Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Basketball Recruiting Update

I usually don't post on recruiting, although if I do, it's almost always about basketball. I find football recruiting too difficult to keep up with, for the most part. Seth Greenberg managed to land the best-ranked recruit of his tenure this week... CJ Barksdale of Danville, VA. This is also Tech's highest ranked recruit since Dell Curry back in the early 1980s. Right now this is only a verbal commitment, as Barksdale is only a junior in high school and won't get to VT until 2011, meaning there isn't much keeping Barksdale from switching his commitment. However, I do not really expect for that to happen, unless he gets an offer from childhood favorite UNC, and that supposedly is very unlikely considering they have already made two offers in the 2011 class to higher-rated recruits and they apparently don't have a lot of scholarships to give out that year.

Barksdale is either a big small forward or a small power forward at 6'7", 220 lbs. Bare in mind, he is only a junior and could still grow both in height and muscle-mass. He could probably play either the 3 or the 4, but he most likely will replace Jeff Allen at the power forward spot after the Big Donut graduates next year. Barksdale is supposedly a terror in the paint where he grabs rebounds, blocks shots, and gets points by both posting up with his back to the basket and facing up farther out for a jumper. His weakness right now is foul-shooting, so he should fit in just fine as a Hokie. Honestly, after reading how well he is doing this year and how he outperformed UNC's 2011 recruit, PJ Hairston, in the matchup of those two teams... I am getting a little concerned about him being plucked away from us by one of the big dogs. Hopefully our new practice facility, close proximity to his home, and other Hokie amenities will keep him locked in. If he does stay with us, that could get other highly rated recruits to join in as Greenberg is close to landing a some others.

We also have a fantastic player coming in the 2010 class. Jarell Eddie could be the next coming of AD Vassallo (but I might trade a few of those points for better defending, so we'll see if that happens)... he's an excellent scorer and rebounder who plays on the wing (which is exactly why I am projecting Barksdale as a power forward for us). Eddie's game is more slashing to the hoop and shooting from distance, which makes me think he will get placed at the wing, even though he's big enough at 6'7" and 210 lbs to be an undersized power forward. He is likely to take a lot of time from Terrell Bell next season, and has an outside shot of taking Bell's spot as a starter.

There are good things happening in Blacksburg, and for what seems to be the first time, it's happening for our basketball team instead of our football team.

Monday, December 21, 2009

1 Bad Team Down, 2 Bad Teams To Go

It's tough to get overly excited over a woodshed beating of Charleston Southern, but it's even tougher to get excited about possible wins over Maryland-Baltimore County and Longwood (if you're not from Virginia, the name of this college probably made you blush). So our next opponent that you can even get remotely pumped up about is Seton Hall on January 2. Next up is UMBC, who are a solid 1-9 with their lone win coming as a two point victory over American University. The Retrievers are the definition of terrible, so if VT doesn't win by at least 20 points, consider this game a disappointment. Fortunately, Tech is starting to show that they can obliterate the teams with lesser talent. Recent wins over VMI and Charleston Southern are games that the Hokies should have blown out their opponent, and they did in both games.

I think it's about time for some observations...
  • To borrow a phrase from one of my favorite video games of all time, NBA Jam, Malcolm Delaney is heating up! He was 6-10 on 3-pointers in his last game and shot better than 50% from the field. He was also managing to hit tough shots that he was missing earlier in the year. That's a good trend and hopefully we will continue to see more of it. The 7 turnovers against CSU is just plain awful, but I know Greenberg has already explained this to Malcolm. Heck, Malcolm probably already explained it to Malcolm.
  • Dorenzo Hudson is getting better. He's still not shooting well from the outside, but he's doing a much better job of taking the ball to the basket and seeing what's there. It's also nice to see him convert some of his free throws. These are good signs because it took him longer into the season to get to this point in 08-09. Delaney and Jeff Allen can't be the only scoring threats on our team.
  • Victor Davila took a step back in the last game... against guys much smaller than him and quite inferior to him, he only managed 5 points and 2 rebounds in 25 minutes of play. That's just not good enough. The 2 blocks are welcome additions, but he's too good of a post player to sit back and let the other team work him down low.
  • Jeff Allen seems to be doing a good job of taking what the other teams give him. In the last game, it was the basketball. The other team gave him the basketball 5 times because they weren't expecting his long arms to get in the way. I am just hoping we'll get to see more smart play from him because his biggest obstacle is his own mind.
  • It seems like one of the freshmen is always stepping up lately to give us a good game. It was Ben Boggs against Iowa and VMI, it was Erick Green against Penn State, and it was Manny Atkins against Charleston Southern. These guys can all be good players for us in the future and can contribute useful minutes this season. I am feeling more and more comfortable with Erick Green running the show when Delaney is resting.
  • JT Thompson is also coming alive right now. He was completely dominant against CSU, putting in 5-6 shots for 11 points and grabbing 9 rebounds in just 20 minutes of play. He will need to show that same kind of effort against ACC opponents who will be much larger than him. Moreover, he will need to continue to hit his mid-range jumper like he did in the last game.
I am pretty amped about January, but we've just got to get through some boring games in December before we can see how much this team is truly progressing.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Bud Foster... our next head coach?

