Sunday, August 15, 2010

10 Keys To a Virginia Tech National Championship

If you were to glance at the different preseason polls, it is obvious that writers aren't quite sure how good Virginia Tech is going to be. Some have them in the Top-5, while others don't think the Hokies are good enough to win their conference.

Regardless of where they are ranked, the fact that most coaches and writers are predicting the Hokies to be at least a Top-10 team means that Tech will be gunning hard for the school's first national championship (the Tech athletic center actually has an empty case reserved for the team's first title).

With so many returning starters on offense and a defense led by Bud Foster, the Hokies are oozing with potential. In fact, head coach Frank Beamer went as far as to say that this team is one of the best he has ever coached.

That being said, let's look at some of things that will need to happen in order for the Hokies to fill that empty trophy case.

Tyrod’s continued improvement as a passer
Over Tyrod’s first two years, he was always a quarterback that was looking to run. He relied heavily on tight ends and his receivers were barely involved in the offense. To make matters worst, the constant running made him very prone to ankle injuries that kept him out of games.

Then, in a very pleasant turn of events for the Hokies, Tyrod turned into an actual quarterback. He started using his speed to keep plays going rather than just trying to rush for a few yards.

If the Hokies are to be looked at as a title contender, Tyrod’s passing needs to be good enough to keep defenses from stacking the line of scrimmage to stop Ryan Williams.

Ryan Williams becomes one of top runningbacks in country
Simply put, Ryan Williams is a beast.

As a freshman in 2009, Williams set the ACC record for touchdowns in a season and set the Virginia Tech record for rushing yards in season.

While it is true that the Hokies offense features many weapons, it is Williams that will determine how good the Hokies are.

Williams is truly a special talent and when he decides to go pro (which could possibly be at the end of this season), he will probably be considered the best player Virginia Tech has produced since Michael Vick.

Offensive line holds up
The Hokies offensive line has never been amazing, but it has always been serviceable. In addition to losing Ed Wang to the NFL, the Hokies lost Nick Becton for at least a week to turf toe. The good news is that he should be fine for the Boise State game, but the inability to practice with the rest of the line could hurt the line’s communication.

If Williams is going to dominate this season, he will need the offensive line to open up holes for him to run through.

Bryan Stinespring is able to effectively use weapons
Stinespring has taken a great deal of heat these past few years for running a very stagnant offense. If the Hokies are going to be the team that many think they are, Stinespring is going to need to be creative.

In addition to Williams, the Hokies have Darren Evans – returning from an ACL tear – in the backfield. Add a very versatile Tyrod Taylor and a solid receiving core of Danny Coale, Jarrett Boykin, and Dyrell Roberts, the Hokies have the potential to have the most potent offense in the ACC.

If the Hokies are going to run the table, the offense is going to need to use all of these weapons effectively.

Resurgence of Beamerball and special teams domination
When the Hokies first started to become a football powerhouse, the team was founded upon great special teams.

In the early 2000s, there was no team better at blocking kicks and punts than Tech. However, in recent years, other teams have caught up to the Hokies in that department and the blocked kicks are far and few between.

A great special teams can be the difference in any game and if the Hokies want to beat teams like Miami and Boise State, the key will be special teams.

Bud Foster turns inexperienced defense into a feared group
When you are a Hokies fan, you basically just look at the offense to assess how good the team is. Why is that you ask? Well, it's because Tech has one of the best defensive coordinators in college football and fans just assume that the defense will be great.

Under Bud Foster's time in Blacksburg, he has created a defense that is exceptional at forcing turnovers and scoring points by itself.

Tech fans have been so spoiled by the success and this is not the year to take it for granted. That's because this is the year that will show exactly how much of a genius Foster is.

With the defense only returning four starters, Foster will have to work his magic to get the new guys up to speed and ready to go up against power offenses like that of Boise State and Miami.

The good news for Foster is that the Hokies offense should be good enough to put up serious points as well as eat the clock by giving the ball to Williams and Evans 30 times a game. However, the Hokies will still look to get turnovers and big stops on defense when they really need it.

Replacing Cody Grimm
Cody Grimm might not have been the fastest or strongest member of the Hokies last season, but he was definitely the most important.

Grimm’s ability to always be around the ball was remarkable and was the reason Tech had one of the top defenses in country. He led the team in tackles, tackles-for-loss and forced fumbles. In addition to the stats, Grimm was seemingly always there when Tech needed a big play.

With Grimm in the NFL, the Hokies are still trying to fill his shoes at WHIP linebacker. The two men fighting for the spot are Jeron Gouveia-Winslow and Alonzo Tweedy. Whoever it is, he will need to be an instrumental part of the defense

Start hot
Over the past few years, the Hokies have made a habit of scheduling huge games at the beginning of the season and coming up short. Whether it be LSU, Alabama, or USC, the Hokies have started the season with a loss, essentially ending title hopes.

The Boise State game on September 6 will be crucial for both teams and will certainly be the start of a championship resume’. If the Hokies want to be in title contention, beating the Broncos and reversing the trend of losing early to power teams will be a must.

Finish with authority
If you glance at the Hokies schedule, you will see that after the Boise State game, there is very little that will threaten the Hokies in September and October.

The schedule after The Broncos reads: JMU, ECU, at BC, at NC State, Central Michigan, Wake Forest, and Duke. Simply put, none of those teams should pose a threat to Tech.

However, once the Hokies get into November, things get a little dicey. In a span of 16 days, the Hokies play Georgia Tech, at UNC, and at Miami.

While Tech is projected to be better than all three of these teams, facing them back-to-back-to-back is a daunting task. If Beamer and his squad want to get through that stretch unscathed, they better be on their A game.

ACC gets its rep back
When Miami and Virginia Tech joined the ACC, many thought the conference would dominate the landscape of college football. Oh boy were they wrong.

Since the additions, the only team in the conference that has been consistently good is Virginia Tech. While that meant that Tech dominated the conference, it is terrible for title hopes because it essentially forces you to run the table as your strength of schedule is terrible.

Those problems look to be in the past now, as the ACC could be one of the best conferences in football this year. There are five teams ranked in the top-20 of the coaches poll (VT, Miami, GT, UNC, and Florida State) and all of them are on the rise.

Considering Tech has to play three of them during the season with a potential matchup against Florida State in the ACC Championship game, Tech might not even need to run the table.

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