Once more, a game week is upon us. The Bearcats prepare for a trip to the District, and a "home" game that is being played a mere 526 miles from the cozy confines of Nippert Stadium. The opponent is the biggest one on the non conference slate, Virginia Tech.
One thing is abundantly clear, this isn't your traditional Virginia Tech team. The resemblance between this Hokie group, and the one that rolled the Cats in the Orange Bowl is, essentially, naught. They are coached by the same men, have a similar talent level, but the overall effect is, somewhat, limited.
The man at the center of the storm for Virginia Tech is Logan Thomas; a man who, at 6'6" 260, has a positively Newtonian physique. It is not a stretch to say that Thomas is the most athletic Hokie since Michael Vick. His combination of size, and speed is unmatched. That's why the scouts love him, and he is almost certainly going to be selected during the first two days of the NFL draft, that is whenever he decides to enter it. But for all his apparent, and abundant, talents there is something missing with Thomas.
This year he is completing just 51 per cent of his passes, with 7 TD's and 4 INT's. In his last two games, against Pittsburgh and Bowling Green, Thomas has hit on 44% of his passes with 3 TD's and four INT's. A post will be up on the broader topic of Logan Thomas later this week. For now, it suffices to say that Mr. Thomas's general inconsistencies are the talking point for this team.
That is due mainly to the fact that Tech relies on him to do almost everything. The offensive line is a work in progress at best. The running game was an active disaster zone, until breaking out Saturday against the average run defense of Bowling Green. The top two RB's for VT in terms of rushing yardage are Freshmen. Michael Holmes, a three star recruit from the 2011 class, and J.C. Coleman, a top 100 guy and the jewel of Tech's 2012 crop. They are undeniably talented, but not yet ready to consistently take some of the play making load out of the hands of Thomas.
Oh, and the receivers are still learning on the job after seeing Danny Coale and Jarret Boykin off to graduation. The only member of the rotation from last year suiting up Saturday is Marcus Davis. Davis is a specimen at 6'4" 232, with rumored sub 4.4 40 speed, but he is it. Corey Fuller and Dyrell Roberts are capible secondary options, but this isn't a passing game that poses a clear threat to a secondary vertically.
Defensively, this groups looks like some of the groups from days gone by, but they aren't. Not really. The biggest reason is a general lack of depth, particularly along the front. If a position has it worse off from a depth standpoint it is, without a doubt, the linebackers. Bruce Taylor, Jack Tyler and Jeron Gouviea-Winslow played every relevant snap of the Pittsburgh game. Bearcats need only think back to 2010 to remember how well that worked out.
The other thing that jumps out to me only makes sense, in the context of how I remember Virginia Tech defenses, namely by their pass rushers. Corey Moore, Darryl Tapp, and taking it way back, Bruce Smith. Tech has always had DL's that could attack up field, get pressure, and make plays. I don't really see it this year, particularly against the run.
The secondary is a strength still. They rank in the top 15 in both passing yards allowed, and defensive passer rating. But they can be had in certain situations. Tech isn't a huge zone blitz team, certainly not to the degree that UC is. When they do bring pressure, they are more likely to man up than play zone. Pitt took advantage of that, the Bearcats have the ability to do so.
As for special teams, lets put it this way. This will be the only game all season where the Bearcats don't have a clear, and decided advantage in the kicking game. The Hokies special teams aren't the collosus of old, where they could win games, for themselves over and over again. But they are still very, very good and very, very dangerous, right Pitt?
This is still a good Virginia Tech team, the Pitt game was something of an aberration, but they aren't unbeatable by any stretch. They have problems stopping the run on defense, and they can be exploited in space by the Bearcats smaller, quicker receivers, and Ralph Abernathy IV. Defensively I like the Bearcats chances, particularly with the Hokies issues along the offensive line.