NCF Nation: David Wang


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Previewing the 2014 season for the Virginia Tech Hokies:

Key returners: RB Trey Edmunds (675 yards, 10 TDs), WR Willie Byrn (51 catches, 660 yards), WR Demitri Knowles (641 yards), WR Josh Stanford (640 yards), C David Wang, LB Kyshoen Jarrett (71 tackles, 2 INTs), CB Kendall Fuller (6 INTs, 11 pass break-ups), CB Brandon Facyson (5 INTs), DT Luther Maddy (13.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks)

Key losses: QB Logan Thomas, OG Andrew Miller, WR D.J. Coles, K Cody Journell, LB Jack Tyler, LB Tyriq Edwards, DL Derrick Hopkins, CB Kyle Fuller, DL James Gayle, DL J.R. Collins,

Most important games: Sept. 6 at Ohio State, Oct. 4 at North Carolina, Oct. 16 at Pitt, Oct. 23 at Miami.

Projected win percentage: .637

Vegas over/under: 8 wins

[+] EnlargeWillie Byrn
Robert Mayer/USA TODAY SportsWide receiver Willie Byrn says the Hokies plan to embark on a championship run in 2014.
Instant impact newcomers: Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer has his eyes on the starting quarterback job, and plenty of Tech fans view him as a potential savior for an offense that languished the past two years. Freshman tailback Marshawn Williams had an encouraging spring and could push Edmunds for carries. Redshirt freshman Seth Dooley figures to help fill the void on the defensive line. Tight end Bucky Hodges, a redshirt freshman, is 6-foot-6 and could be an inviting red zone target.

Biggest question mark: The quarterback position was undoubtedly the biggest question mark entering fall camp, but turning around the offensive struggles for Virginia Tech will be a group effort, regardless of who takes the bulk of the snaps this season. Edmunds and the other running backs need to take pressure off the QB by moving the ball on the ground. The O-line needs to be more physical and help Tech convert more third downs, a huge problem last season. The receivers need to get open and, just as importantly, hang on to the football when it comes their way. If all those other things happen, the wins may come regardless of the quarterback.

Best-case scenario for 2014: Coach Frank Beamer finds his quarterback, the rest of the offense grows up around him, and Virginia Tech finally has an offensive identity. The special teams unit returns to its “Beamer Ball” roots, and the defense looks as good as it did a year ago, even without its departed stars. An early upset of Ohio State earns the Hokies national credibility and a reasonable schedule in conference puts Tech in the hunt for a division title and a shot at the College Football Playoff.

Worst-case scenario for 2014: No QB emerges as an obvious choice to start, and a revolving door opens at the position. Edmunds and the receivers show little improvement from a year ago. The defense misses Tyler and the elder Fuller and can’t mask the offensive struggles any longer. The atmosphere gets tense internally and the Hokies struggle against flawed teams in their own division. The 21-year bowl streak comes to an end.

Number to know: 12.6. That’s Virginia Tech’s yards per completion last season, which, surprisingly enough, was right about the same as what the prolific offense at Clemson managed (12.7). The difference in the two passing games? The Hokies completed just 56 percent of their attempts. Clemson completed 69 percent. Chalk it up to the accuracy issues of Thomas, but the receivers also need to do a better job of avoiding drops in key spots.

They said it: “I’m thinking about, it's ACC championship or bust, and I think our whole team has that sense of urgency.” -- Byrn

Greetings from Death Valley

October, 20, 2012
10/20/12
11:00
AM ET
CLEMSON, S.C. -- This is the REAL Death Valley, right?

As far as Clemson fans are concerned it is.

It's an absolutely spectacular fall football Saturday here. The Clemson fans were zipping down I-85 South early this morning, and the tailgates were set up more than three hours before kickoff. This is not a sleepy football town. I tweeted earlier that if Clemson played all night games, the Tigers might never lose at home. They shouldn't lose this afternoon, either -- not with the matchup against Virginia Tech's secondary favoring Clemson, and not with the concerns the Hokies have on their offensive line. Those will be the two main keys to the game, of course along with quarterback play between Virginia natives Tajh Boyd and Logan Thomas -- two friends and great competitors.

