Sun Bowl Oppo Notes: Previewing the Hokie Offense

Geoff Burke

We take a look at the Hokie offense that replaced it's offensive coordinator, receivers coach, and offensive line coach last season only to have less production this year.

While Virginia Tech's defense may be one of the top units in the country, their offense has struggled through a season of inconsistent production. Overall, the Hokies rank 100th in the nation in total offense with 359 yards per game, the lowest of any of UCLA's opponents this season. Virginia Tech struggled through the air, averaging only 241 ypg, good for 57th in the nation, but the real variance from the traditional Hokie offense came on the ground, where they only gained 117 ypg, placing them 112th in the country. Comparing this year's edition of the Hokie offense to years past, the passing game numbers are on the better end of the spectrum, but the rushing statistics are much lower than normal.

The decline in offensive production this year is not nearly as drastic as the decline in scoring. The Hokies only scored 23.4 ppg this year, good for 96th in the nation. The 23 ppg represents the latest dip in a continual slide in scoring since 2010, when the Hokies averaged 33 ppg. Not surprisingly, the slide in scoring coincides with a decrease in rushing output over the same span. The lack of production is not due to a lack of trying; the Hokies average roughly 38 rushing attempts per game. Look for the Hokies to emphasize establishing the run game against the Bruins and test the Bruin front seven.

Unfortunately for the Hokies, they lost leading rusher Trey Edmunds to injury, who had 675 yards and 10 touchdowns before he went down in the last game of the season. In his place, the Hokies will start J.C. Coleman, who had 262 yards on 75 carries this season. At 5'7 191 lbs., Coleman lacks ideal size, but he has carried the load previously, tallying 22 carries against Miami in a big Hokie victory. Behind Coleman, Virginia Tech does not have significant experience in the back field. Look for freshmen Chris Mangus (6'0, 184 lbs.) and Joel Caleb (6'2, 205 lbs.) to play a role in the running game.

Paving the way for the Hokie tailbacks is an offensive line that has not had the results this season that Frank Beamer had hoped when he replaced the offensive line coach. As a unit, the Hokie line has given up 30 sacks and averages only 3.11 yards per carry. The starts a true freshman at left tackle in Jonathan McLaughlin (6'5 313 lbs.), a talented junior right tackle in Laurence Gibson (6'6 290 lbs.). Next to McLaughlin, junior Caleb Farris (6'3 308 lbs.) forms a decently sized left side of the line. Junior David Want (6'2, 299 lbs.) and senior Andrew Miller (6'4, 296 lbs.) round out the line at center and right guard, respectively.

In addition the running backs, Virginia Tech will utilize senior quarterback Logan Thomas in the running game. At 6'6 254 lbs., Thomas is a big guy that can fill some of the void in short yardage situations following Edmunds' injury. On the season, Thomas has 159 carries for 295 yards and 4 touchdowns, but when sacks are factored in his rushing stats look a lot better - about 130 carries for 520 yards. As good as those numbers are, they are much lower than his production in 2012 and 2011, when Logan tallied over 1000 yards and 20 touchdowns.

In the passing game, Logan Thomas has not showed the improvement over the course of his career that was expected when he broke out as a sophomore in 2011. Statistically, he's the same passer as he was as a sophomore. That's not a slight on Thomas' talents. He's got a big arm, can move around the pocket, and can wow you at times, but his mediocre numbers are a result of his inconsistent play. On the season, he's completed 57% of his passes for 2,861 yards with 16 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, but his game log shows mix of stellar performances like the 19 of 28 for 293 yards and 3 touchdowns against North Carolina or the 25 of 31 for 366 yards with 2 touchdowns against Miami, and stinkers like 5 of 26 for 59 yards and an interception against Alabama and 21 of 31 for 214 yards and 4 interceptions against Duke. As with most inconsistent quarterbacks, Thomas' biggest issue is his accuracy, especially in the face of pressure, and the Bruins will be well served to get after Thomas as much as possible.

Regardless of which version of Logan Thomas shows up, he's got a good stable of receivers on offense. Junior Willie Byrn and Sophomore Demetri Knowles lead the way with 49 catches for 635 yards and 2 touchdowns and 43 catches for 619 yards and 3 touchdowns, respectively. In the red zone, the Hokies rely on senior D.J. Coles, a 6'4 234 lbs. target. Cole leads the team with 6 touchdowns, and has 23 catches for 365 yards on the season. The Hokies will also utilize freshmen wide receiver Joshua Stanford, who has 37 catches for 606 yards and a touchdown, and fantastically named tight end Kalvin Cline, who has 25 catches for 284 yards and 2 touchdowns.

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That concludes our preview of the Virginia Tech Hokies. Fire away with thoughts and comments below.

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