The breakdown Offense With eight starters back, improved efficiency should be in the Hokies' future, which is good news. Last season, Tech averaged 4.1 yards per carry on first down plays (more yards per carry than on any other down), but it completed just 50 percent (52 of 104) of its first-down passes. In the red zone, Tech scored 74 percent of the time (11th in the ACC), including just five touchdown passes (tied for 11th in ACC). The Hokies should have plenty of new wrinkles on offense, including perhaps an expanded version of the Wild Turkey formation, two-tailback sets and more four-wide-receiver looks. Freshman Logan Thomas is expected to redshirt, but he could get on the field if starting QB Tyrod Taylor gets injured.
Defense As steady as Tech's front seven has been in the last decade, the secondary has been just as impressive in the last five years. Tech finished in the top three in the nation in passing defense from 2004-06, and was 16th last season. Cornerback Stephan Virgil (10 passes defended last season) and free safety Kam Chancellor (seven passes defended last season) are experienced backs, but cornerback Rashad Carmichael is unproven and will be tested. Linebackers Cody Grimm (71 tackles last season) and Cam Martin help shore up an otherwise inexperienced group. While Worilds is the star on the line, defensive tackles Cordarrow Thompson and John Graves combined to have 71/2 tackles for loss last season.
Special teams Tech coach Frank Beamer said before practice started he expected this year's block/return team to be the best he's ever had at Tech. Starters like Chancellor, Virgil and Carmichael could join promising young players like Thomas, Marcus Davis, Xavier Boyce and Ryan Williams on the block/return unit. Graves, who had three of Tech's five blocked kicks last season, might not even be on the team this season. Look for Williams on punt returns, and Smithfield High graduate Dyrell Roberts (24.8 yards per return last season) to be the primary kickoff-return man. Brent Bowden (40.4 yards per punt last season) is back as the starting punter. Senior Matt Waldron won the place-kicking job.
Coaching Between Beamer, running-backs coach Billy Hite, Foster and Stinespring, the foursome has a combined total of 93 years coaching at Tech alone. That's not including recruiting coordinator and outside linebacker/strong safeties coach Jim Cavanaugh and defensive line coach Charley Wiles, both of whom have been at Tech since 1996. Defensive backfield coach Torrian Gray and offensive line coach Curt Newsome, who grew up in Hampton, have established themselves as top recruiters. QBs coach Mike O'Cain has seven seasons ('93-99) of head coaching experience at N.C. State. Wide receivers coach Kevin Sherman coached the same position at Wake Forest for six seasons before coming to Blacksburg.
The breakdownCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun