Filling In The Blanks
Preseason Top 10
The top 10 preseason college football poll continues as the number eight team in the nation is revealed.
The number eight team comes from the ACC and is a former rival of WVU. Virginia Tech is my choice for this spot after finishing 2006 with a 10-2 regular season slate and an overall record of 10-3, after losing 31-24 to Georgia in the Chick-fil-A Bowl game.
Tech has fielded strong defenses since defensive coordinator Bud Foster took control. Last year was no different with the Hokies leading the nation in two important defensive categories. They led in scoring defense and in total defense, limiting opponents to a paltry 11 points per game and only 219.5 yards of total offense.
The 2007 edition should also be strong with eight starters returning, led by inside linebackers Vince Hall, who led the team with 126 tackles last year, and Xavier Adibi, a fast, athletic linebacker who recorded 82 tackles and three sacks. The duo form one of the best tandems in the ACC, if not the entire nation and should anchor an experienced and fast defense.
Backing up Hall and Adibi are cornerbacks Brandon Flowers and Macho Harris. The two are both preseason All-conference ACC picks by several publications and are among the best pair of corners in the entire nation. Though Virginia Tech lost safeties Aaron Rouse and Brenden Hill to graduation, the secondary remains a strength of the Hokie defense.
The unheralded defensive line limited the opposition to a meager 91 yards per game on the ground in 2006. They were untested for the most part when the season began a year ago, but are now a proven commodity, with only defensive end Noland Burchette lost to graduation. If there is a defensive concern, it is with the pass rush. Tech managed only 30 sacks last season and will need to get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks to claim the league title and more.
Offensively, Virginia Tech ranked 99th in the nation last year. Not a statistic they are particularly proud of and one they certainly must improve on in order to better their 2006 record. Like the defense, eight starters return, which should certainly make the offense more productive.
Last year they were breaking in a new quarterback, Sean Glennon. Glennon threw for 2,191 yards and 11 touchdowns, but showed his inexperience by also throwing 11 interceptions. Glennon now has 13 starts under his belt and there is no substitute for experience. Glennon had a good spring by all accounts, but still must prove that he can get the job done. Though he will likely start the season under center, sophomore Ike Whitaker will be given a chance if Glennon falters. Though Whitaker lacks the experience, he is more athletic and gives the Hokies an added threat under center. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, but whomever emerges as the starting quarterback must provide solid leadership and good decision making skills for Virginia Tech to succeed.
There is no question at running back. Brandon Ore, a junior, rushed for 1,137 yards and 16 touchdowns on 241 carries during his sophomore campaign. He is a reliable, punishing back that will likely be the cornerstone of the Hokie offense. It is no secret that head coach Frank Beamer wants to run the ball and Ore will be called upon to carry the load.
If the running game stalls, Tech has two fast, talented and experienced wide receivers in seniors Eddie Royal and Josh Morgan that can stretch opposing defenses. Royal led the team in receiving yards last year, snaring 31 passes for 497 yards and three touchdowns, while Morgan was second on the team in receptions with 33 and also second in receiving yards with 448 yards. He also led the team in touchdown receptions with four.
Of course it all starts up front and Tech returns an experienced and talented offensive line. With three starters and two other linemen with starting experience returning to provide protection for Glennon and open holes for Ore, the offense should be much improved.
Virginia Tech is noted for special teams play. They have always been among the nation's best in special teams since Beamer became head coach. Beamer knows the importance of special teams play and that is why he coaches the unit. Tech has won many games in the past decade with blocked kicks, timely field goals and kick returns. Expect the Hokies to field another solid special teams unit.
Some pollsters may have Tech rated higher in the preseason and they might be right. After all they are returning 16 starters and play three of their toughest opponents Miami, Florida State and Boston College in Blacksburg. However, they have a tough road test on September 8, when they travel to Baton Rouge to take on LSU. Should they upset the Tigers, a national title run is not out of the question.