The Virginia Tech Hokies 2013 College Football Preview
2012 Record: 7-6; ACC 4-4
Introduction: Head coach Frank Beamer has been through almost everything in his 27 years at Virginia Tech; however, the need to rebound from a terrible 2012 season is something new for Beamer. The Hokies are coming off their worst season in two decades, finishing 7-6 in a year that they were expected to once again compete for an ACC title. Not much went well for Virginia Tech until they went on a three-game winning streak which helped them dodge their first bowl-less postseason since 1992.
Offense: If Virginia Tech is going to get back on track, it will be up to the offense to begin pulling a little more of the weight. The Hokies were terrible with the ball last year, ranking 81st nationally in total and scoring offense. The Virginia Tech offense averaged just 19 points over the final 6 games of the season. The offense needed a change so Beamer replaced underachieving coordinator Bryan Stinespring with Scot Loeffler. Loeffler’s main priority will be to revamp the throwing motion and the confidence of QB Logan Thomas, who was a major part of the problem last season. The Hokies will be more committed to the running game this season after only averaging 3.7 yards per carry last year, but which running back will carry the load is still in question. No running back rushed for more than 500 yards in 2012, and a starter hasn’t been named. RB J.C. Coleman and RB Trey Edmunds battled it out in spring practice, and will probably split carries to start the season. WR D.J. Coles is the most experienced receiver on the team, and coming off a season ending injury he will be highly motivated to lead the team in receptions this season. WR Demitri Knowles showed a lot of promise last year, catching 19 passes for 240 yards and 1 touchdown. Knowles has the ability to get deep and be a complete receiver, while WR Kevin Asante and WR Joshua Stanford are promising sophomores who will see plenty of playing time in 2013.
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Defense: Defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s defense is not the problem and this year’s unit will have 9 returning starters, 5 of whom earned at least honorable mention All-ACC last season. The defense has talent, speed, and experience at each level despite the offseason injury to CB Antone Exum, who is questionable for the start of the season. Senior DE James Gayle, who played better as the season wore on in 2013, will lead the defensive line this season. Junior DT Luther Maddy was arguably the best defender in 2012, as Maddy is not only great against the run but also has the ability to rush the quarterback from the inside. DT Derrick Hopkins will join Maddy to solidify the inside of talented defensive line. Senior LB Tariq Edwards and Senior LB Jack Tyler will lead the line backing unit this season. After suffering a leg injury in 2012, Edwards should return to full strength and will be one of the best linebackers in the ACC this season. Tyler was an All-ACC selection in 2012 and is one of the best tacklers in the country. CB Antone Exum has the potential to be one of the best defensive backs in the country if he can stay healthy, while CB Kyle Fuller will need to improve in coverage this season.
Special Teams: P A.J. Hughes solidified the starting punter position in 2012, averaging 41 yards per punt and placing 22 punts within the 20-yard line. K Cody Journell connected on 81% of his kicks including two game-winners in 2012. Knowles will most likely get the nod as the kick returner for the Hokies this season, while Fuller may take the starting punt returner spot.
Final Analysis: The offensive tackles will be a key factor in how well the offense performs this year, as rookie Jonathan McLaughlin and the inexperienced junior Laurence Gibson will have the task of protecting Thomas. Thomas has the ability to escape pressure and extend plays, but his accuracy really suffers when he’s forced to throw on the move. The Hokies will have to establish the run early and often to take pressure off Thomas. Virginia Tech will accept nothing less than a Coastal Division title and the potential key game will be in Miami on November 9th. The Hokies start off the year against Alabama, but do not have to play the best of the Atlantic Division, Clemson and Florida State this season.