Thursday, September 29, 2011

Irish Hockey No. 1 Entering 2011-2012 Season

Photo Credit: South Bend Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN

Jeff Jackson, Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hockey Head Coach, has things cooking in South Bend. In his short tenure thus far he has already led Notre Dame to its first ever Frozen Four and national championship game, won a conference titlle and led them back to yet another Frozen Four.

Accolades keep piling up for the Irish skipper and his team as the domers enter the season ranked No.1 by USCHO and No. 2 by USA Hockey.

Despite the pre-season praise surrounding the program there were more exciting things covered on media day earlier this week, namely the newly constructed Compton Family Center.

Extensive coverage by Stars and Slights on the new home to the Fighting Irish hockey program has been seen since May of 2009. If it were laid out chronologically, coverage would look like this:
  1. May 2009 - Announcement of future home
  2. December 2009 - Mock drawings of arena released
  3. March 2010 - Construction begins
  4. October 2010 - Groundbreaking ceremony
  5. January 2011 - Construction update
Now, as September comes to a close the Irish will have to wait patiently before they skate in their first game at their new home. In fact, Notre Dame is scheduled to play its first two home games of the season at the Joyce Center against Ohio State before unveiling its new jewel on October 21 at 7:35p EST against Rensselaer.

One month later the Irish will drop the puck at their official dedication game on November 18 at 7:35p EST against long-time rival Boston College. That matchup falls on the same weekend that the Eagles' Football team will be in South Bend to take on the Fighting Irish Football team.

Before playing any games in the new rink, though, several finishing touches need to be made on the arena. Among other things, the ice needed to be laid and even painted. For an in-depth look at those tasks as well as viewing the first skate by the Irish squad in their new home follow this link.

Back to the team, Seniors Billy Maday and Sean Lorenz will serve as co-captains this season and sophomore Anders Lee will be an alternate. These leaders will play pivotal roles for the Irish but they are not the keys to success.

Ultimately, Notre Dame will rely on a combination of its bountiful underclassmen from its sophomore and freshmen classes to carry the load. Consistent goaltending from Junior Mike Johnson would also go a long way toward helping the Irish achieve their ultimate goal: the program's first national championship.

Stay tuned throughout the 2011-2012 season as we follow the Irish hockey program.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My Name is Jonas: Gray Powers Irish to Win in Pittsburgh

Notre Dame's 15-12 victory over Pittsburgh last weekend was far from a thing of beauty. Turnovers, penalties and offensive miscues again abound for the Irish in keeping with the first half of the season.

One of the few spots of brightness, aside from the 'w', was a 79-yard touchdown run from seldom used Sr. RB Jonas Gray.

Fitting for a 230 pound tailback for the Irish playing in Pittsburgh to scamper for such an impressive run. Jerome Bettis, a former Irish tailback in the mold of Gray's stature, played for the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers for several seasons and unleashed similar runs against opposition in the Steel City.

Tommy Rees was inconsistent and too predictable in the passing game for much of the afternoon as the Panthers did a tremendous job of disguising looks and confusing the Irish offense. He did, however, manage to put together the game-winnning touchdown drive late in the 4th quarter to put the Irish on top for good. On that series alone, he went 8-8 passing. For the game he finished 24-41 for 216 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT.

Tight End continues to be a valuable asset in the Irish offense. Tyler Eifert snared 8 passes from Rees for a game-high 75 yards and caught the game-winning TD and ensuing 2-pt. conversion attempt. For his efforts he was named John Mackey Tight End of the Week. He now leads all FBS Tight Ends in receptions, receptions per game, receiving yards and receiving yards per game. Translation: he's a stud.

On defense, the Irish yet again proved that the epic Michigan collapse was most likely an abberation. They held the Panthers to an unimpressive 268 total yards on offense and refused to allow a rushing touchdown. On the season, they have only allowed 1 rushing TD; only Florida has fewer.

