The NFL Draft is all wrapped up. The Hokies didn't do too well in this one folks. I am thrilled for Kyshoen Jarrett, and Laurence Gibson, too... (Well not too thrilled because he's going to the Boots, but he's still going to get a shot at the big show). As of today's NFL listing of Rookie Free Agent signings, no other Hokies have popped up. That makes an already unthrilling draft a near disaster as far as recruiting goes.
And that's where we leave this for now, it's football recruiting season. All of those visits and talks, and promises... preparation of interest letters, assignments of scouting for various summer skill camps. It's the long boring grind through the hot Virginia Summertime.
So with all door closings on completed things, there are some lessons and some serious issues to address:
Lesson - 1: The Offense must get better, smarter; and adapt to its talent, not demand that the talent fit some preconceived notion of some old power drill offense. Hokie O is getting better, but the line is still thin, and is still significantly smaller than our oppositions' squads. The playbook needs a serious revision. The play calling style needs to change, no more OC in the booth high above the field - that's for the assistants with computers, mp3 recordings, and binoculars. The OC needs to be on the sideline where he can work with and interact with the offensive players- the QB in particular. The Offense MUST develop a theory and it must deploy a relevant strategy to implement that theory.
Lesson - 2: We have below average recruiting for the level of play that we expect from the personnel in the program. Our latest very low draftee status and numbers will not help with recruiting. This is BECAUSE success with placing players onto teams in the NFL is the premier recruiter. Lots of folks don't like that, but it is what it is. There is no college draft, the teams are self-selected, and there are lower levels of "inducement" possible when your school is in the mountains of Virginia, and the closest big city isn't much bigger than Blacksburg in November. (Before you bring up Alabama, when the Nictator -or like big time coach -shows up at Merriman Hall to take over all of those things change.)
Lesson - 3: We still need to cultivate first rate Quarterbacks. Brewer, if he continues his work ethic and popularity with the players, is a real college quarterback. I won't say anything regarding the pros, since he will have to succeed next season for that to be a factor. Michael Brewer is an actual leader, and that is a good thing - we haven't had one since Tyrod. Unfortunately like Tyrod, we don't have a backup capable of performing AT, or CLOSE TO, the level of performance required. There are hints of better things, but none of the current backups have really risen to the occasion. We cannot have a clipboard and headset for a QB backup, QB in waiting. Let us hope that the Ford, Durkin competition settles a little bit for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. We'll see what Lawson will do, and how far he rises after fall practice.
Takeaways from the Season as a whole:
There is a real emotional fan fall-off occurring. Season tickets are no longer selling out. Individual game tickets were available all last season, and if it weren't for a smart distribution of the folks in the stands, there'd have been some serious holes evident at kickoff. The student section steadily lost fans past half-time, and there was almost no traffic leaving Blacksburg after only a couple of hours. The 2009 season it was at least three hours before you could back out of a parking space, and finding your way back to 81 North to get to the hotel was an adventure in a bumper to bumper 25mph drive from Southgate all the way to exit 140 or so. Not so last season; the traffic was always reasonable after a stop for dinner in town.
The program seemed to struggle last season. The play calling was inconsistent, and often unintelligible. Tanking 2 running plays into huge piles of humanity and then running a panicked passing play AT the line of scrimmage was the normal pattern. Brewer was rarely given plays that rolled him out away from the obvious pressure, and gave him downfield vision and throwing lanes. Running plays were too often failed attempts at Gut, Dive, and Slant plays that require blocking that we just do not have the personnel to perform.
The defense spent too much time on the field, and not enough points per minute were scored on offense. The Defensive Backfield was caught flatfooted too often, and failed to track the location of the passer in relation to the receiver being covered. This year's iteration of #DBU is likely to be better, a bit more polished, with more anticipation and recognition of the play situation on the field.
We really have a long Summer ahead. It's going to be one of a great deal of hope, but also determination. There are lots of changes necessary to get back into being a consistent Top 20 football team. The question will be, does this coaching staff and the energy, flexibility, and imagination to make that happen in 2015?
We'll have to stick around to see.