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An Outsiders' Guide to the 2009 Virginia Tech Hokies

It makes me angry when I see ignorance like this

I have a tendency to defend the Hokies when people like this guy from UT Tailgaters rips on them. The Hokies are my team. You can't bad-mouth my football team. Only I can bad-mouth my football team.

I can tolerate certain people making negative comments about Tech if I think they have an informed opinion. So because I'm overly defensive about Hokie football, here's everything you need to know about Tech for the 2009 season. Now when you want to rip the Hokies you can do it without coming off looking like a tool.

1. The jury is still out on Tyrod Taylor

Hokie fans aren't making excuses for Tyrod. The facts are the offensive line couldn't pass block to save their families last year and I had just as many collegiate receptions as nearly every member of the receiving corps. There aren't many quarterbacks who could have succeeded under those circumstances.

Tyrod isn't a bad quarterback. He showed he can be pretty good in late 2007 when the offensive line was good and he had a stable of four excellent receivers.

He's shown he can throw the deep ball in 2007. Just look at the Clemson game. He's shown he can bring the team back from behind. Just look at the 2007 Florida State game. He can't be considered a bad quarterback yet. After this season we'll be able to pass judgment on him.

2. The defense will experience growing pains early on

The Hokies have to replace two of their three linebackers and Macho Harris. If the young players can adjust to life in D1 football, they'll be fine. But Tech will have a rough go of it early on against the likes of Alabama, Miami and Nebraska if younglings like linebacker Jake Johnson aren't ready.

The secondary is an even bigger concern. Free safety Kam Chancellor and the rover combo of Dorian Porch and Davon Morgan had communication issues that led to big pass plays in the middle of the field for Virginia Tech opponents. Their play improved significantly the last couple games of the season as Chancellor finally settled in as a free safety after moving from rover prior to the 2008 season.

The Hokies also have to deal with replacing first-team All-ACC cornerback Macho Harris. Stephan Virgil had a great 2008, but will move from field corner to boundary corner this year. At the field spot, Virgil will have less help and be left on an island in man coverage more often. He'll also have to help on stopping the run more often.

The trio of Rashad Carmichael, Eddie Whitley and Cris Hill will compete for the other corner spot. Carmichael took the lead in the competition in spring, but struggled in my opinion when he was on the field last year. The play of Carmichael (or whoever) will have a big impact on how the Hokies' success in 2009.

3. We have reason to be optimistic about the offensive line

Most of the offensive line's struggles in the beginning of 2007 and 2008 can be contributed to injuries. In 2007, Ed Wang was hurt in preseason camp and missed the first half of the year. The Hokies' run game improved greatly when Wang returned and Tech won the ACC. The same thing happened last year. Blake DeChristopher went down on the Hokies' opening drive and everything went to hell until he came back.

This year Tech's offensive line will be strong if it stays healthy. Jaymes Brooks is a known commodity at guard. He replaced Nick Marshman and excelled in the Orange Bowl. While Marshman was by far the line's weakest link, Brooks arguably played the best of the five lineman against Cincinnati.

Wang is a solid left tackle who has been inconsistant time. The anchor of the line is guard Sergio Render, who is the best offensive lineman I've seen at Tech. The only real hole the Hokies have to plug is at center where Beau Warren is expected to be solid.

4. We expect a lot from Ryan Williams

Williams is the first home run hitter the Hokies have had since Kevin Jones. Eddie Royal was an outstanding wide receiver, but Williams has the ability to score a touchdown any time he touches the ball. He made big play after big play in the spring and has Hokie fans salivating to see him in action.

He also complements Darren Evans well. Evans is more of a singles hitter who can wear a defense down. He's a powerful, consistent runner between the tackles who can set up big plays by Williams. He was forced to carry too much of the load for the Hokies last year and having Williams will benefit a lot as well.

5. Our margin of error is very thin...

The Hokies aren't just thin at quarterback, they're thin at just about every position except running back and wide receiver. A key injury on either line could be devastating to the Hokies' ACC title chances.

6. ...but our ceiling is very high.

I don't consider the Hokies a preseason Top 10 team. There are too many holes on the defense for a team that lost four games last year to consider them anywhere near No. 4 coming into 2009. But the Hokies finally have talented playmakers on offense for Bryan Stinespring to utilize or not utilize. It's completely up to him. But if Bud Foster can produce the same defense he has the last two years, the Hokies will be good. Scary good.

Right now, Virginia Tech is not a 2009 BCSCG contender. But they have the potential to be. The last time Virginia Tech had the potential to be this explosive on offense was in 2003. The Hokies started 6-0 and were No. 3 in the country before losing five of their last seven games. Amazingly, it was the defense that was their downfall that year.

Not since 1999 have the Hokies been able to combine explosive offensive with suffocating defense. The reason they're getting so much preseason pub is because that potential exists this year.