Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Virginia Tech Scouting Report

In past years, Virginia Tech’s roster was loaded with players biding their time before becoming mainstays in the NFL. Since 2000, VT has been a factory for successful pro football players such as Corey Moore, Lee Suggs, DeAngelo Hall, Kevin Jones and some guy named Michael Vick. The 2004 version of the Hokies lacks its usual star power, which on paper, makes this Hokie team slightly less intimidating than in the past. But don’t be fooled.Despite a 2-2 record and without a bona fide game breaker on each side of the ball, this Virginia Tech team still has the talent and depth to compete, and defeat, any team at any time. Saturday’s matchup between Virginia Tech and West Virginia has its storylines, most notably the fact that Virginia Tech is now a member of the ACC. Tech has a pair of losses (Southern California and North Carolina State) on the season, but is favored at home against the No. 6 Mountaineers. The Hokies won easily in their other two contests, defeating new ACC foe Duke after pummeling Western Michigan.Now, however, Tech must rebound from its heartbreaking 17-16 home loss to North Carolina State last week, in which kicker Brandon Pace narrowly missed a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation. WVU is 4-0, but only an overtime win over Maryland has proved the Mountaineers worthy of the lofty ranking it possesses. The teams will do battle for the Black Diamond Trophy, but if the Mountaineers want to keep the trophy in Morgantown for another year, here is what they will go up against.

In the 50th meeting between Virginia Tech and West Virginia on Saturday, Bryan Randall will be making his school record of 30 consecutive starts under center for the Hokies. The 6-foot senior spent most of last season looking over his shoulder at Marcus Vick, but with the younger Vick suspended for the season due to his numerous legal issues, Randall finally has a secure grip on the job. The problem for Randall, however, is finding a reliable target to throw to. A pair of freshmen receivers and a tight end rank as his top three receiving targets so far this season. Josh Hyman is a 5-foot-11 freshman who leads the team in receptions (10), yardage (198) and touchdown catches (two). Eight of his 10 catches came against Duke and Western Michigan.On the opposite side is Eddie Royal, a lightning-quick freshman who also returns kicks. Royal has eight catches and a score on the year, and caught two passes for 47 yards against North Carolina State last week. Tight end Jeff King had a huge game in a 24-13 loss to Southern Cal, and is used quite often in the passing game. Look for King to find his way out into the flat, often times on play action passes.Randall also looks to his running backs on occasion.For the season, Randall has completed 52-of-90 passes for 700 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions. The offensive line surrendered 10 sacks versus North Carolina State. Randall doesn’t have to worry about double-digit sacks from the Mountaineers, but there’s sure to be a greater emphasis placed on pass protection against WVU.

Grade: C+

Two years ago, Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer had Lee Suggs and Kevin Jones at his disposal.In 2004, it will be the Mike Imoh and Cedric Humes Show. Imoh and Humes possess drastically different styles, and both will see significant action against WVU’s rush defense on Saturday. Imoh has been named the starter after gaining 74 yards in his first game of the season against North Carolina State. Imoh had been serving a three-game suspension. Humes, a sophomore, was supposed to be the next in line at running back, but the bruising back has just 153 yards in four games. Humes has particularly struggled against stiffer competition, gaining only 28 yards on 14 carries against Southern Cal and North Carolina State.Imoh is just 5-foot-7 and might be more effective against the 3-3-5 defense West Virginia normally employs. Freshman John Kinzer, who is 252 lbs., will clear the way for Imoh and Humes.The most dangerous offensive weapon is Randall, who may be more effective on the ground than air. Randall rushed for 82 yards against the defending champion Trojans and 93 more against Duke, and is second on the team in rushing despite the 10 sacks last weekend.

Grade: B

After moving the ball at will versus East Carolina and UCF, the Mountaineer offense struggled to put a dent in the formidable Maryland defense. Virginia Tech has a fast and physical secondary that will limit the effectiveness of WVU’s wideouts, particularly junior Chris Henry. Safeties James Griffin and Vincent Fuller are among the team leaders in tackles, with Fuller hauling in a pair of interceptions. Corners Eric Green and Jimmy Williams are the stars of the defense.Green, a senior, has an interception to go along with a dozen tackles. Williams will present Henry with one of his most difficult assignments of the year. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound junior has an interception and team-best six pass deflections. As a unit, the VT pass defense allowed only USC to pass for more than 200 yards, and Duke and North Carolina State failed to eclipse 100 yards passing.

Grade: A+
VT’s defense has yet to allow a 100-yard rusher, even against running backs such as USC’s Reggie Bush and North Carolina State’s T.A. McClendon. The front seven (although VT will routinely throw an eight-man front at West Virginia) has only two seniors, and counts on production from freshmen and sophomores.Junior Darryl Tapp leads the Hokie defense up front, while rookie Vince Hall has been superb in his first four collegiate games at linebacker. Tapp and Hall are the team’s top two tacklers, with Tapp register 3 1/2 sacks and 5 1/2 tackles for a loss.Along the defensive line, Tapp will be joined by Noland Burchette at defensive end and Jim Davis and Jonathan Lewis at defensive tackle. Chris Ellis and Jason Lallis (one sack each) will provide relief along the line for Tapp and Burchette. Senior Mikal Baaqee, junior James Anderson and sophomore Aaron Rouse join Hall at linebacker.

Grade: B+

West Virginia’s deep threat of Chris Henry will be negated by VT’s strong foursome in the secondary. With the Hokies struggling to develop any kind of consistent passing game, that leaves the outcome of the game to the trenches. Since Virginia Tech’s offensive line is coming off a horrific game, there is no clear-cut starter at running back and Randall poses the greatest threat on the ground. On the other side, WVU’s rushing offense ranks in the top 10 in the nation, and Kay-Jay Harris ranks in the top 5 nationally in rushing, even with a nagging hamstring injury. History suggests Frank Beamer teams struggle when coming from behind (only 14-50 when trailing at the half) and struggle when they are out-rushed (13-49). If WVU gets on the board early and takes the raucous Lane Stadium crowd out of the equation, and the rushing game is at its best, the Mountaineers should retain the rights to the Black Diamond Trophy and keep intact its perfect season. Just don’t expect a win to come easy. Tech will be as ready as ever.

Prediction: West Virginia 27, Virginia Tech 24.


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