Posted on: April 5, 2011 4:25 pm
Edited on: April 5, 2011 4:32 pm
Posted by Chip Patterson
College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Virginia Tech , who started spring practice on Wednesday.
With turnover at several key positions, will the Hokies be able to fill the holes and successfully defend their position atop the ACC?
After Virginia Tech started last season with losses to Boise State and James Madison in a five day span, the college football world was ready to file the 2010 Hokies into the "bust" category. But when the Hokies fell from the spotlight, they dug down and pulled off an 11-game win streak that finished with their fourth ACC Championship in seven years. As the Hokies lifted the trophy in Charlotte under a monsoon of oranges, head coach Frank Beamer spoke about the character and fight of a Hokie squad that refused to quit. At season's end, eleven players were named to either the first or second all-conference teams, and senior quarterback Tyrod Taylor was crowned the ACC Player of the Year.
But as the Hokies are preparing for 2011, things look a little different in Blacksburg. The Hokies bring back 12 starters from 2010, including five of those all-conference selections. But many of the names and faces that helped bring in three ACC Championships in the last four years are now gone, leaving those positions open for the next crop of headline-grabbing Hokies in 2011.
The most noticeable and arguably most important transition is at the quarterback position. With Taylor gone, the signal-calling responsibilities will fall on the shoulders of redshirt sophomore Logan Thomas. Don't try to hit Thomas with questions about "filling Tyrod Taylor's shoes," because the 6-foot-6 245 pound quarterback wears size-18. Thomas has spent the last two years in meetings with Taylor, watching what he watches becoming familiar with quarterbacks coach Mike O'Cain. Recruited by some as a tight end that could see the field right away, Thomas opted to bide his time waiting behind Taylor. His arm strength has been praised by anyone who has watched him throw, and his reported 4.6 40-yard dash makes him just as much of a threat running the ball as Taylor was before him. If Thomas can get in a rhythm with his receivers and improve his accuracy, he could prove to eventually be just as much of an offensive threat at Taylor was in 2010. He knows the history of quarterbacks under Frank Beamer, and Thomas appears to understand the importance of that leadership quality. On the first day of spring ball, he was asked if he had a mental checklist of things to improve.
“I was writing down some goals today for the spring," Thomas explained. "Just get command of the offense, get used to my players, more familiar with the playbook, get great accuracy and just get the team to feel more comfortable with me and how I play, just get the respect from the coaches and everyone around. It’s written down in the first page of my playbook.”
Virginia Tech will also suffer from the loss of Ryan Williams and Darren Evans. Both running backs had stellar freshman seasons, with Evans being named the Orange Bowl MVP at the end of the 2008 season and Williams earning ACC Rookie of the Year honors in 2009. Last season was the first time that both backs saw the field at the same time, which combined with David Wilson's emergence made for one of the most dangerous backfields in the conference. But in that system with three all-conference caliber running backs, the responsibility was evenly spread week in and week out. With Evans and Williams taking their talents to the next level, Wilson must carry a significantly larger load in the Hokies backfield.
The junior from Danville, VA was one of the Hokies' all-conference selections for his work as a return specialist. Wilson led the ACC last season averaging 26.55 yards per kickoff return, and ran back two for touchdowns. Even sharing snaps at running back, Wilson displayed his "home-run" potential. Wilson broke at least one run of 15 yards or more in eight different appearances last season, averaged 15.6 yards per reception as a dangerous threat in the passing game.
If Wilson can maintain that level of production consistently, he will easily become one of the most important pieces to the Hokies' success. The big question for the spring will be how the rest of the depth chart shapes out behind him. Unfortunately for the Hokies, Josh Oglesby (converted from fullback) and Tony Gregory are the only other scholarship players at the position. Wilson not only will have the opportunity to shine in the running attack, it will be expected.
