Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler has never sounded this sure about what he returns for 2015: four times during 20-minute conversation he used the phrase "no excuses."
He speaks the truth. There cannot be any now that Loeffler and the Hokies open spring practice with just about every significant contributor back from last season, including starting quarterback Michael Brewer.
It’s a position Loeffler hasn’t been in since he arrived on campus. So it’s one he plans on taking full advantage of, starting with his determination to turn Brewer from an inconsistent player into a more refined, much better quarterback. He plans to do the same with backup Brenden Motley, too.
"I am going to apply more pressure on both of them than I have on a quarterback since 2005," Loeffler said, referring to the year he worked with Chad Henne at Michigan. "For what Michael Brewer had to do last year, God bless him. He got an offense crammed down his throat in one month and had to run out there and couldn’t visualize things the way you’re supposed to. There were some things he did really well, and there were some things that were absolutely horrific. We’re going to eliminate the horrific items we had."
Brewer was sacked 34 times, ranking No. 12 in the ACC. "Everybody points the finger at the line," Loeffler said. "Half the times we took sacks was on us at that position."
Penalties. "We had an astronomical amount of penalties at the beginning," Loeffler said. "We’re going to handle that."
Turnovers. "You look at the interception that was thrown in the Georgia Tech game, when we had a chance to go down and win the game," Loeffler said. "The ball was on the left hash. We had Cover 2. We take the wrong footwork on a simple smash route and it cost us."
"At the end of the day, if I’m going to force them to know it like I know it, and if they can get to that level, which I think both can, we have a chance to be a really good football team, because we’ll upgrade our play at that position. We did not play well enough last year at the position, and there’s a lot of great excuses out there, and probably some of them have some validity, but there is no excuses anymore. We’re older, we’ve got it, now let’s get to the details, let’s make sure we know this stuff inside and out and be the coach on the field and play better."
Quarterback is only the start. Though Virginia Tech returns Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips at receiver, the Hokies must develop depth here and become a better perimeter blocking team. Carlis Parker, Deon Newsome, and Demitri Knowles will be expected to take the next step.
At running back, Marshawn Williams will miss the spring while he recovers from a knee injury, and Shai McKenzie remains suspended indefinitely after an offseason arrest. But there is plenty of depth here (when healthy), with Trey Edmunds, J.C. Coleman, Travon McMillian, and D.J. Reid among the many who will be practicing this spring.
"I think the receivers will respond but, if they don’t we’ve got enough tight ends that heck with it, if we play four wide, we’ll plays with two receivers and two tight ends and let’s go," Loeffler said. "We need to get that room to contribute more than it did last year."
Virginia Tech does have to replace three starters on the offensive line, but Loeffler is adamant the Hokies will absolutely be able to run the ball this season. Injuries to the running backs and offensive line hampered those efforts a year ago, but there is renewed confidence now that a new season has arrived.
"For the first time walking into spring, we’re going to know exactly who we are, we know what we can do, we know what we can’t do, and it’s refreshing because we’re going to have an identity," Loeffler said. "The only way we won’t is if the whole world falls apart again. You hope what we went through last year never happens again. We should be a lot better. We must be better and we will be better."