Freshmen DEs Aaron Lynch and Stephon Tuitt were strong contributors for the second consecutive game. Lynch finished with 1 sack and an additional tackle-for-loss and Tuitt chipped in with 1 tackle while clogging gaps while splitting time at DE and NG.

Darius Fleming recorded 2 sacks to support the defensive effort as the Irish tallied 6 total sacks of Panthers' QB Tino Sunseri. With the game on the line on what would turn out to be Pittsburgh's final possession the Irish defense harassed Sunseri with a couple sacks and forced the Panthers into 3rd and 4th and long, which they ultimately could not recover from.

Special teams still has room for improvement, although they managed to not turn the ball over or muff any kicks last Saturday. A questionable roughing the kicker penalty by Austin Collinsworth sparked Pitt's lone touchdown drive of the afternoon to open the 2nd half.

Despite a clear lack of obvious development thus far over the first several games the Irish and Coach Kelly were happy (and lucky) to escape Pittsburgh with a win.
I'd like to have won 37-0 too. But you know what? Winning's winning. It's not easy. You go on the road against a BCS team and limit them to 12 points and find a way to win. I like that development. We're developing and expectation with our guys that in a close game we're going win it.
Next up for the Irish is Purdue on Saturday, October 1 at 8pm EST on ESPN.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Hokies' Cruise Past Marshall 30-10

Virginia Tech knocked off Marshall Saturday 30-10 in Tech's first trip to Huntington, W.Va. in 71 years.

The Hokies improved to 4-0 on the season and finished their non-conference slate with a powerful rushing attack.

David Wilson had 132 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries and Josh Oglesby had 12 carries for 75 yards and two scores. Quarterback Logan Thomas also had a short scoring run.

Through the air, Thomas completed 22 of 33 passes for 229 yards and an interception in a subdued, but fairly even performance.

Senior wide receiver Danny Coale had a lot to do with those numbers, hauling in 7 catches for 107 yards. Coale also punted twice for the first time in his college career, relieving Scott Demler who has had some struggles so far this season.

Coale almost won the job coming out of fall camp and will be in open competition for punting duties again this week.

The Tech defense was stifling once again, holding Marshall to just 6 yards rushing. The Hokies rank second in the nation in rushing defense allowing just 43 ypg thus far.

The Hokies now begin conference play with a big home tilt against the red hot Clemson Tigers.

Clemson enters the game 4-0 coming off wins over defending national champions Auburn and Florida State.

Tech has won the last five meetings with Clemson, though the Hokies are just 2-5 against the Tigers all-time in Lane Stadium.

The top-15 match up will be televised starting at 6 PM next Saturday on ESPN2.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Thoughts On ACC Expansion

The college conference landscape has been shifting for years now. The ACC was a catalyst the first time conference members started bolting when Miami, Boston College and Syracuse originally tried to head to the ACC in 2003 to bring that conference to 12 members.

Ultimately, thanks in large part to heavy pressure from regional politicians, the University of Virginia helped pressure conference leadership into accepting Virginia Tech along with Miami instead. That of course made sense based on being a good geographical fit, and the similar academics and athletic programs involved.

Syracuse fell out of the deal leaving Boston College to wait a year before tagging along thanks largely to University of Miami President Donna Shalala, who spearheaded the entire process.

Once again, the conference is being proactive in solidifying membership numbers before there are no other options. The ACC is now officially an east-coast super conference and may not be done adding teams.

I've heard a number of complaints from Syracuse supporters upset over losing traditional basketball match ups like Georgetown or Villanova.

UConn appears to be trying desperately to follow along to the ACC, perhaps bringing along the underwhelming choice of Rutgers. There will only be a few traditional Big East rivalries in danger, and I'm sure those few important games can be added to the non-conference schedule in hoops.

While I'm overwhelmingly biased having long disliked the Big East and strongly enjoyed the ACC, I see far more positives than negatives in this latest move.

I'm still uncertain about the viability of a 16-team league, but it would appear that's the direction things are headed.

One thing is certain, the ACC now moves to the forefront of conferences in college basketball. With Duke, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Maryland, Florida State etc., NCAA tournament bids look as if they will be plentiful in the new ACC.

