Between attrition and injury news, Virginia Tech's prospects for the season seem to be trending downward before the team has even stepped foot on the field officially. The days are dwindling before the Hokies have to strap their chinstraps and go against the two-time defending national champion, the Alabama Crimson Tide. This alone is a tall task. Add in some key injuries on both sides of the ball and I find it more than appropriate to assess and predict the potential for this year's Virginia Tech football team. Without further ado, here are some staff thoughts on where the team stands currently.
To say there are questions for this year's Virginia Tech team would be an understatement. This is a team coming off its worst season in 20 years trying to incorporate a new offensive scheme under three new coaches on that side of the ball. To make matters worse, the offensive line has continued to be inconsistent during summer workouts with no legitimate group of five starters picked to take the field against Alabama in just under two weeks. Can Logan Thomas rebound from a sub-par 2012 campaign? Can the running game recover from one of the worst outings in recent memory? Can special teams reclaim the "Beamerball" identity that was noticeably absent last season? With Antone Exum out for the foreseeable future, can true freshmen step in and play adequately in his absence? As I said, there are plenty of questions leading up to this season. This thought process has become more pronounced after the announcement that Ronny VanDyke would miss the entire season, running back JC Coleman sprained both ankles and is questionable for the Alabama game, Tony Gregory tore his ACL for the fourth time in his career (brutal, by the way), and Mark Shuman will miss 4-6 weeks with a torn lateral meniscus.
Now we are realistically looking at a situation where Virginia Tech could be starting a walk-on at WHIP linebacker against Alabama, Chris Mangus is backing up Trey Edmunds at running back until Coleman is healthy with Joel Caleb suspended for the Alabama game, Kendall Fuller or Brandon Facyson (both freshmen, though very talented) will likely be starting at field corner until Antone Exum gets healthy, and a freshman could be starting at left tackle. If Virginia Tech's schedule was any harder I would seriously think seven wins would be a realistic expectation for this team. However, given the nature of some of the schools Virginia Tech will play (both directional Carolina schools not named North, Marshall, Duke, Boston College, UVA) this should still be an improved season over last year. I find myself leaning toward an 8-4 or 9-3 regular season with two or three ACC losses, and an obvious loss against Alabama. If the injuries continue to pile up or the instability on offense doesn't improve, I wouldn't rule 7-5 or 6-6 out of the realm of possibility at all. This new coaching staff has their work cut out for them, and there may be some serious growing pains before we know what this team can really be.
Trevor S. Greene
With the injuries and attrition, my original prediction of an 8-4 season was perhaps optimistic. I think we may have a 6-6 season again. The schedule that once looked easy is now a challenge. ECU is not a pushover and their offense has given Bud Foster's defense fits. Marshall isn't a pushover either. I think the hard part is the coaching staff may be forced to use walk-ons and freshmen from this point forward. Because of these injuries and attrition, they don't have the scholarship players to depend on. The biggest problem is the offensive line hasn't been settled, and Grimes' back-and-forth tweets with beat writers indicate he is running out of patience with people wondering when we will know who the starters are. At this point, I think 2013 season will be more about survival than going back to winning 10-games in a season again. If they manage to stay at 0.500 or better, I will consider that quite an accomplishment.
I was optimistic about the chances of this season after the 2013 recruiting class was inked and the deficient coaches were ousted/new coaches were hired. I liked all three of the hires in varying degrees, but basically, I felt confident that these guys were good enough to get it turned around. The problem is, with what we've seen over the last six months (Logan's terrible spring game and fall practices that grade just above that, an alarming rate of transfers, four key non-qualifiers to the program, including a two-year 4-star holdover and an injury bug that has afflicted the team more than any previous fall camp I can remember), regardless of those two developments, the coaches are only human and the class of 2013 are only freshmen. That means there are and should be limitations now to the expectations of what can happen for the Hokies in 2013.
I believe Tech Sideline's Chris Coleman tried to be the messenger of the bad news the other day on Twitter, and the reaction was by and large negative. While I told him it was hard for Tech fans to accept the reality of another "rebuilding" season, I agree that we should all now be thinking in those terms. It's really hard to preach patience considering that 2012 was the worst year in the last two decades for the program, but it may be necessary for us as fans to bite the bullet for another year to see if the Hokies can get something going headed to next year.
I'm not at all suggesting that Tech should just punt the 2013 season now. That would be silly. After all, there hasn't even been a competitive game played yet. But if we keep our expectations low, hopefully there will be no disappointing us. I also don't think we should accept these type of seasons from a program which has exhibited such consistency over the last two decades. But as fans, we have to dig deep and at least live with it if the program is improving and getting back to where we want it to be long-term. Beamer in the last couple of years has made many of the "right" moves in terms of changing the culture of the program. He and the staff have recruited better (they have better aligned the recruiting territories to facilitate this), he has fired and demoted coaches he vowed he would not, he has hired suitable replacements, and in 2010 and 2011, the program had perhaps its best two statistical offensive years in program history. It seems so long ago, right? The thing is, with all those moves and developments, I believe the future of the program is brighter. But seeing that promise manifest on the field in 2013 might be a bit premature. If Tech keeps recruiting at the level they are now, avoids the injury bug better than they have done in this camp and limits the number of potential impact players that transfer elsewhere, we could see Tech rebounding to where they were for the last 20 years sometime soon. Just not in 2013.
After a 7-6 season last year, I was very hopeful for a return to a regular season somewhere along the lines of 10-2 or 9-3. However, with all of the injuries and transfers and what-have-you, I feel like something along the lines 8-4 and 7-5 is probably more appropriate. The depth issues are not negligible by any means, but I think with Frank Beamer at the helm and Bud Foster commanding the defense it's hard for me to completely count Tech out of a lot of games that they have a solid chance at winning. The offense will be the most interesting thing to watch this year. The changes to the coaching staff and the lack of experience in the back field and at receiver are going to take a while to sort out, but the offense should (hopefully) hit stride by the time ACC play starts. There are so many variables this season that it's really hard to know what to expect, but after the gloom and doom of the off-season I'll be glad to just see the season start.
So what are your expectations for Virginia Tech's 2013-14 season? Leave a comment below and let us know!