Five Things for 2015 Team Hokie
Well we have a few spare days before the fall rosters are posted, and fall practice starts in earnest. That's some time to sit down and do some gut check sorts of things that the coaching staff should be doing. (Hopefully they are.) Every team that I have ever played on or coached had a list of five things, goals, or rules that the organization was using as a theme for the season. Even as a fan all of these years, I have always found myself looking at what my teams had on their rosters, and what the team wanted to accomplish for the coming season.
Before we start, I want to say that noble, lofty goals are fine and dandy. We want to win the Coastal, or the ACC, or the Championship are lofty poetic goals that fall by the wayside very quickly in the fur-ball fight that most seasons become. I am talking about five specific goals that the team must accomplish or none of those lofty dreams are likely.
Maximum Effort Means No Excuses are Needed
First, as a team the Virginia Tech Hokies must leave everything on the field every game. There can be no halfhearted efforts. There can be no assumptions that a game is a cupcake. The team must study and drill for each contest like it is going to be the last game that the team ever plays. This effort must be from coaches, players, and even support staff. From the moment of the first kickoff until the final whistle blows the last play dead, there is absolutely no excuse for just showing up. The same energy and discipline should be brought to the Furman game as will be with a game like Georgia Tech. Regardless of the outcome, if everything is left on the field, there are no excuses necessary - win or lose.
No O. No GO!
Second, the offense must perform. The players and coaches must find a way each week to arrive at a flexible but effective game plan. Play calling must maximize the talent that we have and take advantage of the weaknesses of the opponent. This is a dynamic evaluation! Every team is different. Every situation is going to depend on what the opponent is capable of stopping, and what they cannot stop. The Offense needs to maintain a consistent pace. It must generate a rhythm by moving the ball down the field consistently. If that means running counters and sweeps to get backs out into space then so be it. If it means establishing the passing game before the run will click, then that's what needs to be done. Canned plays, fixed scripts, and executing dreams instead of reality will not win football games. The Offense must move the ball and score points.
Settling for 3 Means Wasting a Very Expensive 4.
Third, settling for a half a score is unacceptable. This team must stop its chronic inability to get the ball into the end zone. That means innovative aggressive and effective play calling in the red zone. Too often there has been a willingness to be bold and innovative between the 20's, but then shut down into a leaden overly conservative run up the middle to not jeopardize the three points at the expense of three plus one or two extra. This team must understand that its quarterback is not tall enough and its offensive line not talented enough to form a pro-style static pocket for pass plays. It must also swallow hard and understand that to trap Michael Brewer in a rapidly collapsing pocket on 3rd and long is a losing proposition. The Offensive Coordinator absolutely must not call plays that are run at or behind the line of scrimmage. Brewer needs to be moving, not always running or sprinting out, but the pocket (such as it is) needs to slide left or right and allow Brewer the freedom to slide or roll so that he can see down field. It must also proceed at a pace that challenges the defense, wears it down, and increases the possibility for it to make critical errors. Too often the Hokie Offense has stalled for lack of imaginative play calling, not heart and skill in execution.
Never Be Satisfied at What Worked -That was THEN
Fourth, the Defense must not be predictable, and above all it must not rest on first half successes. Too often in Virginia Tech's past, our defense has throttled the opposition's offense in the first half and then failed to understand that the other team's coaches were going to adjust to that success. Bud Foster's only identifiable fault as a coach has been to fail to make adjustments for the second half, after a successful first half. If this team and defense wants to make the next step along the line and turn its current mediocrity back into greatness, it will have to do it with the Defense leading. That might not be the case in the future, but it certainly is the case now. Never get comfortable. Never get impressed with your success, and never give the other guy a chance to beat you.
DO NOT BEAT YOURSELVES!
Fifth and last but certainly not least; every squad on the Virginia Tech Hokie football team must cease the crippling penalties. This goes for routine procedural and formation functions, as well as execution errors. There were too many five yard drive destroying penalties over the last few seasons. Some of the problem is coaching, but most is on-field mental and emotional discipline. There is no excuse for giving the other guy five free yards or a critical first down because you violated the first rule of defense and jumped before the ball was snapped on a hard count. This is Junior High School Football 101. The same goes for the Offensive line in the other direction. False starts are drive stoppers. Those five yards are often impossible to make up, especially when the offense doesn't seem to think more than four yards down field.
All of that says that IF the Hokies develop a consistent competent and flexible offense that works to score points and if they can avoid the defensive 2nd half breakdowns that have plagued them, and IF we do that without critical penalties THEN we might actually have a decent shot at the dream season that so many Homer Hokies keep wanting.
Me... I'm not holding my breath. We just haven't seen all five of these things addressed at one time in one season.
"The goal is to get a seal here... And a seal here... and run the ball in the alley!" - Vince Lombardi on diagramming the "Power Sweep" that was his bread and butter. Most folks don't realize that it was a finesse play that often was run by Elijah Pitts and Paul Hornung, not just bruising Fullback Jim Taylor. It pulled more than one lineman, and relied on aggressiveness, speed, and 2nd level blocking effectiveness to work. Yeah the Pack could ram it down an opponent's throat... but the ability to run a play powerfully doesn't take away its pace.
We are a long way from running the Packer Sweep, but we really don't have to be.