Lacrosse will improve an already powerful conference line up with the addition of Syracuse and frankly the Big East schools moving over stand to improve all of their "olympic sports" programs with the move.

The Big East foolishly turned down a fairly lucrative television deal months back rumored to extend through 2022-2023 and worth between $110-130 million annually.

The ACC's current deal negotiated pre-expansion is already worth $155 million annually, that's approximately $1.86 billion over the same 12-year span mentioned above.

Large, evenly distributed revenue sharing leaves more money for non-revenue sports and has a beneficial effect on all conference members.

It'll take some getting used to the new, and in some cases old rivalries brought on by a new conference, but there's a lot to be said for having a stable home in these uncertain times.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Spartans Lynch-ed in South Bend as Irish Earn First Win of Season

Forget the omnipresent commentary on Notre Dame turning the ball over for a minute. With the help of a few freshmen, namely DE Aaron Lynch and RB George Atkinson III, the Irish were able to earn their first win of the season this past Saturday against Michigan State.

There were other contributors in the Irish's 31-13 victory but much of the win can be attributed to solid contributions from the underclassmen.

Lynch did not play at all in the road contest against Michigan a week prior and based on the performance he put on against Michigan State it is difficult to understand his lack of playing. He was a dominant force and caused issues all afternoon for Spartans QB Kirk Cousins.

With the Spartans running game essentially obsolete (29 yards) Lynch saw most of his playing time in obvious passing situations. His pass rushing ability stood out as he amassed five tackles, one sack that caused a fumble and six quarterback hurries. To put that last stat into perspective, last season alone Notre Dame did not have a single individual record more than five hurries for the year. That is some serious pressure!

A healthy rotation on the defensive line all afternoon kept legs fresh. Lynch rotated with Kapron Lewis-Moore, Ethan Johnson and fellow freshman Stephon Tuitt, who also played well for the Irish.

Moving onto Atkinson III, his spark was provided on special teams. After the Spartans got on the board with a field goal, bringing the score to 7-3 in favor of the Irish, Atkinson III took the ensuing Spartans kickoff 89-yards for a touchdown. It marked the first kickoff return for the Irish since Amrando Allen Jr's 95-yard return in the 2008 Hawaii Bowl.

After the game Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly revealed how the Irish practiced creating a 'wedge' throughout the week to expose the Spartans. Senior walk-on Chris Salvi perfectly executed a block on the play to take out two Spartans defenders to help pave the way for Atkinson III. The freshman did the rest of the work with his blazing speed.

Special teams play for the Irish still showed inconsistency despite the great return by Atkinson III. John Goodman muffed a punt in the 4th quarter and caused a 'here we go again' feeling to settle in over Notre Dame Stadium. Punt returns cannot get much worse for the Irish as they rank 106th in yards returned (5) and 111th in average yards per return (0.7). If improvements are not made the Irish will wind up losing more games this year due to poor special teams play.

Irish QB Tommy Rees put himself into another set of precarious situations after two turnovers early in the first half. If the Irish are to make anything out of their abysmal start to the season they will need Rees to limit his mistakes. His resiliency cannot be forgotten, though, as his short term memory allows him to quickly move on after throwing an interception and focus on his next opportunity.

Fifth year senior CB Gary Gray redeemed himself nicely after a dismal showing last weekend in the Big House. He had a few knock downs and made 10 tackles en route to a much needed bounce back performance. The real star of the secondary, though, was senior Robert Blanton.

After Goodman's muffed punt the Spartans took over with the ball deep in Irish territory. Cousins helped advance the ball inside the red zone to the Irish before setting the stage for Blanton's heroics. Blanton tipped a pass from Cousins to himself and bolted 82 yards down the field to help preserve Notre Dame's first win on the year. He also made six tackles including three for a loss in the contest.

