We are four (well it should be five – no thanks to Florence and ECU’s choices) games in to a very intense season. Let’s take a look at where we stand before we get to the big headline contest against semi-ACC team Notre Dame.
- The Hokies are better than most of the analysts and fans thought. The win out of the gate against what has become a less than stellar FSU team (they won again this weekend, though) and the expected trouncing of William and Mary left a taste of “way better” in peoples’ mouths. That taste got hit with a serious shovel of turf shreds (ground tires so yuck!) with the ODU outing. I think the more serious hit was the cancellation of the ECU game, though.
- The Hokies are still inexperienced and, even if Coach Fuente doesn’t like it used, young. The defense is stocked solid with talent, but with large piles of “freshman” and “sophomore”, regardless of the shirt color. In experienced teams can get full of themselves, and when the heads swell to the point the helmets get too tight, the quality of play deteriorates. The truly knowledgeable Hokie faithful knew that “that” game was fluke occurrence; but we also remember that Georgia Tech is never really good enough to beat us; but they do and have for too many seasons.
- The Duke game was more of a restart than a solidification of momentum. Ideally we should have been 4-0 with a head of steam going in to the Duke contest. The “Hurricane Bye” was like a rope pulled across the road, and without the next step up to keep the energy flowing, the team fell into a sort of self-impressed torpor. As Coach Fuente noted, the gut punch evidently provided a wakeup.
- The quarterback situation seems to have been resolved. Though Fuente won’t say, it’s unlikely that we will see Josh Jackson back on the field this season for more than sideline support calls in sweats. Rehabbing that break is going to take quite a while. If Willis is going to perform week in and week out like he performed in the ODU and Duke games; then Josh Jackson will have to work the off-season. We won’t speculate too far, or say much more because young people heal fast, and coaches are really hard to knock off of their system. Just remember, Willis is a Fuente recruit, Jackson is not.
- Our receivers mean business. All of them demonstrated that they are willing to go up (or down) to fight for a ball. This willingness really has been missing of late. Not only will they battle for the ball, every player from wide out, slot, tight end, and running back will immediately turn into an effective runner after the catch. Yards after Catch are some of the least scrutinized stats in football. This group fully intends on putting a dent in those stats.
- The secondary really missed Divine Deablo, and rallied hard when he came back. There are just some players who have that sort of effect on a squad. Diablo has that speed/strength ratio that makes him the perfect Free Safety not a Whip/Nickle or Strong Safety, and he also brings some élan and leadership to the huddle. He’s got to stay healthy for the remainder, the team needs him.
- Will football fans ever learn? The traditional running game is no longer a primary method of moving the football efficiently down the field? It provides a 50/50 balance, at best, with modern offenses – and often that running game is produced by the Running Quarterback. Football has nearly reverted to a Single Wing formation. You only need to look at Clemson’s rotating quarterback trauma to realize that most offensive systems are crafted around a powerful offensive line, sticky handed receivers, and backs that can both run and catch. The modern college quarterback really only needs to hit 3 or four different passes. He just has to read keys correctly for the Read/Option or RPO. Traditional run dominance still hangs on, but notice it does lower in the ranks - Group of 5 teams, Independents like Army. Army calls something like four plays and nearly any halfback with a decent seam pass can play quarterback. It’s nice to see Army win; believe me, but a powerhouse championship football team they will never be, again.
The big test for the renewed Hokie spirit will be Saturday evening, and what it looks like at half-time of the Notre Dame smashup at Lane Stadium. We will break down the issues and fundamentals – and check in with One Foot Down for some of their opinions; but a Tech home victory against a hot Notre Dame Football team will all but erase the nasty taste of shredded tire from our collective mouths.
The Hokies are in very good shape as we start the ACC sprint. As I said in the beginning of the season, I fully expect the Miami game will be the ACC Coastal Championship game. And we make it that way by Justin Fuente finally killing the Paul Johnson Skunk at the Picnic Curse.