2012 Virginia Tech Hokies season preview
Virginia Tech’s finish didn’t jibe with the Hokies’ start to the 2011 campaign. Losers of their last two games — the ACC Championship game against Clemson and the Sugar Bowl against Michigan — the Hokies ended the year with a pair of defeats that completely overshadowed their 11-win regular season. During the regular season, Tech rattled off four-game and seven-game winning streaks. Their lone regular-season loss also came against Clemson.
Coach Frank Beamer enters season No. 26 in Blacksburg, and he has led his alma mater to eight consecutive 10-win seasons – the longest active streak in the nation. Virginia Tech is again be favored in the ACC’s Coastal Division, which they’ve won five times in seven years. And they’ll again take heat for a watered-down non-conference schedule — Austin Peay, Pittsburgh, Bowling Green, and Cincinnati.
The question marks are mostly on offense, where eight starters are gone, including ACC Player of the Year David Wilson, all-time receiving leaders Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale, and four-fifths of the offensive line. The good news is Logan Thomas is back at quarterback and continuing to give indications that he could be special.
Thomas (6-6, 262) was a question mark entering last season, but now he’s an exclamation point after a school record 3,482 total yards and the second most passing yards ever at Tech, 3,013. Thomas often looked polished in the pocket and threw for 19 scores, and then used that big, hard-to-bring-down body to run for 11 more. He hit on 234-of-391 passes (59.8 percent) and had just 10 interceptions.
Redshirt freshman Michael Holmes is the leading candidate to replace Wilson. Holmes isn’t flashy, but he will make a cut and get up field. True freshman J.C. Coleman has good speed. Senior Martin Scales could carve out a role in short yardage situations. Wide receiver Marcus Davis has to be the go-to receiver for quarterback Logan Thomas now that Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale are no longer in Blacksburg. Davis had 30 catches for 510 yards and five touchdowns last year.
Meanwhile, defensive coordinator Bud Foster has nine returning starters from a unit that finished 7th nationally in scoring defense, 10th in total defense, and 14th against the run. The Hokies led the league with 41 sacks last year and return everyone, including All-ACC ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins and the massive Hopkins brothers — Derrick and Antoine — at tackle.
The Hokies shuffled the secondary, moving safety Antone Exum to cornerback to pair with Kyle Fuller and switching one-time corners Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett to the safety spots. The physical Exum was the team’s leading tackler with 89, and he looks like another in a long line of lockdown coverage corners. Fuller led the team with 14.5 tackles for loss as field corner.
The Coastal Division championship again runs through Blacksburg, beginning with the Georgia Tech clash to open the season. Virginia Tech’s 13-game conference road winning streak is the longest in the FBS. Since joining the ACC, Tech is an amazing 27-5 on the road in conference.
Top returners: QB Logan Thomas, WR Marcus Davis, C Andrew Miller, DE James Gayle, DE J.R. Collins, DT Derrick Hopkins, DT Antoine Hopkins, ILB Bruce Taylor, ILB Tariq Edwards, OLB Jeron Gouveia-Winslow, CB Kyle Fuller, S Antone Exum
Key losses: WR Danny Coale, WR Jarrett Boykin, TE Chris Drager, LT Andrew Lanier, RT Blake DeChristopher, RG Jaymes Brooks, LG Greg Nosal, RB David Wilson, CB Jayron Hosley, FS Eddie Whitley
WagerWeb.com odds to win ACC: +265 (second favorite behind FSU)
Sept. 3 Georgia Tech
Sept. 8 Austin Peay
Sept. 15 at Pitt
Sept. 22 Bowling Green
Sept. 29 at Cincinnati
Oct. 6 at North Carolina
Oct. 13 Duke
Oct. 20 at Clemson
Oct. 27 Open
Nov. 1 at Miami
Nov. 8 Florida State
Nov. 17 at Boston College
Nov. 24 Virginia