All world WR Michael Floyd faced double coverage throughout the game but still managed to reel in six catches for 84 yards. He received some help from Sophomore WR TJ Jones, who caught a TD pass from Rees in the 3rd quarter to put the Irish up 28-10. Not only did he put the Irish further on top of the Spartans, he put his gloves together to form a Leprechaun and was flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty. This was contrary to what Coach Kelly had been advised of and had consequently informed his players that it was 'ok' to do so.

As it turns out, after further review Jones and Kelly's interpretations, not the referees', of the rule were correct.

Incorrect penalties aside, the Irish brought their season average down from 8.5 to 5, which shows they are starting to become more disciplined.

It has been said before and will be said again: Coach Kelly is building a new philosophy and mindset with his football team. In year two things should be progressing and we have already seen some major improvements along the defensive line and running game (two areas facing the most need for resurrection).

While the Irish would feel much better sitting at 2-1 as opposed to 1-2 they will take what they can get at this point. After all, as the nation's leading team in turnovers lost it is hard to imagine they have even won one game.

Pittsburgh, who experienced Notre Dame syndrome by blowing a huge fourth quarter lead last weekend at Iowa, is up next for the Irish and will pose as an intriguing challenge. The Panthers are led by Todd Graham, who skippered the Tulsa Golden Hurricane to victory at Notre Dame Stadium last season.

A lot has changed since Graham's last contest against the Irish and growing pains will most likely show for the Panthers in this contest. Barring any major catastrophe on special teams or in the turnover department the Irish should emerge from Saturday's matchup 2-2 on the year.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cutting Room Floor Lives!

Despite what you might hear in certain circles, there are still vague rumblings of activity deep beneath the surface in Cutting Room Floor. I feel it's important to remind the world that you can purchase both our "official" releases at cdbaby.

Both In Our Luck and our Whiskey Rebellion EP are available for download, as are popular individual songs such as "Walking Alone", "No Thanks Ms. M" and "Brilliant Night".

I anticipate some sneaky new releases at some point and some potential official recordings down the line. Keep an eye on Stars and Slights for new content. Life is a little murky right now so who really knows what to expect when it comes to music?

Anyway, please buy our music as we attempt to make more.

Stay tuned!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Frank Beamer Wins 200th as Hokies Edge East Carolina 17-10

Virginia Tech survived its first road game of the season Saturday, outlasting the Pirates 17-10 a game dominated by defense.

The win marked Frank Beamer's 200th at Virginia Tech and 242nd for his career. Beamer becomes just the tenth coach in FBS history to win at least 200 games at one school.

Tech quarterback Logan Thomas was somewhat inconsistent his first career road start completing just 8 of 20 passes for 91 yards and an interception, but he had several key passes dropped by receivers.

Thomas added 66 yards on the ground and proved once again that he's an imposing physical runner, plowing head-on over defenders on several carries fully utilizing his 6-6 frame.

David Wilson continued the quietest Heisman campaign you'll come across with 26 carries for 138 yards as Tech ground out 241 yards on the ground.

Josh Oglesby also had an excellent effort posting 43 yards on nine carries and scoring both of the Hokies' touchdowns.

The Hokie defense was in midseason form Saturday, holding the explosive Pirate offense to just 112 total yards including -15 yards rushing.

Corner Kyle Fuller interception a pass and the Hokie defense sacked ECU quarterback Dominique Davis five times.

The Techmen return to Blacksburg this weekend for a non-conference tilt with Arkansas State. The Red Wolves are 1-1 on the season and are coming off a 47-3 thumping of Memphis.

Under Frank Beamer, the Hokies are 118-31-1 in Blacksburg and 3-0 all-time against Arkansas State.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Stunning Collapse Puts Irish, Kelly at 0-2 Searching for Answers

Notre Dame's Gary Gray (4) watches as Michigan's Roy Roundtree (12) catches the game-winning TD for the Wolverines

Another week, same old story for the Fighting Irish. For the second game this season you might think the Irish actually won by looking at the stats column.

Notre Dame had more total yards (513 to 452), rushing yards (198 to 114), better 3rd down efficiency (8-14 to 3-9) and dominated time of possession (37:01 to 22:59).

