2011 record: 11-3 overall, 7-1 in ACC (1st in Coastal)
2011 postseason: ACC title game (38-10 loss to Clemson); Sugar Bowl (23-20 OT loss to Michigan)
2011 final AP/coaches’ ranking: No. 21/No. 18
Head coach: Frank Beamer (251-121-4 overall, 209-98-2 in 25 seasons at Virginia Tech)
Offensive coordinator: Bryan Stinespring (23rd season at VT, 11th as OC)
2011 offensive rankings: 28th rushing offense (186.9 ypg); 66th passing offense (226.1 ypg); 35th total offense (413 ypg); 57th scoring offense (27.9 ppg)
Returning offensive starters: three
Defensive coordinator: Bud Foster (26th season at VT, 18th as DC)
2011 defensive rankings: 14th rushing defense (104.1 ypg); 31st passing defense (200.6 ypg); 10th total defense (304.6 ypg); 7th scoring defense (17.6 ppg)
Returning defensive starters: nine
Location: Blacksburg, Va.
Stadium: Lane Stadium (66,223; grass)
Last league title: 2010
2011 statistics: [view]
For eight straight seasons, and 11 of the past 13, the Hokies have finished the season with at least 10 wins; with nine returning defensive starters from a Top 10 unit in 2011, you might as well go ahead and pencil in nine straight 10-plus win seasons. A possible reason to reach for the Sharpie? Quarterback Logan Thomas, a player who for whatever doesn’t get a lot of run nationally but is nonetheless an absolute star at the position. The schedule also sets up nicely, with ACC home games against Georgia Tech, Florida State and Virginia
Gone is running back David Wilson, who set the school’s single-season rushing mark last season. Also gone are four starting linemen, three top receiving threats, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree. That’s a significant amount of turnover in one offseason, especially at the skill positions. Oh, and there’s also the fact that two of the toughest conference games on the slate come on the road — at Clemson and at Miami in back-to-back weeks. Perhaps it’s time to back off the Sharpie and put the pencil back firmly in hand.
To be blunt, who the hell is going to replace the production lost with Wilson’s departure? Between him and third-leading rusher Josh Oglesby — Thomas was second with 469 yards — the twosome combined for 2,080 of the 2,147 non-Thomas rushing yards; both are no longer Hokies. The top three players on the depth chart entering summer camp are some combination of Michael Holmes, Martin Scales, J.C. Coleman and Daniel Dyer. That quartet combined for a total of 30 yards and as many touchdowns as I had in 2011. In fairness, Holmes redshirted as a true freshman last season while Coleman was an early enrollee member of Tech 2012 recruiting class. The point still stands, however — the running back position is the biggest question mark for the Hokies entering the 2012 season. Well, that and the offensive line, which is a potentially lethal 1-2 combo for Beamer and his Hokies.
Make-or-break game: vs. Florida State, Nov. 8
The Hokies reside in the ACC Coastal, and their stiffest competition is some combination of apathy, boredom and lack of resistance. Miami and Virginia are likely a year or two away from serious contention; Duke is, well, Duke; North Carolina is on probation and thus ineligible for the postseason. That leaves the Hokies with Georgia Tech, and leads me to the Seminoles of the Atlantic as the most pivotal game for the Hokies’ 2012 future on the national stage. The best news for the Hokies is they get the Seminoles in Blacksburg.
Heisman hopeful: quarterback Logan Thomas
As I hinted at above, I’m borderline astonished at the lack of attention Thomas gets nationally. As a sophomore last season, Thomas set school records with nearly 3,500 total yards and 30 total touchdowns. The ceiling is high for a player as talented as Thomas; expect him to reach that this season even as he will be surrounded far and wide by inexperience. And, Hokie fans, enjoy him while you can as he’s not long for Blacksburg as the NFL is already sniffing around the immense potential.