Owning the Offseason

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Between now and August when summer camps begin, the football players are entirely on their own without their coaches to tell them what they need to work on, and they have to do it without any prodding.

Nothing can derail promise like doldrums.

It is easy to accept that the team have arrived, from an individual to the whole team, and nothing can be more lethal than being lethargic.

More than ever, the senior class must lead this team, from Logan Thomas, James Gayle and Antone Exum (from the sidelines even) on down, they must collectively work hard at their craft and dedicate their time practicing it. The old saying, "Practice makes perfect," rings true during the offseason.

I think it is extremely important that the offense practices everything they have learned from the new coaches. Also, I think it is absolutely critical to the team's success for the offense as whole to own the playbook. Taking ownership, they can practice until they can do instinctively as breathing.

The offensive line, for example, needs to practice their stances, their blocking, their technique, and communicating the blocking schemes. Communication is critical. Nothing can destroy a play in a hurry than miscommunication, which can lead to busted assignments.

Loeffler has been noted to have tape recorder in the huddle to record the play-calling. Then during meetings, he will replay the tape back to the quarterbacks, to correct them, because he wants them to have perfect tone and clarity in communicating the play. Because of the NCAA's rule, Loeffler won't be able to work with the quarterbacks during the off-season, which means Logan Thomas and the other quarterbacks on the roster have to continue the practice Loeffler taught.

Timing is also important for the success on offense. It is vital the quarterbacks and the wide receivers are in sync with one another. In that sense, the wide receivers need to be able to run their routes with surgical precision, and to hang onto the football.

The running backs need to get better. Perhaps it was disappointing during the Spring Game the running backs did not rip off huge runs. However, they need to practice reading the play (blocks), and planting their feet before taking off. Fullbacks, which will be used heavily in Loeffler's playbook, need to be able to read the play (blocks) and perform their assignments. The difference between a first down and tackles for loss may heavily depend on the fullbacks' performance.

Unfortunately, with Michael Holmes' arrest, the pecking order for the running backs will not be fully established until he has either been cleared or kicked off the team. On my artificial depth chart though, I had Trey Edmunds and Holmes as co-#1, but for now, the #1 spot is Edmunds' to lose. There are other running backs who are vying for playing time, Chris Magnus, J.C. Coleman, and the others who are on the roster and will be joining the team in the fall.

Finally, the offense's success will rise and fall with how well the quarterbacks execute the plays. One criticism of Logan Thomas is his ability to read the field, and it's just important to him as to offense teammates that he is able to see the field.

I believe that the offense as whole has embraced the challenge of being the toughest, starting with the offensive line as the tip of the spear, but they need to be able to execute at the highest level possible.

For the defense, continuing with their tradition of excellence, they need to keep working hard. The defensive line needs to be able to quickly shed blocks and make their residency in the backfield. While Gayle and Dadi Nicholas have combined for many "sacks" (only in parentheses because in the spring, much of the quarterback play isn't live), they were going against a musical chairs version of the offensive line. In order for the defensive line to get better at shedding blocks, they need to be able to attack with reckless abandon.

With the thin linebacker corps, staying healthy during the offseason is vital, but they must not be so nervous about getting injured it wrecks their growth. The linebackers need to be able to move sideline to sideline and to also penetrate the gaps created by the defensive line.

The secondary needs to bring along the younger guys by teaching them the schemes, the play-calling, and to improve their defensive technique. There were plays, in 2012, where the secondary recalled to memory the time opponents feared to throw the ball, and times they were beaten easily by biting on fakes.

For Virginia Tech to beat Alabama, they must take ownership of their new playbook. They must be obsessed with attention to details. They need to hold each other accountable because the coaches won't be able to interact with them fully. The coaches already gave them a plan for the players to work on, and it is entirely up to the players to make it happen.

Embrace the offseason with a fury. Work hard and play harder. Own the offseason.

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