Virginia Tech also is dealing with depth issues on the defensive line. Starters Steven Friday and John Graves have graduated, and Chris Drager has been moved to tight end. Bud Foster's best defenses have been anchored by a solid defensive line that seems to cue turnovers by winning the battle at the line of scrimmage. Kwamaine Battle will return to the field after tearing his ACL in the second game of the season, as will his replacement Antoine Hopkins. But the Hokies will be putting a lot of faith in redshirt freshmen James Gayle and J.R. Collins to contribute immediately.
But even amidst the depth and development questions, you can't help but feel like the Hokies are still going to contend for the ACC Coastal Division title. Frank Beamer has led the Hokies to double-digit wins in 10 of the last 12 seasons. This is far from the first time he has entered spring practice with question marks on the depth chart, and it will certainly not be his last. Beamer knows what it will take to make a return visit to the ACC Championship Game, and being in contention is absolutely a realistic expectation for Virginia Tech fans.
A quick glance at the schedule for 2011 will show a slate that should work perfectly for a team breaking in a new starting quarterback. Appalachian State, East Carolina, Arkansas State, and Marshall will be the first opponents for the Hokies before hosting Clemson and Miami in back-to-back weeks. Their toughest road opponents will be Georgia Tech and Virginia, but those matchups don't come until the last month of the season. There may not be a lot of national hype around this year's bunch from Blacksburg, but it is not unreasonable to think that they could be back in Charlotte for a rematch with Florida State in the ACC Championship game in December.
If that happens, you can bet Logan Thomas' size-18's will be ready to do the best Tyrod Taylor impression you've ever seen.
Click here for more Spring Practice Primers
Posted on: March 29, 2011 12:38 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The annual arrival of spring practice means a lot of things in college football, and one of them is the reshuffling of rosters as the first offseason departures become public knowledge. Just ask Virginia Tech, which yesterday confirmed the transfers out of three players, including veteran starting linebacker Lyndell Gibson.
Gibson had amassed 119 tackles over the course of two seasons and 18 starts, but it's not hard to see why he's no longer a part of the Hokie program:
The announcement comes after Gibson's Feb. 5 arrest for allegedly driving while intoxicated.
Frank Beamer declined to comment on Gibson's situation, but he probably didn't need to. He did confirm that redshirt sophomore Tariq Edwards is currently the front-runner for the starting position vacated by Gibson's departure.
Beamer also confirmed that wide receiver Austin Fuller and defensive back Jacob Sykes will be transferring out of Blacksburg at the end of the semester. Neither was expected to be a major contributor this fall.
That's not to say that between the three of them, the losses haven't done some level of damage to to Tech's depth chart. But with Bud Foster still in charge of the defense and plenty of talented up-and-comers like Adams still on hand, that damage seems highly, highly likely to be minimal.
Posted on: March 24, 2011 5:28 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
There are levels to the different kinds of trouble college football players get into with the law. Some, like drug possession or underage drinking, can be attributed to youth. Then there are more serious crimes. Violent crimes. There are no assault charges or bank robberies committed by players that I would consider to be forgivable, but there are some I would consider worse than others.
Cases like the one involving Virginia Tech wide receiver Xavier Boyce. Boyce, along with his girlfriend Olivia Hutchins, were arrested on Wednesday on child abuse charges.
A Virginia Tech football player was arrested Wednesday and charged in connection with injuries to his infant child.
Xavier Boyce and his girlfriend Olivia Hutchins, both 20 and of Blacksburg, were arrested on charges related to cruelty and injuries to the girl, Blacksburg police said today.
Police believe the child was injured Jan. 31 at the couple's home in the 1200 block of University City Boulevard, police said. They did not say in what way the child was hurt.
Boyce and Hutchins were released on $5,000 unsecured bonds.Obviously, there aren't a lot of details in this case that have been released, but I'm pretty sure that whatever injuries Boyce and Hutchins caused this little girl, it was a lot worse than a spanking. Virginia Tech is yet to release a statement on the arrest, but I won't sit here and pretend that I'm not hoping Boyce possibly being dismissed from the team is the very least of the punishments coming his way.
Posted on: March 14, 2011 2:36 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2011 2:41 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, who is also the father of Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, recently sat down for an interview with the school's MSNsportsNET.com, and while the majority of the back and forth was the type of thing you'd expect between a school and its own athletic director, there were some remarks that Luck made that could shine a light on the future of the Big East.
