By Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor
2009 SEASON IN REVIEW: Once considered a team that played a soft non-conference schedule, Virginia Tech stepped up and took on all challengers in 2009 and yet still won 10 games, marking the sixth straight season with double-digit wins.
In one of the year's top showdowns, Tech took eventual national champion
Alabama to the limit, falling to the Crimson Tide, 34-24 in a highly
entertaining season-opener. The Hokies would also battle non-conference foes
Marshall (52-10 win), 19th-ranked Nebraska in Lincoln (16-15 win) and
Conference USA champion East Carolina (16-3 win).
The sting of losing to Alabama in the opener didn't last long, as Frank
Beamer's squad responded with five straight wins to move to 5-1 in mid-
October. The only other losses on the season came at ACC champion Georgia Tech
(28-23) and home against North Carolina (20-17). The team finished strong
however, following the October 29th loss to the Tar Heels, reeling off another
five-game win streak, including topping Tennessee (37-14) in the Chick-fil-A
Bowl. Still, at 6-2 in league play and a second-place finish in the Coastal
Division, it was a season of "what could have been" in Blacksburg.
OFFENSE: The Tech offense was set for a letdown in 2009, as ACC Freshman of
the Year, Darren Evans was lost to a knee injury before the season even
started. However, Beamer found his savior on the ground in the form of
freshman Ryan Williams, who burst on the scene en route to Third-Team All-
American honors, racking up 1,655 yards rushing (5.6 ypc) and a whopping 21
TDs. Williams was the workhorse for an offense that managed an impressive
208.2 yards rushing per outing. Not much should change in 2010, as Williams
will try to build on his highly successful debut season, while Evans, by all
accounts, is ready to return as well. With undoubtedly the best tailback
tandem in the country, expect Tech to do what it does best and that is run the
football. Williams came into camp this year in phenomenal shape and is
chomping at the bit to get going.
"I feel good at 202," said Williams. "I played half the season last season at
195-197, so I feel good with where I'm at. The weight works good for me right
Quarterback Tyrod Taylor will once again resume his role under center and
while the Hokies don't throw the ball very much, Taylor did complete over 56
percent of his passes last season, for 2,311 yards and 13 TDs, so he is more
than willing to air it out when given the opportunity. It certainly helps to
have his top six pass catchers back in the fold, headlined by WRs Jarrett
Boykin (40 receptions, 835 yards, five TDs) and Danny Coale (30 receptions,
614 yards, three TDs). Taylor will also have the luxury of three returning
starters up front, led by right tackle Blake Christopher (6-5, 305), who was
All-ACC Honorable Mention in 2009.
There is depth behind Taylor at QB as well and Beamer has confidence that both
redshirt freshman Logan Thomas and redshirt sophomore Ju-Ju Clayton will be up
to the challenge if called upon this year.
"We're fortunate to have two quality back ups at quarterback, both of whom are
at a stage that they can go in and win a game for us."
DEFENSE: It is expected year-in and year-out that Virginia Tech is going to
put a stingy defense on the field and 2009 was no different, limiting foes to
a mere 15.6 ppg, on 295.5 yards of total offense. The 2010 version returns
just five starters, but talent abounds on this side of the football in
Blacksburg and there is little doubt that Beamer will find the right additions
to once again put an elite stop unit on the field. Mass defections along the
line is a reason for some concern and someone will need to step up and make
plays upfield. The linebacking corps has some losses as well, but the unit
should hold its own, led by junior ILB Barquell Rivers, who finished 2009 with
96 tackles (6.5 TFLs). The secondary lost some talent too, but the hope is
that seniors like CB Rashad Carmichael and S Davon Morgan can lead by example.
Carmichael is regarded as one of the ACC's best cover corners after collecting
six INTs in 2009.
SPECIAL TEAMS: The kicking game is in a state of flux, as Tech must replace
both its placekicker and punter. Matt Waldron converted 20-of-23 field goal
attempts last year and Beamer hopes that redshirt senior Chris Hazley can hold
down the job in 2010. The punting duties will be handed over to a youngster,
with redshirt freshman Grant Bowden the likely candidate. Wideout Dyrell
Roberts will again handle kick returns after averaging an impressive 31.9
yards per return last season.
OUTLOOK: The Hokies will once again have to battle to earn a spot atop the
Coastal Division standings, as Miami and North Carolina have their sights set
on the ACC crown as well. The team will find out what its made of right out of
the gate, as a showdown with Boise State highlights week one. The remainder of
the non-conference slate includes James Madison, East Carolina and Central
Michigan. If the team gets past the Broncos in the opener, another 10-win
campaign is well within grasp. The ACC road schedule won't be easy, especially
late, with back-to-back trips to North Carolina and Miami in November. While
there are potential pratfalls on the docket, expect Beamer and company to be
near the top of the Coastal Division as the season comes to a close.