I adopted the "Barrel On, Tech!" mantra after the 2009 Orange Bowl when Dr Saturday wrote watching the Hokies is like watching a cooper make a barrel. Basically, their methods were a little archaic but, "at the end of the day, there's your barrel. It's never occurred to him there might be better or more efficient ways to make a barrel. Why would anyone want to futz with the operation or make it more complicated?"
This year, Virginia Tech's barrel-making process might finally get out of the dark ages. At their heart, the Hokies will always be a smash-mouth, ball-control offense hell-bent on keeping their defense fresh and off the field and wearing yours down for the fourth quarter.
It can lead to a lot of frustration for fans of such an offense. Just ask Ohio State. But like the Buckeyes, who look primed to air it out (well, for the Buckeyes), the Hokies finally have the tools for an offensive renaissance in 2010.
What the Hokies have that they've lacked in the past is versatility, particularly in the run game. The omnipresent bruising, between-the-tackles back is there as Darren Evans returns to the lineup. The home-run threat is there in Ryan Williams, who is the most explosive back Tech has had since Kevin Jones. And the Swiss Army Back is there in Josh Oglesby.
Oglesby, a fullback who I wouldn't want to call a fullback to his face, is a converted tailback who may have finally found a place in the Hokie offense. He's not the best runner, blocker or pass-catcher in the backfield, but he's good enough at all three that opposing defense will have to account for him.
Then there's Logan Thomas, who has seen some time at tight end recently in practice. He'll probably also be the Hokies' backup quarterback, but the coaches have said all along he'll see the field at least as a tight end or H-back.
The receivers, particularly Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale, have earned Tyrod Taylor's trust, can stretch the field, have good hands and most importantly, can run block better than probably any receiving corps in the league. The reason Williams had 19 runs of 20 yards or more (second-most in the country) last year was the run-blocking abilities of the receivers. Those are the guys who turn 8-yard runs into 30-yard runs.
This is the deepest the Hokies have been at the skill positions since I can remember. Deeper than the 1999 team and probably with more complete skill sets. It gives the Hokies the ability to be explosive and unpredictable on offense for the first time in a long time.
What's It All Mean?
It means we could see some creativity for once out of the coaching staff. We could see sets where Taylor isn't on the field, and not because he's injured. Remember, the Wild Turkey was born out of a hot October afternoon when both Taylor and Sean Glennon were hurt. Needing some run production out of the quarterback spot, Greg Boone was inserted into the backfield and 10 days later plowed his way to 22 yards on six carries against Maryland.
Taking his place in the Wild Turkey could be Thomas, Williams, Oglesby or even Taylor himself. With two developing quarterbacks behind him, the possibility of an injury to Taylor is less apocalyptic than it was in 2009.
If the offensive line is serviceable, this offense should be able to put up numbers we haven't seen since 2003 or at least 2005. This will be especially critical early on until the defense can get its feet under it. In the past when the defense has had to replace a lot of starters it has usually wound up with stats were used to, but haven't come on until late.
Recently, the defense has had to compensate for the offense. Now, we might finally have an offense that can compensate for the defense if the need arises. Most importantly, the culture surrounding the offense and what is expected of it has changed. It's something I harped about while hammered after the Nebraska game last and something that has been a long time coming.
It also means that at the end of the day, the Hokies could end up with a barrel that looks like this. Yeah, that might change the perception of Hokie football just a little bit.