I spoke with Thomas this week, and he said he was confident in Michael Via at center, and it should help the Hokies to have David Wang at left guard. Virginia Tech football (@VT_football) tweeted that, barring a setback in warm-ups, Wang should be able start. If the Hokies can continue the success they had running the ball against Duke with true freshman J.C. Coleman, that might be their best defense -- to sustain some drives and keep DeAndre Hopkins and Sammy Watkins off the field as much as possible. That's going to be a tough matchup for the Hokies' young secondary. If they play man, they might just get burned.

It's an important game for both teams -- one neither can really afford to lose. Virginia Tech, though, is facing even more pressure, considering the Hokies have yet to win a game away from Lane Stadium this season and they lost to Clemson twice last season. A win in Death Valley would prove last week's three quarters against Duke were legit.

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas said he probably won’t sleep too well following his pedestrian performance in the Hokies’ 20-17 overtime win against Georgia Tech.

It might help him to watch the game film of the first three and a half quarters.

It was a snoozefest. Nyquil in uniform. Until the final 7:46 of regulation, when the Hokies scored 10 points to tie the game at 17 and force the first overtime game in Lane Stadium history. It was a thrilling, historic, dramatic finish that went off like an alarm and reminded many of us why we love college football.

You never know what you’re going to get -- and that just might be the story of the Hokies this fall.

There were signs that Virginia Tech can again play its way to the ACC championship game -- and historically, the winner of this game has gone on to do just that in each of the past seven seasons. But more often than not Monday night, the offense was sluggish, Thomas' throws were off, and the youth and inexperience around him was exposed. The defense, though, lived up to the billing, particularly on the interior defensive line, which was disciplined and effective against the Jackets’ spread option offense. It was only the first game of the season -- a big one as far as the conference standings go -- but this team’s identity will likely grow with the offense this year.

[+] EnlargeCody Journell
AP Photo/Don PetersenVirginia Tech eked out a win over Georgia Tech on Cody Journell's field goal in overtime.
“They say when you’re ripe, you rot,” said linebacker Jack Tyler. “We like to say that we’re green, we still have room to grow.”

And a schedule that will allow them to do it.

The Hokies’ most difficult game of the month is behind them. Three of the next four games are in Lane Stadium, the lone exception being a trip to Pittsburgh to face a team that just lost to Youngstown State. With upcoming nonconference games against Austin Peay, Pittsburgh, Bowling Green and Cincinnati, Virginia Tech could be a deceiving 5-0 heading into an important Coastal Division game against North Carolina on Oct. 6.

Odds are 47 first-half rushing yards aren’t going to continue to cut it. To be fair, a 22-yard loss contributed to that after freshman punter A.J. Hughes let a bad snap sail through his hands. The errant play set up Georgia Tech’s first touchdown that tied the game at 7. For a long, long time.

“We’re not as good of a football team as we need to be right now, but I think we’ve got the potential to be a really good football team,” coach Frank Beamer said. “That’s our challenge is to keep growing, keep getting better, day by day.”

Nobody in the program shied away from the fact that there’s room for improvement.

Thomas’ performance wasn’t exactly first-round-esque. He completed 21 of 38 passes for 230 yards and two touchdowns. He had a couple of overthrown balls, and the offense never quite got into a rhythm, but his receivers weren’t flawless, either. He took all of the blame, though.

“The offensive line played great, the receivers played great and the running backs played great,” Thomas said. “I would say I was the one holding us back.”

Some growing pains were to be expected. Virginia Tech had to replace four starters on the offensive line, a first-round draft pick in running back David Wilson, and the top two pass catchers in school history. This offense got a makeover, and it showed. The same five linemen started every offensive snap against Georgia Tech. Six players made their first career starts, including offensive tackle Nick Becton, offensive tackle Vinston Painter, guard David Wang and tailback Michael Holmes.

“It’s the first game, we had a bunch of young guys who hadn’t played a lot,” linebacker Bruce Taylor said. “In the fourth quarter we showed some promise, that’s something to look forward to for next week. The offense looked a lot better in that fourth quarter. ... We can only build from here and it will look better from here.”

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