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Some thoughts from the bye week

After the first month-plus of college football, I’ve made a few observations

John Schneider - SB Nation

­­­Having watched a lot of college football this year, and every second of the Hokies’ games, I have some things I want to say about Virginia Tech football, and college football in general. To be honest, some of these don’t fit together very well — crafting a story that wove them together seemed pretty impossible — so I decided I’d just list them and talk with you guys in the comments. Here we go:

North Carolina never stood a chance

We need to get one thing through our heads: there’s a difference between recruiting well and having zero drop-off after losing four NFL skill players. I think that watching Alabama roll out a new set of NFL-level playmakers on offense every year (and comparing our own recruiting to UNC’s) has warped our perceptions. Even when programs recruit as well as UNC has over the past few years, there’s still a HUGE gap between UNC recruiting and Alabama/Georgia/Ohio State recruiting. Unless you’re one of those schools, you don’t just have NFL guys waiting in the wings every year — it’ll be a while before UNC catches the lightning in a bottle that was their 2020 offense. When Virginia Tech beat them in week 1, I didn’t think we had “caught them at the right time” or anything. I thought we were just better, and their subsequent results have confirmed that they certainly aren’t New Year’s Six material.

Big-time coaching searches

I never thought Mike Norvell stood a chance. I mean, who did? He walked into a terrible situation that has gotten worse under his watch, and it's pretty apparent he’s not a national championship coach. I think that what his failure shows is that we need to re-think these coaching searches. Florida State is a big-time program, no matter how bad it looks right now. They have national championships, deep pockets, enviable recruiting pipelines, high expectations — there are maybe a handful of people equipped to handle the demands of a job like that and have success. Do you really think the “trendy group of five coach” is one of those guys?

That kind of gets to my next point: so many programs are looking for the next offensive whiz—they’re looking for exciting football that gets fans excited about the program. But honestly, schools need to stop making these hires based on Xs and Os. To win big in college football, you just need your head coach to do these things: get your guys to play hard, recruit elite talent, make in-game decisions competently and be a positive face of the program. There are a lot of great football minds that just can’t do those things, and its why so many of them fail when they get the big job. Don’t overthink this, USC.

The spread offense has changed a LOT

It feels like in the late 2000s and early 2010s, we saw a spread offense revolution. Teams had success spreading the defense out horizontally and getting the ball to their athletes in space (remember how wide the splits were on the Baylor offense). Offenses just had way more team speed than defenses did. But defenses have caught up, and the spread of ten years ago looks really stupid these days — think of all the times you’ve seen a bubble screen go for no gain. Don’t get me wrong, the spread has become almost ubiquitous (the mesh concept is a bread and butter play these days), but it’s not the same radical scheme that originally took the college football world by storm. Pushing the ball downfield has to be a part of offensive success.

Let’s not direct frustrations with the coaching staff and/or the portal toward Braxton Burmeister

Braxton has been fine this year. He’s made a lot of plays and left some on the field like any other QB. That arm doesn’t look totally healthy to me after that hit in the MTSU game, but we’ll see if the bye week helps him improve. But I think that he’s definitely catching strays from the fanbase because of what happened with the portal last winter (i.e. Hendon Hooker and Quincy Patterson transferring). But let’s be honest. As soon as Burmeister committed and Hooker took his name out of the portal, everyone knew there was some logjam coming. Burmeister and Hooker were in the same class, with QP just a year behind. Burmeister just happened to be the last one standing, and say what you will about any supposed favoritism from the coaches, but it’s not as if Burmeister is some marginal player. All four QBs were 4-star prospects on the 247 composite rankings, with offer lists of similar quality.

Has Burmeister been perfect? Absolutely not, but let’s give him a chance rather than spend all our time thinking about what could have been with Hooker and QP, ready to jump on him for every mistake. Ultimately, Tech fans want winning, and Burmeister will have to be a key part of that.

VT’s manufactured offense

Our plays are so scripted, so rigidly structured, there isn’t much room for our guys to flex their muscles against inferior competition. On the flip side, we have been able to punch above our weight against better competition with some creative play design and strategy (think the first half of the Clemson game last year). I don’t think our biggest issue is play calling, but rather our offense’s inability to adapt and go off script—allow our playmakers to be great.

This has been an unpredictable year, but we all know what’s coming

Alabama will win the championship, barring something completely unforeseen. Sure, top teams have lost, ranked teams dropping like flies (Virginia Tech included), but Alabama remains the model of consistency in the sport. They sure aren’t losing to the Penn States of the world in the playoff.

Anyway, let me know what you think of all this in the comments, and see y’all Saturday…