FBS Mission Statement:

We at FBS believe that offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring bears the largest share of the blame for years of sub-par output from some of the most talented players ever to set foot on Worsham Field. We believe the main objective of the VT football program - a national championship - will escape us as long as Stinespring is making the calls. We therefore advocate the improvement of our football program through the replacement of our offensive coordinator.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Marshall Review - The Preseason Comes to a Close

In summary...

1.) Inside running is an issue. This is not entirely because this offensive line is poor at run blocking. In fact, there were openings for DW to run through between the tackles, yet for some reason he was running INTO his blockers several times throughout the game. It was a bit of an off day for Wilson, looking somewhat like he did his freshman year when it was obvious that running fast was more important to him than running smart. 

And defenses continue to stack the box against the run. There are consistently eight defenders engaging the O line as soon as they see LT extend for a handoff. Marshall consistently had all three linebackers playing to read on the run. It doesn't matter how good your five O linemen are, they simply will not block well against the defense's entire front seven. And if you bring in a couple of tight ends for extra blocking help then you've clogged up the line of scrimmage so badly the back can't find a crease to hit.

I'm starting to think the only way to solve the inside running problems is to make opposing defenses respect the passing threat. And with the way LT has looked passing the last two games, if defenses refuse to respect it then VT is going to win a lot of games this season.

2.) Special teams are a bigger issue. Danny Coale as punter does not seem to be the answer, though Danny wins the Nick Sorensen Award for doing whatever it takes to help the team. I'm not asking for 50 yards a punt from Demler, but we need at least 40 with good hang time on a consistent basis. Branthover is the last potential ace in the hole. I don't like that his first career punt might come in our ACC opener. 

And Journell... woof. What to make of this? Cody was rated the #3 kicker in the nation coming out of high school, where he booted a 54 yarder his senior year. He even booted a 50 yarder on Worsham Field when the coaches were taking a look at him during his recruiting. This kid looked like pure gold. But apparently in Virginia high school football they kick field goals off a kicking tee? The story is Cody's having a tough time adjusting to kicking off the ground instead. I really hope he gets the kinks worked out, because I think he could be a weapon if he adjusts.

3.) There is a huge dropoff between our starting DBs and the second string. On Marshall's lone touchdown drive Dietrick Bonner was out of position the entire series and wound up surrendering the score. It's one thing to get beat. It's another to apparently not understand your coverage assignment. Multiple times. On the same drive. Pray for no injuries here.

4.) LT was above 60% on his passes for the second week in a row. His passing yardage was not breathtaking (229 yards), but no small part of that was Mike O'Cain calling short passes because that's what LT needs the most work on. And for the first time this season LT looked to be putting some touch on his shorter throws. Also helping him out were the receivers, who had no egregious drops in this game and who finally look to be getting in sync with their QB.

Another positive I noticed from LT in this game was that the receiver staredown that he has displayed thus far was notably absent. He was looking off receivers and scanning the field before most throws, which also means he's probably getting the hang of his check downs. This kid's pocket presence is unlike anything we've seen in Blacksburg since the Druck, maybe all the way back to Don Strock.

The one blemish on LT's day? The long INT in the 4th. And here I gotta tweak MOC a little. Or, well, maybe not. Because I don't think it was necessarily a bad call, but it was most definitely a bad design. The play started out beautifully, with LT showing a pump fake for the first time all season. LT held on to the ball a bit longer after the pump fake that I would like, which diminished its effectiveness, and then underthrew the ball. In general I don't harp on underthrows. MOC actually teaches his QBs to underthrow rather than overthrow because it gives our receivers an opportunity to adjust to the ball and make a catch. That shows trust in our receivers and really isn't a bad idea if you have a receiving corps you can lean on. But this particular play, with the pump fake, should have gone for the home run. Let the receiver run under it and catch it in stride or let it fall incomplete and come back to the huddle for the next play. And I'm the biggest Danny Coale fan in the world, but DC was the wrong target for that throw. When I first watched the play I thought Coale was running a go route. After reviewing the film I realized it was actually a stop and go, which relies on a receiver's speed to put distance between himself and his coverage. Danny Coale is many things, but he is not a burner. Throw that pass to Marcus Davis. Hell, I don't even know what DJ Coles 40 time is, but I would have felt more comfortable trying that with him. Dyrell Roberts would actually be my first choice, but considering he's got about the same luck as the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, what can you do?

In summary, what I wanted to see against Marshall was putting it all together. We came |---this---| close to doing that. There were some notable problems on inside running. But it was not the total disaster some are making it out to be. Both DW and JO had some long runs between the tackles. The problem was doing it consistently. LT's passing game has come miles since the Appy State game, as have the receivers. The defense is Lunch Pail. But heading into ACC play the special teams are still short bus special.

But I'm still more satisfied with our opening four games than I have been in years. For one thing, we're 4-0. For another, even though the first four games have been an experiment with Logan Thomas, under Mike O'Cain calling the plays this offense has looked like an offense. Sure, our non conference opponents weren't world beaters this season. But when you actually break it down the situation surrounding the first four games this season are very similar to what they were in 2006. That was Sean Glennon's first season as starter, and like LT Glennon was more of a pocket passer than the QB he replaced. And VT's first four opponents that season were not very good: Northeastern, UNC, Duke, and Cincinnati. That was John Bunting's last season at UNC and the Tar Heels went 3-9 on the year. Cincinnati, meanwhile, was decent at 8-5 and a bowl win.

Total Yards339430
Passing Yards221219
Passing Attempts95114

The points per game has been adjusted to account for only those points put on the board by the offense (including the place kicker). So we have almost 100 more yards per game, more points per game by the offense, and pretty much the same passing yardage per game even with all the receiver drops the first three weeks of the season. And look at that time of possession difference. Look at it. Behold it in all its glory. Greater than ten more minutes a game. Call me old school, but ToP is getting way undersold here. What it represents is sustained drives, something that happened with infuriating rarity under Stiney as play caller. With MOC in the booth VT is keeping the offense on the field, which means the defense is on the sideline sipping Gatorade and devising new and inventive ways to make the opposing quarterback suffer. So the offense is setting up the defense to dominate by being fresh late in the game. In other words, like I said before, this offense actually looks like an offense.

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