What’s Wrong With the Hokies’ Offense?

by bmann4 on October 1, 2012 · 15 comments

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dyrellr Whats Wrong With the Hokies Offense? Virginia Tech’s loss to Cincinnati on Saturday dropped the Hokies to 3-2 on the season. The loss dropped the Hokies to 0-2 vs. Big East teams, their former conference. Suffice to say, no one confuses the Big East with the SEC.

So, what is wrong with the Hokies?

We could go in many directions here. There were several issues coming into the season that were a concern for the Hokies. The offense lost eight starters, including four along the offensive line.

Granted, replacing eight starters on one side of the ball is tough. But, given the talent that Virginia Tech recruits on an annual basis should help alleviate some of those struggles, especially against inferior competition.

In the Hokies five games this season, they have struggled at some point in each of those games. We are talking about opponents such as Austin Peay and Bowling Green. While the Hokies won those games convincingly, they struggled to get the offense going for much of the first quarter in each of those contests.

And that season opening win over Georgia Tech doesn’t look so good now, does it?

Quarterback Logan Thomas was expected to help alleviate some of the concerns on offense this year. At 6-foot-6 and 260-pounds, Thomas possesses a rare combination of size, speed, arm strength and athletic ability. However, Thomas has struggled with accuracy all season long.

While many of the offensive struggles can be traced to Thomas, they aren’t entirely his fault.

The running game, featuring two freshmen, Michael Holmes and J.C. Coleman, predictably got off to a slow start but they are getting better on a weekly basis.

The aforementioned offensive line has had its fair share of struggles through the first month of the season. Both tackles, Vinston Painter and Nick Becton, have been solid thus far. It is the interior of the line that has given the Hokies the most problems.

Junior center Andrew Miller was expected to anchor the offensive line but for some unknown reason, the coaching staff has alternated Miller with sophomore Caleb Farris often over the past few weeks.

The media has asked why these players are rotating and head coach Frank Beamer continues to say it isn’t an injury but to keep both players fresh. Really, Frank?

It is understandable to want to limit an offensive lineman’s snaps in a blowout. You can give younger players precious time they wouldn’t otherwise get when the schedule toughens.

How many good teams alternate offensive linemen? You pick the best group and you play them. Junior David Wang is the Hokies’ starting left guard but he has been hobbled with an ankle injury over the past two games. Senior Michael Via, who has started at right guard, has alternated with sophomore Matt Arkema in Wang’s place.

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Brent Benedict, the sophomore transfer from Georgia, was expected to be the starter at right guard. Instead, he has alternated evenly with Via over the first five games.

It is easy to point the finger at the offensive line, but that isn’t completely fair. Offensive line coach Curt Newsome and much-maligned offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring need to settle on who they believe their five best are. Offensive line play is based on continuity and cohesion.

That brings us to coaching. If we are led to believe every year that Virginia Tech’s recruiting classes are bringing in good offensive linemen then why is it a recurring issue? That leads me to believe that Newsome is the issue. The Hokies haven’t had a dominant offensive line in several years.

The Hokies rise to success was because of strong offensive line play. Many of their best offensive linemen were either walk-ons or lightly-recruited. Now they are getting better talent at the position and continue to struggle? Yes, that is indeed a major problem.

Play calling continues to be an issue for the Hokies as it has been for what seems like a decade now. One play in particular from Saturday’s game sticks out to me.

It was a third-and-long, Cincinnati sent pressure and as Logan Thomas dropped back to pass he threw to Coleman in the flat. It was a designed screen pass. It went for good yardage, just short of a first down.

My question is this; why not call this on first down? The Hokies have had a number of talented backs over the years and they have always seemed averse to the screen pass. A good screen game is sometimes the perfect substitute for a struggling running game.

And Coleman is the perfect back to utilize in the screen game. We see the Hokies using the bubble-screen countless times throughout the game. So why not call plays designed for Coleman to get ball and follow his blocks downfield?

Coleman has blazing speed but what is most impressive about him is his vision and patience for a player so young. Getting him involved early could open up the struggling offense.

Can the Hokies fix their issues this season? That remains to be seen and past history indicates changes in the coaching staff will not happen. Those types of things are for the offseason anyway.

The Hokies face North Carolina this week. The Tar Heels are 3-2 on the season and score a lot of points. The Hokies recent struggles on defense mean the offense will need to get off to a better start than in recent weeks.

There is no doubt the Hokies have the talent on offense to score more points. Saturday would be a good start as the Hokies face only ACC opponents for the rest of the season. 

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{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian October 1, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Nice write up man. I’m with you on the line, I think the main issue that is holding our offense back is Newsome. I’m not entirely sure if it’s that his philosophy doesn’t jive with the gameplan, if we’re doing too much rotating, or if he just flat out can’t develop linemen, but we have struggled to get push up front and open holes for our backs. That is going to bog down any offense…unless you’re Oregon or West Virginia and your running game is nothing but draws and jet sweeps.

