Monday, December 12, 2011

Virginia Tech by the numbers

A quick reminder on coverage: Sugar Bowl coverage will be a lot like last year's Gator Bowl. After a general breakdown of the VT team, I'll cherry pick plays and games to figure them out schematically. Eventually, I'll make a prediction that will be wrong.

Rushing Offense
The Hokies rank 31st in rushing yards per game, averaging 188.69 yards. The rushing offense is led by junior David Wilson. Wilson is listed at 5'10", 205 pounds. Though he doesn't have a ton of breakaway speed, he's difficult to bring down, averaging 6.1 YPC and 125 yards per game.

The Hokies run a primarily pro-style offense. They take a lot of snaps from the shotgun, but they they don't run from it that frequently. When they do run from the shotgun, options looks are unlikely but they do happen. Sophomore starting QB Logan Thomas is listed at 6'6", 254 lbs and is used more as a decoy to keep defenses honest than an actual threat in the running game. Think of Steven Threet in Rodriguez's system. Sacks removed, Thomas has carried the ball 122 times for 569 yards (4.66 YPC) this season, which is a lot better than expected when you see him actually run. He lumbers down the field and doesn't have a lot of shake to him. His biggest asset is his size, which will allow him to get a few yards every time he carries, just by a function of falling forward.

Senior Josh Oglesby also gets carries. Oglesby has 90 carries this season and averages only 3.7 YPC. His long run on the season is 44 yards against Marshall. beyond that, he has a 31 yarder against Duke. Oglesby is a short-yardage back (5'11", 218 lbs) who won't get many carries in the bowl game. When he does, he's not a threat to do much but pick up short first downs.

However, the Hokies are a relatively run heavy team. On the season, they've run the ball 59% of the time. With a run/pass split like that and a 10-2 record, you'd expect the team to be more successful running the ball. However, Virginia Tech has won largely on the strength of their defense, about which more in a bit.

Passing Offense
The Hokie passing game isn't exceptional either. The Hokies have the 66th ranked passing offense, averaging 227.08 yards per game. Thomas is more of a prototypical passer, however: a lot of drop backs, good touch, strong arm. With a clean pocket, Thomas can do some damage against defenses, but if you get pressure (Hi Mr. Mattison), he's a little more erratic. Even still, Thomas is completing 59% of his passes this season and has a 19/9 TD/INT ratio. He's also averaging 7.71 YPA. Thomas is good-not-great.

His top two targets are senior wide receivers Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale who have 57 and 52 receptions, respectively. Boykin averages 12.8 yards per catch and has 5 touchdowns, while Coale averages 15.1 yards per catch and has 3 touchdowns this season. Both receivers are of the 6'1"-6'2" mold. Neither is Michael Floyd nor overly dangerous deep threats. Since Thomas isn't the kind of run threat that Braxton Miller is, expect Michigan's secondary to return to form against the Hokies and throw a combination of zone and man against these receivers. Thankfully no one here is DeVier Posey.

The Hokies will run out 4-wide sets frequently. When not throwing the ball to Coale or Boykin, Thomas looks for junior Marcus Davis (29 receptions, 499 yards, 5 TDs), junior D.J. Coles (34 receptions, 449 yards, 3 TDs), and senior tight end Chris Grager (14 catches, 186 yards, 2 TDs, in only 8 games).

Offense Overall
The Hokie offense shouldn't be too challenging for Michigan's defense. With a mediocre passing game and a good but unimpressive run game, the defense should be able to get Virginia Tech in long down and distance scenarios when Mattison can bring pressure. They also have a decent kicking game, converting 14/20 field goals. In total, the Hokies come in as the 38th total offense and 55th scoring offense rankings. If Ohio State was the defense getting caught off guard, anything short of that should see the defense turn in its usual performance from this season.

Rushing Defense
The Hokies defense is another story. Virginia Tech has the 17th ranked rushing defense allowing only 107.77 yards per game. Not many teams have moved the ball on them that well. Georgia Tech put up 243 yards on the Hokies in 49 carries, but that's to be expected from the Yellow Jackets offense. The only team to beat VT, Clemson (twice), had mediocre days against the Hokie defense: the first times the teams met, Clemson rushed for 119 yards on 35 carries, but in the ACC title game, the Tigers rushed for 217 yards on 45 carries. Miami (FL) had the best game against the Hokies rushing defense by chalking up 236 yards on 28 carries (6.2 YPC). For what it's worth, this is one of the games I've earmarked to rewatch given that Jacory Harris probably has the closest skillset to Denard's of any of Virginia Tech's opponents.

The Hokies leading tackler is a.... safety. Their second leading tackler is a... safety. Their third leading tackler is a... cornerback. Their fifth leading tackler is a.... cornerback. These are not encouraging numbers for a run defense. The Hokies run a 4-3 defensive front and four of their top five tacklers are in the secondary. It's not until you get to Tariq Edwards at linebacker that any of the Hokies front seven show up in the top five tacklers on the team. I'm going to have to watch more games, but this seems like a not very good way to support the 17th ranked run defense. It also means the team is probably susceptible against the pass which...

Passing Defense
The Hokies rank 13th in pass efficiency defense but 41st in total pass defense. Where the Hokies succeed against the pass is in getting pressure. Eight different Virginia Tech defenders have more than one sack, led by sophomore defensive ends James Gayle (7 sacks) and J.R. Collins (6 sacks). Cornerback Kyle Fuller has 4.5 sacks, linebacker Bruce Taylor has 5 sacks, nose tackle Derrick Hopkins has 3 sacks, and the aforementioned Tariq Edwards has 2.5 sacks. The Hokies are tied for 11th in sacks nationally and it's clear why. They bring pressure from all over the field.

The team also has 15 interceptions, most of which I would guess are pressure dependent. All of the Hokies top-five tacklers each have at least one interception, led by junior cornerback Jayron Hosley with three. This pass defense's statistical profile (good pass efficiency defense, lots of yards allowed) holds with all of this: this is an aggressive blitzing defense that thrives on sacks, pressure, and turnovers to succeed. Screens, quick passes, and counters are probably going to hurt this defense.

Overall Defense
The Hokie defense's greatest attribute is its ability to generate turnovers. As mentioned above, the defense has recorded 15 interceptions, but they also have 5 fumble recoveries, putting them 29th in turnover margin this season. This is a young defense, populated mostly by sophomores (there's only one senior starter to six sophomores; the rest are juniors). With Denard's newfound ability to scramble, it will be interesting to see how aggressive this team can be against Michigan. Their top two sack leaders are both defensive ends who, if they play undisciplined gap defense, could open huge lanes for Denard to run through.

The secondary, meanwhile, appears to blitz frequently and force quarterbacks to throw off balance a lot. This has all the makings of a Good Denard vs. Evil Denard kind of game. If he can avoid the mistakes that the Hokie defense has thrived on all season, he should be able to get receivers matched up against safeties and linebackers. This is a big if, though, given the Hokies success with this brand of football all season.


Guest said...

Clemson rushed for 417 yards in the ACC title game? I'm assuming this is a typo. Regardless, love your blog.

Chris Gaerig said...

You would be correct: 217, not 417. Thanks for the heads up.

Post a Comment