But, like last week, as your eyes glaze down the stats column you pass over the most telling stat: turnovers.

It was a 5 turnover performance that ultimately prevented the Irish from having any shot of beating South Florida a week earlier. True to form, it was another 5 turnover performance that practically gift wrapped an undeserving victory for the Michigan Wolverines last night.

Make no mistake about it, Michigan did not win the game last night. Notre Dame lost it. And what a heartbreaking 35-31 loss it was for the Irish.

There were several key junctures where the Irish had opportunities to close out the Wolverines. From the red zone in the first half Irish QB Tommy Rees threw into traffic at Michael Floyd who was covered by no less than three Wolverines defenders. Instead of going up 21-7, the Irish stayed at 14-7 before forcing a three-and-out and eventually kicking a field goal to make it 17-7.

Then there was the fumble by Rees, who let the ball slip out of his hand as he was attempting to throw, at the goal line when the Irish were about to expand on a tightened 24-21 lead late in the 4th quarter.

Rees was chosen earlier in the week by Coach Kelly to start in favor of the previously anointed starter Dayne Crist. Several mistakes were made, especially the fumble mentioned above along with a few ill-advised interceptions, but Rees ultimately played good enough to put the Irish in position to win the game. He did, after all, manage to lead them down the field and connect with WR Theo Riddick, who recovered nicely after an awful opening game performance, for what appeared to be the go-ahead score with 30 seconds left.

Luck was not on Notre Dame's side though. Take the Michigan fumble at the 1-yard line. Irish S Harrison Smith forced the ball loose but it bounced directly into the eager and sure hands of Michigan's QB Denard Robinson who easily waltzed into the end zone for a score.

Late in the 3rd quarter, Notre Dame's DE Kapron Lewis-Moore had an opportunity to bring down Robinson with a sack. With Lewis-Moore tightly gripped to his leg, Robinson somehow managed to remain balanced and throw a precision pass to WR Junior Hemingway for a 77-yard gain.

What sticks out most from Robinson's performance, though, is that he completed a meager 11 passes all night. But from those 11 passes he generated 338 yards, which goes to show how poorly Notre Dame's secondary played.

As bad of a passer as Robinson is he somehow managed to tear apart the Irish secondary seemingly at will. Pictured at the top of the article, CB Gary Gray was largely responsible for those bombs thrown by Robinson. He looked confused on a 43-yard touchdown to Hemingway in the 2nd quarter and allowed a 14-yard touchdown to WR Jeremy Gallon early in the 4th quarter. On the game's final offensive play Robinson went over top of Gray to hit Roy Roundtree (picture at the top of the article) for the game-winning score.

But this was a team loss and everyone on that roster is accountable for it. Coach Kelly did not tread lightly on this after what surely was a migraine inducing performance.
We're not good enough. There's not an individual in the locker room, including all the coaches, that are good enough right now. Pretty much told our football team that when we're a better football team we'll start winning.
Better needs to be right around the corner or it could wind up being a long season for the Irish and their fans.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Virginia Tech Breezes Past Appalachian State 66-13

Virginia Tech went nuts on Appalachian State last Saturday to the tune of a 66-13 thumping in Blacksburg.

David Wilson tallied 164 yards on 16 carries and three touchdowns.

Logan Thomas made his first career start at quarterback for the Hokies and threw two touchdowns to Marcus Davis and completed 9 of 19 passes for 149 yards.

The Hokies next head to Greenville, N.C. to take on the East Carolina Pirates in Tech's first game as the No. 11 team in the polls.

Television coverage starts at 3:30 and kick off is slated for 3:40 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Below is the video of Tech receiver Dryrell Roberts' filthy catch over a Mountaineer defender Saturday.

Shamrock Helmet Pictures Released by Notre Dame for 'Under the Lights' Matchup

While we haven't yet caved in to the Twitter craze it is hard to turn a blind eye to it at times. Count this as one of those 'hard to turn a blind eye' times.

Ryan Grooms, a Notre Dame Football equipment manager, started his own feed and regularly tweets updates on the Irish's uniforms. Among his tweets this week was one revealing the official shamrock helmet to be worn by the Irish this weekend in the 'Under the Lights' game against Michigan.

The one posted by Grooms is more official than the one at the header of this post, which is one you could actually purchase here if your heart so desires. Note how an 'Irish' moniker was added to the sidestraps as well as a font change from black to green was made at the top of the face mask.

At the very least, the Irish will be sharply dressed when they run onto the field in their throwbacks against the Wolverines.

Irish Can't Weather Bulls' Storm on Opening Weekend

If you analyzed Notre Dame's season opening game against the South Florida Bulls looking solely at the stats column you might come to the conclusion that the Irish came on top.

Notre Dame exactly doubled South Florida's yardage output (508 to 254), earned more first downs (27 to 20) and had nearly even time of possession (28:54 to 31:06).

But then your eyes glaze over the two most telling stats of the game: penalties (8 for 73 yards compared to 9 for 43 yards) and turnovers (5 to 0). Seeing these it is easy to understand why Irish fans were left heartbroken by the opening 23-20 loss after such high hopes entering the 2011 season.

After taking the opening drive the length of the field over a four minute span, Jonas Gray was stripped of the ball and the consequential fumble was returned 96 yards for a TD by South Florida's Kayvon Webster.

From there the rest of the first half was nothing much to write home about as Notre Dame failed to get on the scoreboard in the first half.

Due in large part to the inability to score points, Brian Kelly decided to pull starting Sr. QB Dayne Crist, who had been described by Kelly as having the tools to "start 13 games" for the Irish this season, in favor of So. QB Tommy Rees.

If you recall, Rees famously replaced Crist at the end of last season and led the Irish to a 4-0 record as a starter.

In other similar fashion to last season, Rees mustered a comeback but could not bring the Irish all the way back against the Bulls (he replaced Crist against Tulsa at home in 2010 - a game the Irish lost 28-27).

Yesterday, Kelly announced that Rees had passed Crist on the depth chart and earned a start against Michigan. It is not a big surprise when you compare Rees' stats against Crist's. In the first half, Crist went 7 of 15 for 85 yards. In the second half, Rees went 24 of 34 for 296 yards. What a difference a half makes.

And for many Irish fans, they wish the game had been halved for other reasons. Thanks to a severe storm cell that rolled through officials were forced to evacuate Notre Dame Stadium twice, sending total time of game into unparalleled heights at 5 hours and 59 minutes.

All in all, there are not too many positives to glean from Saturday's performance. Theo Riddick proved ineffective and costly to the Irish in the punt return game (muffed a kick that was recovered by South Florida and struggled on short field returns, Ben Turk could not put any height or distance on the ball punting, David Ruffer missed his only FG attempt and penalties cost the Irish touchdowns and field position.

On the bright side, Sr. WR Michael Floyd eclipsed former star Jeff Samarzdija's record (179) for career receptions. Needing only 8 to pass "The Shark's" mark Floyd snagged 12 to put his total at 183. Additionally, Jr. RB Cierre Wood also had a career day with 104 yards rushing.

Defensively, Notre Dame held the Bulls to only one offensive touchdown and held them to 2 of 14 for 3rd down conversions.

Looking ahead the Irish have to move past their disappointment and quickly correct mistakes before a historic bout with Michigan this Saturday at 8pm EST in The Big House that will see both teams don throwbacks in homage of Michigan's first ever home night game.

If history has any sense of repeating itself here's hoping Rees can replicate his performances last year as a starter subbing for Crist.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

2011 Virginia Tech Football Preview

Virginia Tech football has in recent years earned the unfortunate distinction of being an excellent program that wilts under the pressure of high expectations.

Partly because of that reputation, and partly because Tech is breaking in a new quarterback, the Hokies start this season ranked 13th and largely as an afterthought in the race for the national championship.

That’s just the way Frank Beamer likes it, and as the second winningest active coach in college football (thanks coach Tressell!) begins his 25th season as the head man in Blacksburg, the sky’s the limit for his talented team.