Many of you may have been reading up on our defensive coordinator, Bud Foster. Lately, he's been linked to possible moves to Georgia, Florida, and Florida State. However, he turned them down. Bud decided to remain the defensive coordinator for Virginia Tech and is supposedly getting some additional money if he remains in Blacksburg over the next 5 years.

This move makes good sense to me if I am Bud Foster. First, there's no reason to take a lateral move from the defensive coordinator of one perennially good team to the exact same position on a slightly better team (Florida) or any other team (Georgia and FSU). If you're a coach, my guess is that just about everyone wants to be the head coach some day, and I'm sure Bud Foster believes that will happen for him relatively soon. He stated on the radio that he has friends and relationships in Blacksburg that are important to him and important to his family, and that's definitely a reason to stay as well. Thirdly, it seems dumb to me to move on to the same position for another team when you know you are having success doing it for the team you're already at... even if that equates to a boost in salary, you just never know what will happen under a different coach's system.

Those are things we can easily infer, but I'm going to throw something at you that isn't nearly as easy to project. I think Bud Foster may have a "coach-in-waiting" deal with Frank Beamer and VT. Bud's new contract includes a five-year clause that would keep him in Blacksburg and earning more money than he was originally slated to earn in his contract. This reeks of a behind-the-scenes deal to me. Seeing how poorly that has gone in the media for Texas (Will Muschamp) and Florida State (Jimbo Fisher), I am sure VT has no intention to make it public, but it makes good sense. Foster is already loved in this community. Frank Beamer is getting older and it's reasonable to think he would retire in 5 years. Foster already recruits extremely well in this state. So don't be surprised if you see our lunch-pail-toting friend, Bud Foster, as the main man on the sidelines five years from now.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

It's Frenetic! Woogie, Woogie, Woogie!

The pace of last night's basketball game, that is. Virginia Tech beat VMI at Cassell Coliseum in a blowout 98-73 win. Jeff Allen and Dorenzo Hudson both had monster games for the Hokies. Yes, that's right, the same Dorenzo Hudson I've been forced to bash in most other games this season... this match up seemed to suit him very well when he realized he could stop jacking up 3-pointers that weren't going to fall and just take the ball to the cup. And take it to the cup, he did. 24 points for Dorenzo, which easily bests his previous game-high of 15. He has VMI to thank, as their ridiculously fast-paced style calls for them to throw up a shot as quickly as possible on offense, then play a full-court press on defense that never works and led to easy baskets as Hudson, Allen, Davila and company leaked out. It was a hard game to watch both because of the blistering pace and because it bred dumb mistakes for both teams. Too many times, I saw a Hokie player hold the basketball like it was a football and try to throw the touchdown to another Hokie 70 feet up the court while they tried to dot their toes in bounds on the catch. This isn't football, Jeff Allen. A made catch will not result in 6 points... a made catch will save you a turnover, and that didn't happen very often. When the Hokies made smart passes (and I do have to credit Allen for some smart looks), they tore apart VMI's press. In the end, the VT athleticism was too much, as we killed the Keydets on the offensive glass.

