I asked several of the best Hokie bloggers around to participate in a roundtable to go over the 2009 edition of Virginia Tech football. But since none of those bloggers replied, I had to settle for these guys, who were happy to provide their insight on the Hokies:
Beer Control Offense
College Game Balls
Fight for Old DC
The North End Zone
Tech Super Fans
Virginia Tech Fan
Each of them answered the same five wide-ranging questions about the season and even showed their creative side. Let's take a look at what they have to say after the jump.
1. Do you think the 2009 season was a successful one for Virginia Tech?
It's had to be disappointed by a 10-3 seasons unless you're one of those "BCSCG or Bust" types. The Hokies lost to the national champ and conference champ, bud did drop one to UNC that left us all with bad tastes in our mouths. Therefore, CGB thinks the answer is somewhere in the middle:
If I define success as meeting or exceeding my preseason expectations, then no 2009 wasn't successful. However, it wasn't a failure either. [...] In my eyes, what redeemed the season was the fact that we bounced back and didn't go into the tank like 2003 quitters.
In addition to its losses to the national and conference champion, Tech also had wins against the Big 12 North champion, Motor City Bowl champion, CUSA champion and a Miami team that at the time was getting fellated by every talking head withing ear shot. BCO says that has to be considered:
The positives, absolutely routing a bunch of teams, including some hated rivals and a thrilling, improbable win vs another top 15 team, the Nebraska Cornhuskers. So 10 wins vs the hardest schedule that I can remember and finishing in the top 10 again ... yeah ... that's successful.
TSF and C Gally of NEZ were the only two to stop short of calling the season a success, citing the lack of a conference title.
2. Did Bryan Stinespring and the Hokie offense finally turn a corner in 2009 or are you still pessimistic about the future of the offense?
The most potentially divisive question on the docket turned out not to be. Most people felt confident in Stinespring's ability to develop the offense and its talent, but remained cautiously optimistic about the playcalling going into 2010. VTF however, was completely unimpressed:
I'm not sold. The offense got better, but something tells me that Ryan Williams and Tyrod Taylor would make any offense (scheme, coordinator, etc.) look good.
FFODC saw the same thing I did in our offensive coordinator and thinks if he can improve his play calling next season can be truly special:
I think they did in the sense that Stiney learned to get out of his players' way. As I mentioned before, Tech improved on offense, but that was expected considering the type of experience and skill they returned from 2008. However, that hasn't always been the case in the past.
So what changed for Stinespring and the offense? I think TSF has the answer:
There is no doubt that the Nebraska game was a turning point for this offense. Coach Stinespring seemed to really take it to heart about what type of offense the team should be when he stepped back for his first real self-assessment, probably of his career.
TSF goes on to say that Stinespring still doesn't get the most out of his players because he doesn't have a high enough standard for the players or coaches. He's right. Remember the goals Beamer has for the defense? They're much harder to attain than the ones set for the offense. It's a culture of W.I.N. vs. a culture of FAIL. Hopefully the end of 2009 went a long way to changing that.
3. Can the inconsistency of the defense this season be blamed mostly on youth at linebacker and injuries to key players like John Graves or were other factors at play?
While most people said the absence of Graves in certain games and the steep learning curve of Jake Johnson contributed to the up and down play of the defense, many others pointed to poor tackling as well. C Gally of NEZ hammers the point home, saying one leads to the other:
I honestly can't tell you exactly what the issues were this year. An abundance of missed tackles certainly didn't help, but I suppose that comes with the lack of experience due to the injuries.
In addition to the poor tackling, CGB blames Waylon Smithers and has an animated .GIF I haven't stopped laughing at to illustrate it.
Without John Graves in the lineup, the Hokies were very weak in the middle of their defense, which will kill any team. BCO pretty much sums up what Graves meant to Bud Fosters' D:
One can not undervalue his performance to the team. Example A, look at the game tape vs Georgia Tech before he was injured ... dominating, blowing up their offensive line causing tackles for loss and being held on 50% of the plays. The defensive line was not the same that game or vs UNC due to his loss. UNC road graded one team all season with power running, the Hokies without Graves.
4. Which player was the biggest surprise to you in 2009, good or bad?
Both sides of the coin come from the secondary. Rashad Carmichael was a surprise of the good variety, especially considering what was asked of him in the middle of the season. Carmichael had modest expectations at field corner and was then moved to boundary after an injury to Stephan Virgil. TSF extols Carmichael's virtues:
NOBODY, including Coach Gray, expected Rock to rise up and play the boundary so well. He ended up leading the team in interceptions with six and just played with great physicality and a strong mental approach in every game after the Nebraska game, adding to what was previously a one-trick pony - his speed.
Kam Chancellor disappointed most of our panel. Some people will point out that Chancellor took one for the team by moving from his natural position, rover, to free safety starting in 2008 because the Hokies didn't have anyone else to play there. But FFODC says the Hokies are still improving by seeing Chancellor exhaust his eligibility:
He just never looked comfortable, and I think Bud Foster's crew will ultimately improve without the human hit stick.
5. If the Hokies could go back and replay one of their three losses, which one would you replay?
Georgia Tech: BCO, CGB, FFODC, TSF
North Carolina: NEZ, VTF
BCO campaigns for the Georgia Tech game:
This is splitting the difference, conceding the Tide was the superior team but also not going after the easiest win, Carolina. In the grand scheme of ACC things that game chose who was going to Tampa to play in the ACCCG.
And VTF for UNC:
North Carolina, no doubt. Alabama and Georgia Tech were very good teams, better than the Hokies (you could debate GT). North Carolina was not a better team, just had things go their way.
In the end I have to side with the guys brave enough to vote for the UNC game. Yes, if the Hokies beat the Yellow Jackets they go to the ACCCG, but Georgia Tech was just the better team that night and it would be much more difficult to win a replay on the road. The UNC game was just... ugh.
I asked everybody to write a haiku about Ryan Williams. I'll let you all vote for who the winner is. For blogs with multiple writers I took the best entry from that blog.
Beer Control Offense:
shake, rattle ryan
the mother fornicating
williams rolls for six
College Game Balls:
crisp air slaps my face
pay attention, Three-Four scores
pour out bourbon shots
Fight for Old DC:
Ru dominates you
Drags your butt to the end zone
He exudes greatness
The North End Zone:
Lil Sweetness, hot knife.
Defenses were his butter.
Touchdowns, his biscuit.
Tech Super Fans:
Seeing green spaces
He runs like an antelope
out of control, SCORE!!
Virginia Tech Fan:
Ryan Runs the Ball Fast
Fast, Strong, Touchdown Again
He Looks Like Sweetness