The biggest question mark resides under center in the form of the enormous redshirt sophomore Logan Thomas. Thomas measures in at 6’6”, 254 pounds and caught a touchdown pass last season, but saw limited time at quarterback.

Thomas is a physically gifted player good enough to log time at tight end before becoming a QB, but this season will be a learning experience for him and mistakes will happen.

Inexperience is a concern, but Frank Beamer really likes Thomas.

“To me, he’s just got it,” Beamer said recently. “He’s got a lot of the same qualities Tyrod has. He’s smart, competitive, got great character, is a great leader – and he’s about 4-5 inches taller. I think he’s got some good players around him, which really helps. So I think he’s going to do very well.”

One enormous advantage Thomas has over most first year starters is a talented veteran receiving corps. Seniors Jarrett Boykin, Danny Coale, Dyrell Roberts and junior Marcus Davis all return.

Boykin needs just 149 yards this season to become Tech’s career leader in receiving yards and three catches to become the career leader in receptions.

Roberts is poised to become Tech's all-time leader in kick return yardage and Coale has a knack for making plays when the Hokies need it most.

While there are questions at quarterback one thing is certain, the nation will know the name David Wilson by the end of the season. The junior running back is one of the fastest players on the team and a legitimate threat to score every time he touches the football.

Wilson was overshadowed last season behind backfield mates Ryan Williams and Darren Evans, but this year he’s the main attraction.

He looks to add to his already legendary status in Blacksburg. Wilson is known for his ability to do consecutive backflips and for catching rabbits (no, seriously). He runs a 4.29 40-yard dash and can dunk a football over the goalpost backwards from a dead stop.

Simply put, the kid's an amazing athlete and a legitimate candidate for the Heisman Trophy.

Depth behind Wilson however is a bit of a question mark. Senior Josh Oglesby switched back to tailback from fullback and will likely get most of the reps after Wilson.

Not to be forgotten is the speedy redshirt sophomore Tony Gregory coming back from a torn ACL. Gregory averaged 4.4 yards per carry in limited action last season but has a nice upside.

As for Bud Foster’s unit, the group is very young but looks to improve on a solid effort last season.

Sophomore Kyle Fuller and junior Jayron Hosley return as the top corners. All-American Hosley is one of the top defensive backs in the nation totaling 9 interceptions last season and posing a major special teams threat as a punt returner.

One subtle change in the defensive lineup has last year’s starting free safety Eddie Whitley moving to Tech’s rover position.

Rover gives smart, instinctive players more freedom to make plays. As Foster describes it’s more of a “free hit” position.

The Hokies will start several young defensive ends. Redshirt sophomores J.R. Collins and James Gayle are projected to start backed up by redshirt sophomore Tyrell Wilson and redshirt freshmen Zack McCray and Duan Perez-Means.

No matter the personnel, there are only three certainties in life: death, taxes and the fact that Bud Foster will have a good defense.

My typical unbridled optimism regarding Hokie football is absent this fall. Perhaps I’m getting older and more cynical (yes) or maybe I’m just waiting for Tech to actually exceed my expectations for the first time this century (also yes) but this year I’m more cautious in my prognostications.

I fully expect to see the Hokies in the BCS, potentially even as the ACC’s first at-large berth.

I tend to think the Hokies will lose at some point, most likely at Georgia Tech on a Thursday night in November. A loss could also come to Florida State in the ACC Championship game, though I’m less willing to drink the FSU Kool-Aid than the fools at ESPN.

How quickly people forget that the Hokies beast the Seminoles in last season’s ACC Championship game. The road to the BCS runs through Blacksburg.


I look for Tech to produce a 12-1 regular season and no worse than 11-2. Frankly, with the schedule the Hokies face, much less would be a significant disappointment even with a new, unproven quarterback.

Of course, most importantly for this blog I categorically predict Virginia Tech will once again outperform Notre Dame. It should be closer than recent seasons, but the Hokies have too much talent not to win more games than the Irish.


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