First, before launching into the analysis of the scrimmage, I would like to complement the 2015 Hokies. My wife, daughter, and I had time to visit three squads before the Fan Appreciation Day Whistle blew and closed the lines down so the players could get off to prepare for the scrimmage. Warm-ups started at 3 in the afternoon, so the fans being allowed access until 1245 was extremely gracious. We visited the Offensive Line, Tight Ends and Wide Receivers, and then the Defensive line. Every player was available, everyone in the hot sunshine of Worsham Field was an absolute gentleman, and made this old Hokie very proud. Getting them to sign the new mini-helmet in gold marker was a big hit all around. I don't think any of the players want to wear any other helmet. They can't wait until they get them issued. I think that it is the absolute best mix of the old and new, and the players pick up on it.
Well, now it's on to bigger and more analytical things. First, I will attempt to answer Roy's questions, being back home and comfortable makes it a bit easier than fumbling around on my mini-tablet.
Will Brandon Facyson return to form?
There were not many challenges on the defensive secondary this scrimmage. Although there were a few passes, there wasn't much in the way of top side defense going on. I only remember a couple of passes longer than 30 yards (in the air), and the longest was an overthrow by Brewer (yes I said overthrow.. more about that a bit later). Was Facyson even in? He's on the team there isn't much to report negative, frankly I didn't see. What I did notice is that Greg Stroman was getting some serious coverage attention (give a homer nod to a player from home) was active, fast to the ball, and very interested in raising his team status. Chuck Clark spent much of his time on the field in the offensive backfield. #DBU looks to be humming this season, and if the line for autographs at Fan Day were any indication of popularity, the Defensive Backfield is pushing big numbers.
How much action does Tim Settle get?
Settle got to play... and as the entire Twitter-verse of Hokie Nation saw, nabbed an interception. Well it was a 2nd team on 2nd team effort, and he was in the odd position of being dropped back on the zone blitz, but he grabbed what looked like a tip, or a slipped throw (hard to remember exactly what it was at the time (I was on the 50 so didn't get a completely clear shot through the bodies), but the fact that he got up, got the ball, and took off with it is something to remember, and a real statement for a young man to make. I bet he'd like to keep that ball for a while; it might be the match that burns a potential red shirt. It's always good to add some flash to the grades, but I'd have to spend serious film time focusing on only the D-Line and what it was doing when he was in. As it stands, our defensive line has a seriously good looking 2-deep and that's a very good thing.
The Dwayne Lawson Effect - [How much action and how'd he do?]
Lots of folks need to take a seriously deep breath over the young and very raw Mr. Lawson. First, he's got serious promise. I keep seeing lots of comments that he was Quarterbacking the 2nd Team, so he's got to be the #2 now. No, not really. Brenden Motley started out as the 2nd Team QB. He played several series with them. Chris Dirkin played with the 3rd team, I didn't write it down, but he might have also done some 2nd team work. Lawson did get to play with both offensive squads. Dirkin did well on his 3/3 matchup. He also did well on most of his other appearances on the field. Lawson made some really nice passes, but he is not checking down before pulling it in and taking off. His progressions seem to bite off at 2 and maybe he saw a 3... but it's hard to tell counting and trying to keep track of receivers and routes. He's big, strong, and fast. He seems to have a natural ease and looks like he can keep the team pace up. Brewer is Numero Uno. I get the feeling that whoever starts as #2 might not stay #2 over the track of the season. Lawson looks like a solid add, but he's still fresh, and still basically an A+ high school quarterback. Again, everyone take a breath, if it were up to me, I'd redshirt him this season, and work on developing the good, and sanding off the rough.
Does this Scott Loeffler offense look improved?
The short answer is; NO, unfortunately. There is really good talent. The starting Offensive Line would grade a B to B- (which is not too bad for a first scrimmage) - All of us who played in the trenches know how difficult it is to develop a team chemistry and then hone that timing and trust into a unit that things and acts to supplement and complement each other. There is just too much to know, too much that is dynamic and situational. What I wanted to see was a move toward the kind of line play that provides a Plus-1.5 yard Drive/Push on the snap on a running play and even some passing plays. What I saw was a line that immediately rocks back on its heels to go into some pass or zone blocking positional scheme. I almost never saw any of the three squads' linemen at the second level on a running play, period. That might speak of the quality of our defensive line, but that's no excuse, that's an opportunity. If you can move the Hokie Defensive line 1.5 yards BACK, then you have a chance at opening holes for running backs to pop through. Right now this line in this particular offensive scheme is chronically -1.5 yards into their blocks. I suppose that's fine if you are running the backside of a Wishbone or Veer offense, but it's terrible if you are running a Slant, Dive, or Gut play. I am getting the distinct impression that it's not a talent problem, it's a scheme issue. Which remains a huge part of my "BUT" mentioned in my quick response, yesterday. It's the first scrimmage, so nothing systemic or fancy is going to be done, but what I am seeing is beginning to tell me that Scot Loeffler is going to run the same "0 yards and a pool of blood" operate in panic mode on 3rd and impossible, offense that he did last year. I am hoping that I am wrong, but fundamentals come out in scrimmages, and the fundamentals still have not deviated from last season's failures.
Is Frank Beamer engaged and coaching?
Frank was mic'd up, he was toting the clip board, calling the squads, and ruling the field with all the skill of a man who does this stuff in his sleep. I will leave it up to you to deal with the meaning behind that sentence.
I do have an observation that might give some folks a little hope. Last season, Michael Brewer had the reputation of having a "Chad Pennington Arm" (meaning a reasonably accurate popgun). Well young Mr. Brewer seems to have been doing some throwing work. He arc'd several balls 40-50 yards in the air, with good touch, and reasonable accuracy in both drills and the game. I was really happy to see the nose of the football parallel to the flight path of the ball instead of nose high like so many attempts last season. Brewer is especially dangerous when he can slide or move in the pocket. If he gets out into space, he looks like he has the arm to get the ball to Hodges or Ford (who seem to really like playing with him, and react well to Brewer's moves in the pocket.) This is Brewer's team. He's the player leader of the offense. He's moving people, setting up well, dropping back under control, and seeing the field better. It helps that the first team OL seems to be getting the hang of pass blocking, and is giving him some time and space to work.
Kicking... Joey hit like a 50+ yarder and barely missed another - I didn't see the stats, but I am really hoping that he's got some leg work in, he was driving place kicks off of a 3/3 offset much deeper than last season. And AJ was laying wood to the ball...
Oh and Frank still calls out for his "Pride" or "Pride and Joy" Team. This is still Frank Beamer's team, and it's STILL Beamer Ball.
Now we go back to your regular programming.