[Ed. Note: Bumped from FanPosts. Man, we're going to miss Myer next year.]
When reflecting on the past season, I began to think about what was good and what wasn't. Obviously, the play of DW4, LT3, Boykin, and Coale highlighted a fairly efficient offense. The defense molded into the dominant Foster-style defense we have learned to expect. But the Special Teams? Well, they pretty much sucked. How much did they suck? To find out, I decided to look at cfbstats.com. All stats listed below are against FBS teams, so the stats of the App State game were not included.
First, let's look at the kicking game and let's start with what was good. One of the few bright spots of the special teams unit was Justin Myer, the kick-off specialist. VT was 5th in the nation with 38% touchbacks (26 total). Myer's kick-offs ensured VT's opponents were starting from the 20. The kick-off coverage was decent, allowing an avg of 20.6 yds (ranked 41st). But, with Myer's long kicks, it's not surprising that VT was only average in kick-off coverage.
The deficiencies of the punt unit were well documented by the media. Beamer went through 2 punters before figuring out Danny Coale was the only reliable option. All combined, VT ended up with a 37.1 avg, good for 113th team in the nation. So ONLY 7 teams were worse at punting this year. Wow. Branthover and Demler averaged 36.6 and 33.1, respectively. Coale, on the other hand, had a rock-steady 43.5 average. If he had punted at that clip all season, VT would have ranked 22nd. Punt coverage was also good, allowing only 4.1 yds/return (ranked 8th). Of course, it's easy to cover a punt that only goes 33-36 yds down the field or shanked out of bounds.
When we think of Beamerball, we think of game changing blocked kicks and spectacular returns. Let me digress a little... During my first year on campus in 2001, VT played Miami in the last game of the year. Miami was ranked 1st in the country. It was cold, and Miami had been kicking our ass all game but a little VT comeback made it 26-18. In the waning moments of the game, Erick Greene blocked the punt and Brandon Manning picked the ball up for an easy score 26-24. Probably the loudest moment I can remember in Lane Stadium. Unfortunately, VT missed the 2-pt conversion and Miami went on to win the national championship. But that blocked kick moment will forever resonate in my memory. And what amazes me, is in that era, blocked kicks were so regular that as fans, we nearly expected that blocked kick to happen. Likewise, I can remember countless spectacular returns for TDs, such as the DW4 return against GT or when Eddie Royal lateraled a kick off to Justin Harper for a TD against Kansas or ALL of MACHO'S PICK6s. Now, think, do you have any memories like that from this year? No, you don't. It didn't happen. VT had ZERO TDs on returns and ZERO blocked kicks against FBS opponents.
In fact, the return team was downright putrid this year. VT averaged a measly 7.9 yds on punt returns (ranked 65th) and only 1 return over 30 yds. For comparison, DeAngelo hall averaged 15 yds/return for his VT career! Sadly, the kick return team was worse, averaging 19.5 yds/return (ranked 100th!!!) and none went for more than 40 yds. How can 99 teams be better at kick offs than VT? Furthermore, VT's defense intercepted the ball13 times, but ZERO PICK6s. People often complain about VT's redzone offense, and deservedly so. But in my mind, the special teams unit let the team down more. VT football is suffocating defense and dominant special teams. If you score on defense and special teams, then it doesn't matter how good your redzone offense is.
The 2011 season was a horrible year for Beamerball. So what can Hokie fans expect next year? Well, Myer and Coale are graduating, Journell is suspended indefinitely, DW4 and Hosely are leaving for the NFL, and Roberts is coming off a 2nd consecutive injury. Is there any chance for Beamerball redemption next year? JC Coleman, Kyle Fuller, Kickter-to-be-named, Somebody... PLEASE step up