Luck was asked about what adding a ninth member in TCU, and probably a tenth member, could mean for football scheduling within the conference. Turns out that the Big East may have some changes in store that we've never seen before. The emphasis added to the Luck's quotes are mine.
Last fall the Big East Conference added a ninth football member in TCU and the possibility remains high that a 10th team could be added in the near future. Naturally that is something you must keep a close eye on because of its direct impact on football scheduling. What are some of the challenges and/or opportunities further Big East expansion pose to your long-term planning for the athletic department?
OL: Number one, football is crucial and is responsible for the bulk of our revenue. Number two, every team has a scheduling philosophy. For us, we want to have a high profile, attractive AQ non-conference opponent on our schedule. We’ve got LSU this year and we had Auburn in the past. Going forward, we have Michigan State and Florida State. In addition, we have extended our series with Maryland, which is very important for us. The proximity and the importance of the Baltimore/Washington D.C. recruiting area is crucial for us. Then we have historically played a I-AA team like Coastal Carolina or Norfolk State. We also have a tradition of playing a MAC school and of course over the past decade or so the Marshall series has been a fixture on our schedule. But with the addition of TCU and the expectation of a 10th member very soon, we have no option but to sit tight and wait and see what happens with our conference. It is highly likely that we will have nine conference games in the near future and if that is the case we will certainly have to review our non-conference scheduling priorities. Also, one development that we have noticed is that there are more and more opportunities to play the so-called “one-off” games. We will be playing BYU at FedEx Field, for example, and these matchups are becoming more common.
The real question is if the conference ends up going to 12 and having a North and South Division or an East and West Division. I could see the day when we play 10 conference games - or even 11 conference games. There is a good bit in flux right now and we need to keep our powder dry until some important decisions are made regarding the future composition of the Big East.Now, it's important to point out that Luck doesn't say that the Big East expanding to 12 teams is the current plan, nor is playing ten or eleven conference games. Still, the fact that he mentions the possibilities does lead you to believe that the idea may have come up in discussions, which would certainly be a new development in college football. It could also be one that works well for the Big East.
After all, when it comes to other BCS conferences, one of the complaints is how members of BCS conferences feed on FCS "cupcakes" at the beginning of the year. The month of September is filled with such sacrifices to the BCS gods. Yes, once in a while you have Jacksonville State knock off Ole Miss, or James Madison take down Virginia Tech, but the majority of the time we get final scores like 55-3.
If the Big East were to expand to 12 teams, and play an 11-game schedule, that would lead to only one non-conference game being played by each member of the conference. Sure, some teams may use that as an opportunity to play a cupcake, but in West Virginia's case, that game could be against Maryland. Other schools may use the "free" game to play a rival as well.
Which would mean that just about every single game in the Big East would mean something, either in the rivalry sense, or a BCS berth sense. Something that, while it may not make the Big East the best football conference in the country, could wind up making it one of the most entertaining.
Will it happen? That I doubt. The fact is that teams like those cupcake games to help pick up easy victories and get closer to bowl eligibility. Picking up six wins a year would likely be a lot tougher to do playing 11 games within your own conference. So I think that we should expect to see a nine-game conference schedule in the Big East in 2012, and possibly even 12 teams five years from now, but the expansion will stop there.
Still, it is an interesting idea from the fan/viewer standpoint.
Hat tip: @Mengus22
Photo courtesy of MSNsportsNET.com
Posted on: March 4, 2011 9:23 am
Edited on: March 4, 2011 9:39 am
Posted by Chip Patterson
In college football, more than any other sport, the stadiums can be just as memorable as the games played within them. So as CBS Sports takes a look at the best stadiums that college football has to offer, the bloggers here at Eye On College Football share their three favorite stadiums in the country.
1. Lane Stadium (Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, capacity 66,233) Virginia Tech's Lane Stadium/Worsham Field may lack some of the size that the other stadiums on Dodd's rankings, but that does not make them any less of a fearful place to play. In fact Lane Stadium, particularly at night, is one of the toughest places to play in the ACC.