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bmann4 October 1, 2012 at 8:04 pm

Brian,

Thanks for reading and your kind comments.

Beamer’s loyalty to his coaches was once an admirable trait. But now, he continues to alienate a frustrated fan-base by holding onto underperforming coaches like Newsome and Stinespring.

I am sick of watching the linemen rotate. Why does this happen? And his answers are very frustrating. I realize he doesn’t truly owe anyone a true answer but in not giving one he looks at times like a clueless figurehead.

Excellent points on draws and jet sweeps, Brian.

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LJ October 1, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Hey. I am sure Michael Holmes is a great guy and deserves credit for being a scholarship athlete at VT. However I read a story over the weekend that said Holmes never watched football growing up and still does not watch college football…he stated and I quote “I have always been a cartoon guy”. When the coaching staff traveled to Harrisonburg to offer Holmes a scholarship they filed into the Holmes household and Michael asked which one of you is Frank Beamer?? Not necessarily a student of the game and it shows!

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bmann4 October 1, 2012 at 10:31 pm

LJ,

Thanks for reading and commenting. I did not know that about Holmes. In his defense, there are several athletes that weren’t fans of the sport they play but they are successful. I agree with you, though. If a player doesn’t love his sport, how can he have the passion to succeed? I guess every athlete should be judged on an individual basis.

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Brian October 1, 2012 at 11:27 pm

Look, I enjoy some Bugs Bunny, South Park, Family Guy, what have you as much as anyone and I’m 31 years old, but how do you put up all world rushing numbers in High School, have coaches coming to your house to recruit and offer you scholarships, and not know which coach is the head man at the top school in Virginia??? Seriously son, pick up a newspaper, flip it on ESPN, go on the internet, whatever you have access to and do a little research of your own.

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justinc October 2, 2012 at 8:19 am

I wouldn’t say he’s not a student of the game just because he didn’t follow college football. Really, Holmes hasn’t been the problem this year. He has our longest run of the season to his credit and when he’s had lanes he’s been able to pick up good yardage. Our running game is stalling because of an inconsistent push by the offensive line and lackluster exterior blocking. But, it has slowly improved over the past two games so hopefully we’ll kick it into gear soon.

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bmann4 October 3, 2012 at 10:18 pm

Agreed, Justin. He has progressed nicely, Holmes that is.

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LJ October 1, 2012 at 8:36 pm

Also I want to give a shout out to Matt Arkema. If you get a chance to watch film of him the last two games, he has done a good job on the left side. Against BG he had two great blocks and Saturday he had several good running blocks to clear a hole for Holmes rushes in the 4th quarter. Arkema has been one of the off the radar bright spots on the OL.

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bmann4 October 1, 2012 at 10:33 pm

LJ,

I am definitely going to go back in watch. You make a great point and one which I was referencing in my post. If you have a lineman playing well, then why rotate him? The only way to develop anything is to let the guys play.

Thanks for pointing that out.

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hokiegrad October 2, 2012 at 11:21 pm

Arkema has had some terrible gaffes as well. I don’t know that I’d call him a bright spot on the OL at this point… Of course, I hope he gets there. We certainly need guys like him to step up.

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LJ October 3, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Disagree, the graffes in pass blocking on the left side have come at the expence of Becton. He cannot move his feet fast enough to block smaller DE’s. Watch the BG game again…Arkema stands out with two of the best trap blocks of the year for us. Holmes two 4th quarter positive runs both went right over Arkema as he had his block 5 yards down field!

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Jack October 2, 2012 at 11:08 am

Couldn’t agree more with what you said about Coleman! I want us to utilize him in a similar way WVU uses Tavon Austin. He’s one of the few home run threats we have this year and our play calling isn’t allowing him to showcase his speed/vision like you said. We all just need to keep sticking with the Hokies and hopefully things will turn around! Great write up by the way

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bmann4 October 3, 2012 at 10:22 pm

Jack,

Thanks for reading and replying.

Good point on Coleman. Anyone struggling on offense should pay attention to WVU. They have some truly unique concepts and do a great job of exploiting matchups.

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hokiegrad October 2, 2012 at 11:23 pm

I assumed that Miller wasn’t getting it done the way they wanted, so they were putting in Farris some to push him.

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bmann4 October 3, 2012 at 10:21 pm

hokiegrad, thanks for reading and replying.

Miller underperforming is a concern for me. I truly believed he would stabilize this line, but that hasn’t turned out to be the case. Beamer definitely doesn’t owe the media an explanation on why, but if he wants consistency with this unit he needs to pick five and stick with them. We are in the meat of the schedule now.

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