Sparking Virginia Tech's Rush Attack
By Jason Bailey
There's really no way to put this nicely, and I don't believe in folding to the yoke of political correctness, so I'll just put my cards on the table. The Virginia Tech Hokies rushing attack has been experiencing chronic lethargy. This debilitated status has frustrated the tenacious fan base and likely set the patience odometer of the Hokies trustees and alumni on edge.
Is there a medic in the house to apply a defibrillator? Truth be told, the Hokies' ground attack may require multiple shocks.
When Virginia Tech's athletics department completed an extensive and abnormal offensive coaching overhaul during the summer of 2013, "new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler and Co. made it clear that their presiding objective was to get the Hokies back to being a tough, hard-nosed running team that they've been in the past," according to the Roanoke Times.
The Hokies' rushing statistics are in after the first season in Blacksburg for three assistants. Tech's ground game still is running on empty. Uh, give 'em a mulligan, or two.
According to the Roanoke Times, "Tech's ground game struggled as much as much as it has in Frank Beamer's 27 years as the Hokies head coach, failing to get going in a traditional manner early and then leaning on the crutch of quarterback Logan Thomas as the principal ball carrier as the last few seasons progress."
In 2012, Virginia Tech averaged 145.8 rushing yards per game, 3.7 yards per carry and produced 18 rushing touchdowns. Logan Thomas ran for 524 yards.
Per Heather Dinich of ESPN after the 2012 season, "Virginia Tech, usually one of the most consistent rushing teams in the ACC, ranked No. 79 in the country in rushing offense at 145.85 ypg. That's the worst finish in their ground game since the Hokies ranked No. 82 in the country in 2007."
The 2013 campaign didn't provide much of an upgrade as Gobbler Country cites the Hokies, "ran for only 119.8 yards per game, the second lowest total during Frank Beamer's tenure. Only the 2006 squad suffered fewer numbers when they rushed for 113.4 ypg."
According to Hampton Roads, "Beamer rattled off from memory several short-yardage failures against Pittsburgh, Clemson and Virginia that proved costly and embarrassing."
Since the departure of standouts like Darren Evans, Ryan Williams and David Wilson, the Hokies have routinely recruited promising thoroughbreds such as J.C. Coleman, Michael Holmes, Trey Edmunds and Tony Gregory, but all have been unable to produce satisfactory results. That left the gravity of the rushing load to Thomas.
Loeffler has maintained his frustration with Tech's running game drought, maintaining that he wants to avoid using his signal caller as a battering ram.
But to staple the blame of Virgina Tech's immobilized ground attack on a single aspect would be ill-advised. It's a team sport comprised of 11 offensive players dispatched onto the field to strategically maneuver the football and score.
Per Roanoke Times, "Running the football doesn't fall squarely on the shoulders of one group. The offensive line has to block. Receivers too. And a passing game needs to be enough of a threat to keep defenses honest."
Said Beamer: "When people play third-and-10 and can bring people or drop people off, you're predictable in what you're going to be able to do."
Prudent words coming from a legendary coach, although Beamer's strategic protocols have been habitually predictable in the twilight of his career.
To succeed, Virginia Tech's rushing attack should be comprised of exceptional coaching, responsible recruiting and sound execution, in that order. It's true the Hokies backfield hasn't exactly glowed with talent in recent seasons. However, the 2014 recruiting class changed everything.
The Hokies landed Marshawn Williams, a 5-foot-11, 215-pound back who enrolled early. Shai McKenzie (6-foot, 212 pounds) is expected to be ready by the start of the season despite a torn ACL, and D.J. Reid, who spent last fall at Fork Union Military Academy, could get a look at running back as well.
That's not to mention last year's leading rusher in Edmunds, who ran for 10 touchdowns and a respectable 4.1 yards per carry as a freshman in 2013.
With Loeffler entering his second season as the Hokies' offensive coordinator, the continuity of seasoned receivers coach Aaron Moorehead and veteran coach Stacy Searls available to school the fresh harvest of promising offensive linemen, restoring Virginia Tech's rush attack should be on its way to improving.