For every home game, the goal is to set the tone from the opening kick. Virginia Tech has already beat you to the punch when you play in Lane Stadium, with their now well-known Enter Sandman entrance. Having seen the Sandman in person, I can attest to the phenomenon that unites the Hokie fans on Saturdays. Every Virignia Tech fan can be found jumping up and down and screaming when those opening notes ring through the stadium. No matter the age or gender, if you bleed maroon and orange you go absolutely nuts when you hear this song. Very cool, and one of the best intimidation factors in college football.
A particularly good intro from a rainy night game a few years back via YouTube
2. Memorial Stadium (Clemson, Clemson, SC, capacity 80, 301) Showing up at number 13 on Dodd's list, Death Valley falls in a close second behind Lane for me, but for very similar reasons. The Tigers' football tradition often goes overlooked by the national audience, but it runs just as deep as most of the other "football giants" of the South. When Memorial Stadium is filled with 80,000 rabit Tigers fans, opponents have said it feels like everyone is right on top of you. It is the second largest in the ACC, and one of the only stadiums in the conference to have that "SEC football" feel.
When the Clemson football team prepares take the field, they hop on buses and are escorted to the site of "The Most Exciting 25 seconds in College Football." The Clemson will rub Howard's Rock, as they have done since 1967, and then prepare to take the field by running down The Hill, located on the East side of the stadium. It is unique to any other entrance in the south, and holds a special place in the hearts of Tiger fans everywhere.
Again, via YouTube
3. Neyland Stadium (Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, capactiy 102,455) Finally, I must include the massive Neyland Stadium from the University of Tennessee. Dodd placed Neyland at 14, but I think some of the obscurity of recent years (cough, Kiffin, cough) have made us forget how great Neyland can be at times. As Derek Dooley continues to try and build a new era in Knoxville, I suspect we will recognize more and more the advantage that the Volunteers have at home.
Aside from the sheer size of the eighth largest non-racing stadium on Planet Earth, Neyland also carries a deep historical relevance to Tennessee football. While the size, shape, and many features of the structure have changed, Neyland still stands in the same place it was first opened in March 1921. Also, unlike many other 100k+ stadiums, Neyland is located right in the middle of campus. Easy access for students and alum to turn the game into an entire college football experience.
Posted on: March 1, 2011 12:38 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2011 4:08 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
College Football has no offseason. Every coach knows that the preparation for September begins now, in Spring Practice . So we here at the Eye on College Football will get you ready as teams open spring ball with our Spring Practice Primers . Today, we look at Boise State , who opens spring camp next Monday, March 7.
Spring Practice Question: Who'll become the Broncos' new playmakers on the edge?
The conventional wisdom was that 2010 was Boise State's now-or-never moment where the national championship was concerned, their make-or-break campaign as a legitimate BCS title contender. The Broncos lost just four seniors from their undefeated 2009 squad, had the prerequisite preseason poll positioning, got the legitimizing road win at Virginia Tech ... this was supposed to be their one big chance, and Kyle Brotzman blew it all in Reno.
So it's almost shocking to look over the Broncos' depth chart and realize how much talent they still have at their disposal. There's Kellen Moore, of course, but there's also 1,260-yard rusher Doug Martin, first-team All-WAC offensive linemen Thomas Byrd and Nate Potter, their team leaders in sacks (end Shea McClellin) and tackles-for-loss (opposite end Tyrone Crawford), first-team All-WAC safety George Iloka ... all in all, the Broncos have a healthy seven starters returning on both sides of the ball, many of them among the nation's best at their positions. And, most important of all, Chris Petersen is still in Boise, too. 2010 was a great opportunity, no doubt, but it's far from time to start writing the Broncos' obituary as a nationally-relevant college football team.
