Preview No. 2: Virginia Tech Hokies

This is the second of a series of articles previewing Ohio State’s 12 opponents for the 2014 season.

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In the home opener, Ohio State returns to Columbus to take on Virginia Tech at Ohio Stadium on Sept. 6. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised on ESPN.

Last Season:

Virginia Tech compiled an 8-5 overall mark and finished tied for second with two others in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Coastal Division at 5-3.

The Hokies opened the 2013 campaign unranked and got mauled by Alabama, 35-10, in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. But Virginia Tech regrouped to rattle off six-straight victories with wins over Western Carolina (45-3), East Carolina (15-10), Marshall (29-21, 3OT), Georgia Tech (17-10) and North Carolina (27-17) to land in the Associated Press top 25 at No. 16. Unfortunately the bottom fell out for the Hokies, who dropped four of their last six including losses to Duke (13-10), Boston College (34-27), Maryland (27-24, OT) and UCLA (42-12) in the Hyundai Sun Bowl. The two wins during that span were to No. 11 Miami-Fla. (42-24) and in-state rival Virginia (16-6).

History & Coaches:

Football at the Blacksburg campus dates back to 1892 when the first team was formed, but success on the gridiron took several decades. But in reality, Virginia Tech was a small school playing against the big boys during most of its history, especially early on.

The Hokies won just three conference titles before 1995, two in the South Atlantic Intercollegiate Athletic Association (1916 & 1918) and one in the Southern Conference (1963).

In the program’s 122 years, there were 27 different head coaches from 1892 to 1950. Since then, four stuck around long enough to coach 100 games at the school.

In 1951, Frank Moseley took over the program while also being the school’s athletic director after spending five years as an assistant at Kentucky. He compiled a record of 54–42–4 in 10 years. His best season at Virginia Tech came in 1954 when his team went 8–0–1, but the Hokies did not go to a bowl game. Moselely quit as head coach after the 1960 season and hired Jerry Claiborne, his successor as head football coach.

Moseley retired as Tech’s atheltic director in 1978.

Like Moseley, Claiborne also spent a decade in Blacksburg, but had just six winning seasons out of the 10 and finished with a 61–39–2 mark with one Southern Conference title in 1963 and two Liberty Bowl appearances. Claiborne then left to become the defensive coordinator at Colorado.

After Claiborne bolted, things went south for Moseley. He brought in a defensive coordinator from Arkansas named Charlie Coffey, and he then turned over his offense to Dan Henning, a former NFL quarterback and assistant at Florida State, who installed a pass-happy offense. While Tech quarterback Don Strock smashed all of the school’s previous passing records, Coffey was just 12-20-1 in three seasons and was fired.

Moseley then hired Jimmy Sharpe, a long time assistant under Bear Bryant at Alabama. Unlike the heavy pass offense under Coffey, Sharpe’s offense went to the other extreme utilizing the wishbone triple-option. Sharpe, though, didn’t have much success with just one winning season out of four and was fired after leading the Hokies to a 3-7-1 mark in 1977.

In December of 1977, Virginia Tech President Bill Lavery offered Bill Dooley the dual role of head football coach and athletic director. Dooley would go on to compile the best record of any Tech head coach to that point. He would guide the Hokies to three bowl games and their first-ever bowl victory before leaving the program under a cloud of controversy following the 1986 season.

To replace Dooley, Frank Beamer left Murray State and accepted the job as head coach at his alma mater in 1987. Now in his 28th campaign in Blacksburg, Beamer is the winningest active coach in the FBS with 266 career victories. Under Beamer, Tech football has enjoyed unprecedented success with 21 consecutive bowl appearances, four ACC titles, five ACC Coastal Division crowns, three Big East Conference titles, six BCS appearances, and a trip to the national championship game. Under his guidance, the Hokies have finished in the Top 20 in 16 of the past 21 seasons, including four top-10 finishes during the last 10 years. Overall, Virginia Tech is 224–109–2 during Beamer’s tenure.

Offense:

Eight of the 11 starters on offense return, though last year’s starting quarterback Logan Thomas has exhausted his eligibility and was drafted in the fourth round by the Arizona Cardinals.

Fifth-year senior Mark Leal is the most experienced signal-caller on the roster, throwing for 155 yards on 15-of-29 passing with no touchdowns and two interceptions in two games last season. But he was overtaken by redshirt sophomore Brenden Motley during spring practice, who showed flashes of both talent and inexperience while
getting his first real reps. Motley will have to battle Leal and several others in fall camp including Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer, who is eligible this season since he’s already graduated. Brewer, though, was a third-string QB for the Red Raiders last year.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do to get where we need to be at the quarterback position, Virginia Tech quarterbacks coach Scott Loeffler said. “You can’t rep five guys. I’d like to get down to two guys who I think have a shot and rep them to death and see where this thing goes.”

Redshirt sophomore Trey Edmunds is a hard-nosed runner who led the team in rushing last season with 675 yards on 166 carries (4.1 avg.) and 10 touchdowns, while three of the top receivers return with fifth-year senior Willie Byrn (51 rec., 660 yds., 2 TDs), junior Demetri Knowles (45 rec., 641 yds., 3 TDs), and redshirt sophomore Joshua Stanford (40 rec., 640 yds., 1 TD).

Defense:

Virginia Tech has been known for its defense throughout the years and the unit did not disappoint, yielding just 19.3 points and 283.6 total yards per game, ranking the Hokies 11th and fourth respectfully in NCAA FBS football. But with only five starters back, the defense might not be as stout. Three of the top five tacklers return including sophomore cornerback Kendall Fuller (58 tackles, 6 interceptions), senior defensive tackle Lather Maddy (55 tackles, 13.5 for loss), and fifth-year senior free safety Detrick Bonner (48 tackles, 2 interceptions). The entire secondary returns intact, but the concern is up front where they’ll be breaking in six new starters along the front seven.

Up next, we preview Kent State.