  • If you are seeing this game as an improvement to the Hokies' recent play, you are right, but it's not necessarily an improvement in scoring from the field. Tech shot an average 45.2% from the floor and hit only 1 of 8 3-pointers. Offensively, we seem to be capable of hitting the same kinds of shots and we still are getting most of our points in the paint. The 3-point line continues to be our team's nemesis. The biggest improvement I have seen in the last two games is free throw shooting. We hit a respectable 75% against VMI and did well in our previous game against Georgia as well. Dorenzo Hudson in particular is shooting much better from the foul line, which is good to see considering he is at his best when he attacks the basket.
  • This game against VMI also doesn't give us any kind of preview to our matchup against Penn State on Saturday. Penn State plays a very different kind of basketball than VMI, so expect a lot fewer possessions and a lot fewer points being scored. Also, PSU has much better players than VMI. This should be a very good barometer to know how good the Hokies really are right now. The slight advantage should go to Penn State since this is a home game for them, but I would think our two teams are about even if playing on a neutral floor. We'll see how right I am, as I expect us to lose a close game.
  • Malcolm Delaney hurt his thumb against VMI, and it drastically altered his shot. He had some very easy looks, but only went 3-14 from the field. Luckily, there is no break in the bone and it's just bruised. I don't know how quickly he will recover though... I expect him to play against PSU, but I don't expect him to shoot the lights out.
  • The freshmeat continue to play very well and I am encouraged especially by Ben Boggs and Erick Green. They will be valuable assets as the season progresses. Cadarian Raines got his first point of the season on a free throw. His first name is a soft "C", which I didn't expect. He has a body that's already ACC-ready, so that's fantastic. He just needs more playing time and practice time with his teammates now that he's come back from his foot injury.
  • I still like Terrell Bell. A lot. Possibly more than friends... I don't know, it's a complicated feeling. I love the guy's athleticism and penchant for making key plays. He had 4 packs against VMI (i.e. blocks). That's neat. And fun.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The 2010 World Cup Draw

I thought I might also comment on the draw for the 2010 World Cup, which happened on Friday. This is the event where teams are drawn into their groups for the initial round of the World Cup. You have 4 different pots, each with a different level of opponent. The first pot is filled with the top 8 teams from the combination of World-Cup-qualifying and FIFA rankings (this group also includes the host nation, which is South Africa for this cup... a bunny among lions). The second pot is the 8 European qualifiers. The 3rd pot is the 8 North American and Asian/Oceania qualifiers. The 4th pot is the 8 South American and African qualifiers. Someone (in this case, it was Charlize Theron of all people) will pull a random team from each pot to form the 8 groups for the World Cup. So there are four teams per group, who will each play one another once and the 2 best teams will move on to the next round. I hope that all makes sense, because I am going to move on.

In past World Cup draws, it seems like the US always gets the short end of the stick. In 2006 we were unlucky enough to draw Italy (the eventual World Cup winners) along with a young and talented Ghana squad, and finally a Czech Republic team that was on the tail end of their prime. In 2002 we drew Portugal, South Korea (a co-host nation with talent playing in front of proud supporters), and a decent Poland team. In 1998 we "lucked" into Germany, Yugoslavia, and Iran (Iran was actually pretty poor, but the other two were quite good).

This time around, the US was not so lucky as to draw the host nation, South Africa, from the 1st pot of "top seeds". Mexico was lucky enough to do that. Instead, we drew England, who are probably the second most favorable matchup for us out of that pot of teams. England plays a similar style to the US and games are rarely blowouts between the two. The United States also has several players (Tim Howard, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Jonathan Spector, etc) who ply their trade in England's premier league, and so they know the opposing players and their styles. On the other hand, England has not really gotten a live look at many of the US starters.

The next two draws ended up being a very pleasant surprise... not only did the US's group draw Algeria (the weakest squad from their pot), but also Slovenia (arguably the weakest or 2nd weakest from their pot). And to make things more comfortable for US fans, Mexico's group drew France (arguably the best team to not get "seeded") and Uruguay (an excellent South American team who will give Mexico fits). So the advantage to Mexico drawing South Africa was basically negated by drawing France and Uruguay.

None of this really matters if the US doesn't take each of these opponents seriously. This is the World Cup Finals... any one of the teams in the finals can beat the US on a given day. The difference will be heavy preparation and a little bit of luck from the injury bug. Charlie Davies and Oguchi Onyewu are both still out from their respective injuries. Onyewu should return in time to play in the cup, but how fit will he be? Davies is a long shot, but it's possible he could contribute. Both are game-changing players for the US men's national team and will be missed if they can't go. Other players who have been injured for the past several months are now starting to train again. Defender Jay DeMerit, Midfielder Maurice Edu, and new US midfielder Jermaine Jones are starting to get into shape and should be able to play in the friendlies set up for next year. The US lineup could look a little different from the team that upset top-ranked Spain in the Confederations Cup this past summer, and I'm not sure if that is good or bad.

All-in-all, my biggest point is that we have a really good chance to move into the second stage considering our draw, and that makes me a happy camper.

Bulldoggin' It

Virginia Tech came up with another win at home against the Georgia Bulldogs to go 6-1 on the young season. It was a game that VT needed to win, and win convincingly, and for the most part we did that. Georgia will not compete for a spot in the NCAA tournament this year, and probably will finish last in their division. However, they were in the same spot last season and managed to beat us on for an embarrassing loss in Athens, and I'm just happy that our guys didn't even let them into the game this time around. The Hokies stifled Trey Thompkins, the best player for the Bulldogs, and forced him into an 0-6 effort. The Hokies didn't let Georgia get closer than 6 for almost the entire game (barring the first few minutes) and finished with a 12 point win.

