[Ed. Note: Promoted from FanPosts.]
I woke up this morning bitter and frustrated with the Virginia Tech football program. I wasn’t angry that the Hokies were beaten by Stanford. I felt like, short of playing Auburn or Oregon that Stanford presented the worst possible match up to Virginia Tech. I wasn’t even upset that the Hokies were not even competitive in the second half. I was frustrated because the game became a microcosm revisiting every weakness that the Hokies have exhibited both this season and over the last decade and Frank Beamer appears to be incapable or unwilling to make the changes necessary for the program to be a yearly challenger for the National Championship instead of a yearly challenger for the ACC title who will almost always lose against top 5 caliber programs.
The first and foremost challenge is recruiting. In order to be a truly dominant program, you must be able to control the line of scrimmage with your defensive front seven. Virginia Tech rose to prominence running a wide-tackle six defense, which allowed the Hokies to control the line of scrimmage with lesser talent but exposed the secondary to sophisticated passing attacks. Bud Foster changed his scheme to a more standards 4-3 look, and while Virginia Tech has become a much more difficult team to throw against, they do not get to the quarterback with as much frequency and the quality of the run defense has slipped. Why?
First and foremost, Virginia Tech does not recruit top end defensive line talent, especially at defensive tackle. Since 2002, the Hokies have recruited ZERO five star and X four star defensive linemen (Jonathan Lewis, Chris Ellis, Stephen Friday, Jason Worilds, John Graves, Zach McCray, Nick Acree). Macho Harris was the only five star Hokie defensive recruit over the 2002-2010 time frame. The 2009 class only had two defensive tackles period, David Wang (who is now playing guard) and DeAndre Rhodes (who isn’t on the team.) Meanwhile, the Hokies are in desperate need for linebacker depth, yet have lost out on Curtis Grant, the top high school player in Virginia, and have also been beaten out by UNC for other linebacker prospects. Currently, the Hokies do not have one single Rivals Top 100 Commitment, with only Stephone Anthony as even a possibility at this point. With the glaring weakness at outside linebacker and rover, coupled with a lack of defensive tackle depth (unless Nick Acree wakes up tomorrow and has changed from a specemin to a football player), this is an embarressment.
Virginia Tech isn’t the easiest place to recruit, and Virginia, while a very good football state, doesn’t produce many five star quality defensive linemen. Nevertheless, Bud Foster has to figure out a way to return to the dominance of the wide-tackle six era and the best way to do that is by figuring out how to get these top players to come to Blacksburg. The two high profile TV losses to Boise and Stanford coupled with the embarrassing loss to JMU really damaged the program’s credibility, despite the 11 win season and crushing defeats of UNC, FSU, and Miami.
Most Virginia Tech fans will tell you that the biggest hurdle to the top of the college football landscape is Bryan Stinespring. I think this requires more examination. First, Stinespring must be given credit for the massive influx of talent on the offensive side of the ball. He has recruited much better than Bud Foster since 2002, with 2 five star players and 18 four star players. Also, many VT offensive players have become good NFL players.
That being said, last night again proved why Stinespring has to go. First and foremost, either he has been unable to develop a consistent offensive line or he isn’t capable of improving the talent he has at the position. Second, his design in the passing game is atrocious. Every play is a 5 or 7 step drop. Routes are not sharp and besides the sprint right, throw back deep left play to Danny Coale, receivers rarely run combo routes to get open. There is no screen or draw game of which to speak, and these problems have been consistent throughout Stinespring’s tenure regardless of the talent pool available. With Ralph Friedgen looming in the wings, Frank Beamer must decide if loyalty to Stinespring and his recruiting prowess outweigh the potential impact of a big time offensive mind like Fridgen joining the staff.