William and Mary offensive coordinator says Virginia Tech defensive end is fun to watch.

WILLIAMSBURG — Kevin Rogers had a front-row seat for several of Virginia Tech’s best defenses, as friend and foe. So when he says coordinator Bud Foster’s 2014 group has the chance to be exceptional, take the words to heart.

A former Tech assistant coach, Rogers is entering his second year as William and Mary’s offensive coordinator. The Hokies and Tribe clash in Saturday’s season-opener, the first time Rogers has matched wits against Foster since Rogers’ 1991-98 tenure as Syracuse’s quarterbacks coach.

Rogers coached Tech’s quarterbacks from 2002-05 — Hokies QB Bryan Randall was ACC player of the year in ’04 — before taking a job with the Minnesota Vikings.

William and Mary offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers discusses whether Va. Tech's defensive success is tied to scheme or personnel.

“It’s been a long time now,” Rogers said of his departure from Blacksburg. “Bud’s a guy that stays on the cutting edge, so a lot of things have changed schematically that he’s doing on defense.

“A long time ago, they visited the University of Washington, (which used) what they referred to as the Up G defense. Tech brought it back and used it and had tremendous success with it. Well, obviously, you get a bunch of knuckleheads like coaches who sit around and figure things out, eventually they catch up to you.

“I think they’re a lot more man coverage-based team (now). They’re going to depend on their four downs [the defensive front] to get home [pressure the quarterback] and cover you long enough on the back end, and they’re really good on the back end. They’ve got corners, and even the safeties are corners, so they have corner skills at safety. So they can man up on a wideout and not flinch, much less a back or a tight end.”

Rogers and head coach Jimmye Laycock have the same assessment after watching video of Tech’s returning defensive personnel: The Hokies are wicked fast.

“You can get a block on somebody, but he comes off so quickly he still makes the play,” Laycock said. “You can have a guy open, but the (defensive back) is so quick he can close on it before the ball gets there sometimes.”

While at Syracuse, Rogers game-planned against the 1995 Tech defense — Cornell Brown and J.T. Price were ringleaders — that ranked first nationally against the run and fifth in points allowed. The Hokies whipped the Orange 31-7 at Lane Stadium en route to their first Big East championship and Sugar Bowl bid.

While at Tech, Rogers saw first-hand Foster groups that ranked second nationally in scoring defense in 2004 and ’05.

“They run — they’re a uniquely fast defense,” Rogers said. “They’ve got defensive ends that are running 4.5, 4.4. … Virginia Tech, for a long time, and I was a part of that stuff, the games that got out of hand at Lane Stadium, a lot of times it started with a pick or blocked punt and you’ve scored 45 points, but you had 320 yards total offense.”

I asked Rogers about Dadi Nicolas, the Hokies’ fastest defensive end.

“He’s really fun to watch,” Rogers said. “The guy runs after the ball regardless of where it is. You can see him get knocked down on the back side of the play, and the play’s made 20 yards downfield, and he’s in on it. He plays with reckless abandon, that guy.”

Can an offense take advantage of that pursuit with misdirection?

“I think the biggest thing you have to do is get on him,” Rogers said. “He’s not a big, powerful guy as of yet. He’s more of a speed, finesse type of player. So try to get big people on him and stuff like that is what you have to try to do.”

William and Mary’s most dynamic offensive player is All-Colonial Athletic Association receiver Tre McBride, who in the last two seasons has caught 118 passes for 1,698 yards and 15 touchdowns. He’ll be a challenge for Tech’s cornerbacks, especially All-ACC Kendall Fuller.

“Terrific,” Rogers said of Fuller. “The boundary corner for Bud now is a guy who shows up for the game at 1 o’clock, and Bud says, ‘We’ll see you at four.’ That’s what they do. He’s usually going to be manned up into the boundary, with not much help over the top.”

“They put their boundary corner to a test,” McBride said. “They trust him to be alone in the boundary with any receiver that comes to play. … You can’t really ask for a better situation as a receiver than to have somebody come in and say, ‘It’s just you and me out here. Let’s go.’”

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