Blog Entry

Stats That Matter: Broken tackles Hokie style

Posted on: September 14, 2011 4:29 pm
Edited on: September 14, 2011 4:41 pm
Last spring I began a recurring element to my blog called Stats That Matter. It was a way to examine the approach of a coach about some slightly outside the box statistic that the NCAA doesn't officially keep track of. The goal: illuminating a key detail the coach sees as reflective of their success. This week's Stats That Matter features Va. Tech running backs coach Shane Beamer who focuses on the real secret to what makes Hokie tailback David Wilson one of the breakout stars of 2011: Tackles Broken.

Beamer, who just returned to Blacksburg after coaching at Miss. State and South Carolina, noted that Wilson broke an astounding 15 tackles in the Hokies opener against Appalachian State. Beamer then was informed by Billy Hite, Tech's former RB coach who has been around Blacksburg since before TV was invented, that Wilson's performance actually qualified as a Hokie record for tackles broken in a game. Then, in WK 2, against East Carolina, Wilson almost tied his own school record, by breaking 14 tackles.

Beamer says he has been amazed at just how powerful the 205-pounder is. "I knew from watching him on TV how fast he is and how explosive he was is," said Beamer. "I had no idea just how strong he was. You go into our weight room and he holds two of the all-time records for running backs in power clean and the front squat. You watch him in the weight room and he's right up there with our offensive linemen in leg strength and a lot of things."

As Miss. State's running backs coach, Beamer had a talented, bruising tailback in Anthony Dixon, but the assistant said the 240-pounder never piled up the broken tackle numbers the way Wilson is doing. "Anthony was a great player, but he didn't have David's speed and explosiveness," Beamer said. In 2010, he was an assistant at South Carolina, but wasn't coaching running backs so he isn't sure how Wilson's numbers measure up to Gamecock star Marcus Lattimore. "I know Marcus had a bunch of em. I remember last year when we played Georgia, he had an obscene number of broken tackles and yards after contact."

Seeing Wilson power through tacklers, though, has proven to be an even bigger revelation for the younger Beamer: "I coach the kickoff return team here. I tell those guys 'you gotta continue playing until you hear the whistle because there's a shot where it looks like David is tackled and the play is over and then the next thing you know, you look and he's still running. And the guy who we were actually double-teaming, made the tackle or else he'd have scored a touchdown on the kickoff return.' So we have to continue to teach our guys with David the play is not over till the whistle blows."

The first thing Beamer does on Sunday morning when he arrives at the office is grade the game film from the previous day. In addition Beamer keeps tabs on tackles broken and yards after contact. He does not include the tackles Wilson breaks on kick returns in his game total, but he does factor in the ones he breaks on receptions. (Thus far, Wilson has only broken one tackle as a receiver in 2011.) Beamer said there isn't a place on the wall in the running backs room where he keeps the players total tackles broke, but says he probably should have one. "We talk about it on Mondays as a running backs group and we talk about it in front of the team. When a running back plays well, the one stat that we always include is the number of broken tackles that he had."

Beamer's criteria: "I count (a broken tackle) as any time where there is a defender in position to make a play and he gets a hand, arm, shoulder on the guy and doesn't bring him down. I don't count a broken tackle as (the ball-carrier) just making a guy miss in the open field or where he just runs away from somebody. The guy has to be in good position to make the tackle and get a body part on him."

The coach also doesn't include any time Wilson drags a tackler, say, five yards downfield before going down. "If I guy makes contact and then gets him down, I'll give him yards after contact but not 'a broken tackle.' It has to be a guy he breaks away from and that guy doesn't make the tackle."

By talking about a stat and emphasizing it, players take note. It becomes a source of pride, which is just how the coach wants it. "I think it's an important statistic," Beamer said. "The great running backs are the ones that are breaking tackles. They're always falling forward on contact. That's the other great thing about David. He's always falling forward and those yards add up. To me, it's so important. We talk to our running backs all the time about breaking tackles and being physical, and that's all a part of it."

Wilson, an All-American in track as a triple jumper, has clearly matured as a back. In his first two seasons at Tech, he averaged 5.7 and 5.5 yards per carry. This year he's averaging 7.1 as he's learned to become a more patient back while becoming even stronger after arriving at Tech at 194 pounds. "He is high-energy guy, so you have to constantly talk to him about the details--his alignment, how deep he is from the ball, taking the right step, making the right read," said Beamer. "We always talk to him about letting everything slow down for him--give your blockers time to get out there and get set up before you hit the hole. Last year, he got the ball and he just went full speed. There was no patience. 

"He probably felt like when he got in there, he'd better make something happen because with Ryan (Williams) and Darren (Evans), he didn't know how long he'd be in there. He's done a good job. He's not looking over his shoulder."

Now Wilson is the one everyone needs to be looking out for.
Category: NCAAF
Tags: Va Tech

Since: Sep 15, 2011
Posted on: September 15, 2011 12:27 pm

Stats That Matter: Broken tackles Hokie style

Exactly, or when talk of NC comes around AGAIN, it will be because of the entire lame schedule. Anyone looked at that! No wonder there is talk about NC every year. Big fish in a very little pond. At least look for out of conference competition like last year. Ark St?!!!ppffft.

Since: Sep 27, 2006
Posted on: September 15, 2011 12:19 pm

Stats That Matter: Broken tackles Hokie style

Our (ECU) run defense sucks.  ...It's better than last year's though (I guess you could say it REALLY sucked last year). If we remotely had a decent 6 in the box, we would have handed you guys an L this year. Still almost did anyway. But, if's, & ands ain't sh#*. We got beat by a more athletic team, I'm over it.     ...My only point, and you VT fans know it, you're going to go against better run defenses in near future. So the QB is going to have to sling it a little. He surley didn't have to against us or App. But it sounds like some of you have confidence in him. I think Beamer has recruited some damn good ones over the years and I'm sure this one is not much different. Anyways, good luck to you guys.

Since: Aug 17, 2009
Posted on: September 15, 2011 12:04 pm

Stats That Matter: Broken tackles Hokie style

Or you can say that playing Appy State & ECU has helped too....

Since: Oct 9, 2009
Posted on: September 15, 2011 11:21 am

Stats That Matter: Broken tackles Hokie style

VAHokie, are you kidding me???  What do you want from a guy in his second start?  That 8-20 should have easily been 12-20 if big time WRs like Danny Coale catch a pass instead of letting it go through his hands and hit his shoulder pads.  If they catch those four, he doesn't throw that pick a few plays later on one and he ends the day 12-20, appx 160 yards with 2 TDs and 0 INT.  Also, Tech wins by 18 or more!  And what did you say about Tyrod Taylor his first year?  The guy had 2 TDs and 7 INTs in 2008 and I think most believe he turned out just fine.  Tyrod had 2 fumbles and 2 INTs in the first half against Duke that year and just think if he was pulled and never played again!  QBs take time and Logan looks well ahead of many first year starters. 

And up the middle football wins.  Try running outside against fast, disciplined defenses.  It won't work!

Since: Feb 28, 2011
Posted on: September 15, 2011 12:49 am

Stats That Matter: Broken tackles Hokie style

I'd also like to add that it is no where near time to stat hitting the panic button when it comes to Logan Thomas' abilities. I'll give you the stats of another great Hokie Quarterbacks first away start, and they are extremely similar to Logan Thomas'

7-16 for 88 yds 0 TDs 3 Ints, 12 rushes for 41 yards.

None other than Stats produced by Micheal Vick in hist first season as a starter, second career start vs Clemson. I think he turned out pretty well.
You can't make drastic statements after only seeing two games. You may be judging your entire opinion of Mark Leal based on his performance against App State. But I'd liek to remind you that Mark Leal had 1st string recievers to throw to against App States second team D. You saw what we did to the first team's defense, so assuming that Leal is much better than LT is just ludacris.

Since: Jul 5, 2009
Posted on: September 14, 2011 11:55 pm

Reply to VAHokie

Are you serious?? It was Logan's SECOND START and was in a hostile road environment (also his first road start). He was not as bad as the numbers say (8 for 20/ 0td and 1int). Four of his passes were dropped and two of those were in the endzone (one of those two dropped in the endzone was on the same drive as the pick). That one pick he threw was also a great play by the corner. So if you actually paid attention to the game instead of just the stats you would know he can and is the answer at quarterback for Virginia Tech. Yes I know that he threw one pass directly at an ECU player but thats gonna happen when its your SECOND START. Not to mention Logan has NEVER played tight end in his life. You know what he has played? Quarterback, ever since his sophmore year of high school. Give him a break.

Since: Sep 14, 2011
Posted on: September 14, 2011 11:07 pm

Stats That Matter: Broken tackles Hokie style

Unfortunately Logan Thomas is not the answer to the quarterback situation.  A decent defense is going to stop VT dead in their tracks.  Logan Thomas should be the tight end and Leal should be the starting QB.  Leal is more accurate and would take advantage of the veteran wide receiver core.  I was hoping with a new Offensive Coordinator/Play Caller that VT wouldn't have the same constant run up the middle offense, but I guess Beamer will always stick with what gives him 10 wins a season, but unfortunately, it will never win VT a national championship. 

Since: Feb 28, 2011
Posted on: September 14, 2011 10:02 pm

Stats That Matter: Broken tackles Hokie style

He's definitely one of, if not the most, underrated backs in the Nation. Everyone thinks he's a speed demon but he can power through a tackle better than anyone. Hes already got over 300 yards in his first two games averaging like 7.7 ypc, and only 3 TDs, mainly due to the fact that our other RB has 4TDS. This guy is a workhorse and can run around, through you, and even jump over you. He needs more respect.

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