But that doesn't mean there aren't holes to fill, and as it turns out, nearly all of them are on the edges of the field. Start on offense, where both of the Broncos' bookend deep threats at wide receiver -- Austin Pettis and Titus Young -- are moving on to the NFL. Their primary replacement will likely be senior Tyler Shoemaker, a capable veteran who averaged an impressive 18 yards per-reception in 2010. But behind him, pickings are slim; the only other wideout with more than 8 receptions last season was redshirt freshman Geraldo Hiwat, a converted track star originally from the Netherlands who finished with 11. Hiwat has prototypical size (6'4") and speed, but is still learning the game. If he and the rest of the non-Shoemaker receiving corps can't keep defenses from blanketing Shoemaker, Boise's typically wide-open attack could find the field unusually compressed.
On defense, the Broncos must find replacements for arguably their two best defenders in end Ryan Winterswyk and linebacker/safety hybrid Winston Venable. Though Winterswyk rarely made a large impact on the stat sheet (with just 1.5 sacks in 2010), he did a terrific job of holding the edge against opposing running games--a big reason the Broncos finished the season ranked seventh in the nation in rush defense. Venable was a first-team All-WAC player who made plays all over the field, including in the backfield, where he totaled 9.5 tackles-for-loss and 5.5 sacks. No other player outside of the defensive line came close to those numbers.
So Boise's absorbed big losses both in terms of their ability to hold up against the run on the outside and to attack the backfield from there. There's players who can take up much of that slack -- McClellin, Iloka, Crawford, and memorable LeGarrette Blount- goader Byron Hout chief among them -- but at Boise, top-shelf athletes who can dominate on the edges just by taking the field are hard to come by. (It won't help that corner Brandyn Thompson and All-WAC safety Jeron Johnson have also moved on). The first question Petersen will have to answer this spring is who on defense will prevent the Broncos from giving their opponents a leg up on the outside ... and what receivers might give them that same leg up on the other side of the ball.
Tags: Austin Pettus, Boise State, Brandyn Thompson, Byron Hout, Chris Petersen, Doug Martin, George Iloka, Geraldo Hiwat, Jeron Johnson, Kellen Moore, Kyle Brotzman, LeGarrette Blount, Mountain West, Nate Potter, NL, Ryan Winterswyk, Shea McClellin, Spring Practice Primer, Spring Previews, Thomas Byrd, Titus Young, Tyler Shoemaker, Tyrone Crawford, Virginia Tech, WAC, Winston Venable
Posted on: February 28, 2011 12:59 pm
Posted by Jerry Hinnen
Every Monday, our weekly Recruiting Review recaps the past week's top headlines from our sister blog, Bryan Fischer's Eye on Recruiting . Enjoy:
Tags: ACC, ACC recruiting, Akeem Ayers, Alabama, Big 12, Big 12 recruiting, Boston College, Casey Cochran, Deontay McManus, Justin Taylor, Kevin Ayers, Mike Matthews, oversigning, Pac-12, Pac-12 recruiting, Recruiting Review, SEC, SEC recruiting, South Carolina, T.J. Millweard, Texas, Texas A&M, Thomas Johnson, UCLA, Virginia Tech
Posted on: February 25, 2011 1:16 pm
Posted by Tom Fornelli
Lyndell Gibson started every game at linebacker for Virginia Tech last season before breaking his shoulder in the ACC Championship Game in December. That injury forced Gibson to miss the Hokies' Orange Bowl loss to Stanford, and the subsequent surgery on his shoulder left his status in doubt for practice this spring. All of which left Gibson with a lot of free time lately, and we all know what happens to college football players when you give them too much free time.
Gibson was hit with a DWI earlier this month, reports The Virginian-Pilot.
Virginia Tech linebacker Lyndell Gibson, a former Salem High standout, is facing a DWI charge stemming from an incident this month in Montgomery County.
The redshirt sophomore was arrested and charged on Feb. 5 with what is deemed a Class 1 misdemeanor, according to court documents.
He is due in court April 27. No other details of his arrest were available Thursday evening.Virginia Tech is yet to issue a statement on Gibson's arrest, or announce any punishment.
Gibson has played in 25 games for the Hokies in his career, starting 18 of them. In that time he's picked up 119 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble.