 118th

2012 Rushing Offense Ranking: 92nd
2012 Sacks Allowed: 102nd

Boston College

2014 Rushing Offense Ranking: 8th
2014 Sacks Allowed: 34th

2013 Rushing Offense Ranking: 20th
2013 Sacks Allowed: 44th

2012 Rushing Offense Ranking: 115th
2012 Sacks Allowed: 106th

Virginia Tech

2014 Rushing Offense Ranking: 77th
2014 Sacks Allowed: 51st

2013 Rushing Offense Ranking: 109th
2013 Sacks Allowed: 96th

2012 Rushing Offense Ranking: 79th
2012 Sacks Allowed: 60th

oline-rankings

Boston College has by far been the most successful team on the offensive line. The 2012 season was nightmare that they rebounded nicely from. Pitt has not been better than the Hokies for the last two years before a huge improvement this year (hello James Conner). For the Hokies, 2012 was a mediocre year on the offensive line. 2013 was downright awful. So far, 2014 has been a return to mediocrity. So what does all this tell us and what do the Hokies need to do?

Well, out of the three teams analyzed, the Hokies are definitely getting the least out of their recruits. You can blame it on coaching transitions (three coaches in the last three years) or you can blame it on the quality of those coaches. I do not have enough insight into the program to give you the answer to that question but the level of production is clear. So what’s the answer? In my opinion it’s two-fold – pick a fertile recruiting area where you feel like you can be successful then get those recruits to sign with your program. Stacy Searels appears to be favoring the Southeast (Virginia to Florida) but he has gone as far as Massachusetts for a recruit. The biggest issue is picking an area where the Hokies can win the recruiting battles. It doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of time recruiting guys in the South who are going to the SEC anyway. It would seem like the low-hanging fruit would be recruiting the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic but if Stacy Searels feels like he can be successful in the Southeast – I hope he feels like he can close the deal with those recruits. Otherwise, the Hokies will not be getting any better on the offensive line any time soon. Virginia Tech will not be successful with the SEC’s leftovers. They are better off following Pitt and BC’s example by recruiting the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Then have some stability on the coaching staff to get the most out of those recruits.

Pittsburgh Q&A with @CzarOfPgh

You can follow Zach on twitter @CzarOfPgh

What are your thoughts on your team so far?

I’m basically like the guy from Momento; I should be carrying around polaroids of the past 30 years of Pitt football to remind myself in the offseason to never, ever be optimistic. The schedule seemed to be shaping up for an 8-4 type year: open 5-1 against Delaware, BC, FIU, Iowa, Akron, and UVA and then manage 3-3 in the chaotic Coastal. I remember thinking 4-2 to open the season would be a worst-case scenario. We’re 3-3.

So my thoughts are mostly not positive. From halftime of the Iowa game until halftime of the UVA game, the team has appeared alternatingly confused, listless, overpowered, and uninterested. I’m not smart enough to know if the issue is players, schemes, or coaching, but the current players in the current scheme aren’t getting it done for the current coaches. Something has to change before the season slips away.

What are your expectations going into the Virginia Tech game?

After that burst of negativity, let me be positive here. In the Paul Chryst era, Pitt has followed disastrous back-to-back losses to Youngstown State and Cincinnati with a win over a 13th ranked Virginia Tech. Later that year, a bad loss to UConn was followed with a win at a ranked Rutgers. Last year, terrible losses to Navy and Georgia Tech were followed with a win over a ranked Notre Dame. In short, when it really comes time to nut up or shut up, Chryst’s teams have always chosen the former.

So here we are – a disappointing 3-3 looking into the cavity-laden teeth of the ACC Coastal. There are 6 winnable games here and 6 losable games. When it seemed like the season was slipping away in years past, Chryst’s teams have been able to rally and salvage bowl eligibility. I can only hope they still have that kind of fight still in them [pulls out polaroid pictures and frowns].

At this point, how do you see the Coastal Division shaking out? Which team do you think will end up winning the division?

Forget everyone finishing 4-4, I think somehow everyone manages to finish 3-5.

More seriously, it’s clear (as it was before the season) that there’s no elite team here. In the absence of a team that has an elite offense and defense, someone who has one of those things is going to win it. If that’s the criterion, then it basically eliminates Pitt and UNC from the start. Things always seem to be on the precipice of falling apart at Miami, and Duke does a lot of things very well but none of them really elite. That leaves Georgia Tech’s offense and the elite defenses in the commonwealth of Virginia. UVA still has to play FSU and GT still has Clemson, so I am taking the Hokies, injuries and all, to end up on top.

What is your prediction for the game?

If Pitt has any chance of winning, they have to take advantage of the injury concerns the Hokies have at running back and the questionable choices Michael Brewer often makes. VT isn’t a team that’s going to put up a lot of points, so that is encouraging, because Pitt’s defense is adequate at best.

Unfortunately, Pitt hasn’t been able to put up points at all, really, over the past month.  The offensive line wasn’t able to get much of a push against Akron, of all teams. If James Conner can’t run and set up second- and third-and-shorts, then it’s trouble. Chad Voytik has spent way too much time looking uncomfortable, unable to go through his progressions, unable to see over the line, and unable to use proper mechanics. That’s a bad recipe against a VT defense that is ranked 4th in the country by the latest F/+ statistics.

I predict VT 21-Pitt 13 with a lot Twitter jokes about both offenses from the national tv audience.

Pittsburgh Preview and Prediction

Let’s examine the Hokies last three visits to Pittsburgh:

2012: #13 Virginia Tech 17, Pittsburgh 35
2003: #5 Virginia Tech 28, #25 Pittsburgh 31
2001: #12 Virginia Tech 7, Pittsburgh 38

That’s three times that a highly ranked Virginia Tech team has waltzed into Heinz Field and left with a lost. If the Hokies want to avoid it happening for a fourth consecutive time, they need to come prepared to play.

Virginia Tech’s front seven is small and fast. This works well against a lot of teams but Pitt has a very big offensive line and 6’2″, 250 pound running back. I don’t like how that matchup looks on paper especially with Luther Maddy out for the game.

You might say, is Chad Voytik going to beat us? Well, I didn’t think Tino Sunseri, Rod Rutherford and David Priestly would beat us either. His numbers this year aren’t terrible – 58.7%, 8 TDs, 5 INTs. If the Hokies want to take advantage of the matchup of the Hokies secondary vs Voytik – they need to jump out to an early lead and make him have to throw more than the Pitt coaches might feel comfortable with. That’s the formula for beating this Pitt team.

Statistically, the Pitt defense is very good. They rank 4th in total defense, 37th in rushing defense and 6th in passing defense. The Hokies haven’t been able to run on anyone this season, so don’t expect that to start this week with their top 3 running backs out for the game. That also means that once again, the success of the offense will reside squarely on Michael Brewer’s shoulders. If he takes care of the ball, more than likely the Hokies will win. If he reverts back to bad Michael Brewer, it will be difficult for the Hokies to win.  It’s really as simple as that. Let’s hope we see more of the Ohio State/UNC Michael Brewer than the ECU/GT Michael Brewer.

On paper this matchup looks pretty even all things considered. But given the Hokies bad mojo at Heinz Field, it’s hard to pick them. This game is going to look a lot like the UNC game – lots of penalties and just plain ugly football. I’m just not feeling good about the Hokies chances of going into Heinz Field in an even matchup and stealing a win. It didn’t work for those highly-ranked VT squads and I don’t think it’s going to work for the 2014 Hokies either.

Pittsburgh 27, Virginia Tech 24

Midseason Awards

We’re halfway through the season and we’ll take some time to examine who has stood out on the 2014 Hokies.

Offensive MVP

Finalists:

Michael Brewer – 10 TDs, 61.8% comp %, 234.8 ypg
Bucky Hodges – 234 yds, 4 TDs
Isaiah Ford – 366 yds, 4 TDs
Marshawn Williams – 362 yds, 3 TDs, 4.0 ypc

brewer_michaelWinner: Michael Brewer. He’s the straw that stirs the drink. Does he turn the ball over too much? Yes. But he also moves the offense better than it has since David Wilson, Danny Coale and Jarred Boykin were here. Virginia Tech’s current total offensive ranking is 71st. The Hokies were ranked 101st in total offense last year. There has been a significant improvement and lot of that can be attributed to better QB play (sorry, Logan).

Defensive MVP

Finalists:

Kendall Fuller – 1 INT, 1 TD, 2 Sacks, 13 passes defended
Ken Ekanem – 5 sacks, 8.5 TFL, 12 QBHs, 1 FF
Chase Williams – 23 solo tackles, 3.5 Sacks, 8.5 TFL, 14 QBHs, 1 FF

fuller_kendallWinner: Kendall Fuller. Seriously, who else could it be? When you throw at Kendall Fuller, you do it at your own peril. He has locked down every receiver he has faced this year. He basically shuts down one side of the field for the opposing offense. I’d rather not imagine what the Hokies’ defense would look like this year without him. Few teams in the country have a weapon in the secondary like Kendall Fuller.

Best position coach

Finalists:

Aaron Moorehead
Charley Wiles
Bryan Stinespring

moorehead_aaronWinner: Aaron Moorehead. It helps when you recruit two players like Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips. Last year, he squeezed as much production as possible from a receiving corps that Rece Davis referred to as “hot garbage” after the Alabama game. This year with Ford, Phillips and Byrn you’re starting to see a lot of production from that position group. It is not easy to get true freshmen to perform at the high level that Ford and Phillips are and that’s a testament to the good work of Aaron Moorehead.

Most surprising player

Finalists:

Bucky Hodges – 234 yds, 4 TDs
Shai McKenzie – 279 yds, 3 TDs, 5.1 ypc
Cam Phillips – 249 yds, 1 TD

hodges_buckyWinner: Bucky Hodges. The word out of spring and fall practice was that Bucky Hodges looked really good and would contribute this year at TE. No one said he would be the next Jimmy Graham (maybe that’s a little bit of an exaggeration). He looks very similar to TEs that have been drafted to the NFL in recent years (Ebron, Ertz, Reed). Enjoy him while we have him because he might be gone sooner rather than later. He’s that good.

North Carolina Preview and Prediction

Two questions going into this game: How bad is UNC’s defense and how bad is VT’s offense? The real answer is that no one really knows. What is clear is that both groups can do better than they have been. Which team is going to step up and get themselves back into the Coastal division race? Since both teams are facing an 0-2 hole in conference play, I think it’s going to be a knock-down, drag-out affair.

The Hokies should be able to run and pass effectively in this game. UNC’s defensive stats are not particularly impressive. In this game, it is important that they do not get away from the run game. They need to help Michael Brewer by taking some of the pressure off of him by running Marshawn Williams and Trey Edmunds. The more Brewer is forced to throw, the more nervous I get about the outcome. The Hokies need him to be more game-manager than gunslinger.

On defense, THE HOKIES HAVE TO LIMIT THE BIG PLAYS! How many times do we have to say that this year? Statistically, this defense looks pretty good even with all the big plays they’ve given up, which means they’ve been dominant when they aren’t giving up plays of 20+ yards. Carolina has plenty of talented receivers that can make the Hokies pay down field. They cannot afford another East Carolina-like performance. Chuck Clark and Donovan Riley are going to have bring their A-game to this one.

This is a strange game to predict. Neither team has been particularly consistent on either side of the ball. Given that the loser of this game will be in trouble as far as the Coastal division is concerned, I expect both teams to bring their best effort. I think it’s going to be a close one. There are definitely reasons to feel hopeful but I just don’t see the Hokies pulling this one out on the road.

Prediction: North Carolina 31, Virginia Tech 28

North Carolina Q&A with Zach Evans

You can follow Zach on twitter @ztevans

What are your thoughts on your team so far?

The good news is that UNC’s offense has gotten better each week. Clemson has one of the best defenses in the ACC, and the Heels rebounded from a slow start to put up 35 points against them. The bad news, of course, is that UNC’s defense probably qualifies for FEMA assistance at this point. Scoring 35 points isn’t good enough when you’re giving up 50 … or 70 in the case of the East Carolina game.

What are your expectations going into the Virginia Tech game?

The game will be decided when Virginia Tech has the ball. As I said on this week’s ACC Weekly podcast, which also featured the royal steed of stationary running machines, it will be the stoppable force of Virginia Tech’s pedestrian offense under Michael Brewer against the movable object that has been UNC’s porous defense. If Brewer can complete enough passes to the right team and force UNC to make tackles, Virginia Tech will win. If not, UNC will win.

At this point, how do you see the Coastal Division shaking out?

I’d love to have some expert analysis of the Coastal, but I am utterly confused and perplexed by the division at this point. I liked Virginia Tech, then they lost to ECU and Georgia Tech. I liked Duke, they lost to Miami. I guess the teams I like most now are Virginia and Miami, which guarantees they will lose to Pitt and Georgia Tech this week. Really, I’m getting a headache just thinking about it.

What is your prediction for the game?

I predict #goacc. Lots and lots of #goacc. What else would we expect from the 12:30 ACC Network Game of the Week? I’m biased enough to think that UNC will generate enough turnovers to squeak out a win in front of the home crowd. But more importantly, I predict #goacc

Grading the Unis – Western Michigan Edition

Helmet: B+

The Hokies have finally joined the shiny/chrome fad in college football. In this case, it was well-executed with a subtle touch in the VT logo as opposed to the Christmas ornaments we’ve seen teams across the country wear in recent years. Looked good.

Jersey: B

I like the orange jerseys in spite of our W-L history wearing them. Pulling these out for the orange effect game seems appropriate. They should only to wear them when the Hokies are at least 3 TD favorites. Otherwise, things can get dicey.

Pants: A

The pants looked great with the orange jerseys! Flawless execution.

Overall: B+

This combo is similar to the one I like to use when I play as the Hokies in NCAA 14. I think it’s a good look and it’s the best possible execution of the orange jerseys without looking like a bunch of pumpkins or like Syracuse. I’m not sure who is coming up with the uni combos this year but they’re doing a great job. No major stumbles thus far. Keep up the good work!

Virginia Tech Hokies Football

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