Dorenzo Hudson had his best shooting effort of the season going 3-4, but he missed his lone 3-point attempt. I was psyched to see that he hit both of his free throw attempts. He also played well defensively. Ben Boggs continues to give us a spark off the bench, going 2-2 from the 3-point line for the second game in a row. Not only that, but Boggs is proving to be a useful defender.

Malcolm Delaney finally looked like his old self driving to the basket. He was able to pick up fouls AND complete shots, the latter of which had been a problem for him early in the season. He still isn't shooting particularly well from the 3-point line, but I think that will come. Jeff Allen managed to pick up 4 fouls despite starting both halves on the bench. It seems like Greenberg knows what he is doing, and you can probably guess that Allen would have fouled out otherwise. I am of the thinking that players need to get rest, but for people as athletic as college basketball players, it doesn't really matter if that rest comes early or late. My final point from this game is that Victor Davila continues to impress in the post, and in this game, he really established himself on the boards against bigger guys. He had 9 rebounds, and 5 of those were offensive. That's by far his best rebounding performance of his college career and I am hoping he can continue with that instead of falling away. As a team, VT average close to a rebound for every 2 of our misses on offense... that's freaking sweet. For all of Chieck Diakite's defensive accolades, he had terrible hands and was a poor rebounder, and we're starting to see the benefits of having guys who hit the boards hard and can actually corral the loose balls.

Other thoughts at this point of the season:
  • Your mom looks fantastic in that orange and maroon bikini I bought her
  • Something stinks about VT playing in the Philly Hoops Group Classic. Tech played against both Temple and Delaware in that competition on what was supposedly a neutral floor, but it really wasn't. Temple is in Philly, so that was basically a home game for them. The University of Delaware is 45 minutes from Philly, so that was close to being a home game for them as well. Maybe that's why VT was dominated by Temple and somehow escaped with an embarrassing win over a poor Delaware squad. If Tech had offers from anyone else... Madison Square Garden, Anchorage, Maui, Puerto Rico, etc, then we should have accepted them. It's moronic to schedule supposedly neutral games when they aren't really neutral. If VT had no other decent offers, then I apologize and recant on what I just said, but I find it hard to believe we couldn't find more favorable games early in the season.
  • I want to see a game where VT blows up from the 3-point line. If that happens against VMI, then that is fine, but I find it difficult to believe that our team is really so poor from that spot on the floor. I promise I will rhyme no more.
  • We're in a good spot right now, but a lot of our success this season will depend on the next two games. We can't afford to drop a game at home against VMI, and that's definitely a possible outcome. VMI runs the fastest offense in the NCAA ranks, leading them to score an average of 92 points per game, but it also leads them to give up 98 points per game. However, that doesn't fit in well with VT's style of play... we like to limit possessions and slow the game down. If our players get too excited at the prospect of playing a running-the-floor type of game, we could end up losing. If our players stay disciplined and work for open shots, we will win by a landslide. And there's also the possibility of our players looking ahead to our biggest away game of the year against Penn State on Saturday. That would be a mistake. But I believe the Hokies will not do that, and I think we come out with a win against VMI and a loss against Penn State. I think that will be our only loss going into ACC play where we will most likely lose our opener to UNC in Chapel Hill.
  • Our ACC schedule for this season is very favorable. We match up well with 4 of the 5 teams that we have to play twice (and consequently, we don't match up nearly as well with 5 of the 6 teams that we only play once). We are going to have a tough time matching the size of the other teams in the ACC, particularly Duke, UNC, Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Clemson, and Florida State. We match up very well with UVA, NC State, Miami, Maryland, and Boston College. If there was ever a season for Seth Greenberg and the Hokies to make a surprising run towards the top of the ACC, it's this year as the Hokies have a favorable ACC schedule, a junior-heavy roster, and they're being overlooked by many both in the ACC and in the media. We could really give everyone a gigantic poop-burger to eat, and it'd be oh so satisfying.
  • Our team seems to be turning around their offensive woes. The 3-pointers aren't dropping for a lot of our starters, but we're getting great production out there from Ben Boggs, Manny Atkins, and Erick Green. The 2-pointers are definitely starting to fall and so are the foul shots. Davila was 5-5 in free throws against Georgia, showing that I might have known what I was talking about when I said his form is better than what his stats at the line indicate (this was maybe two games into the season where I said that, I think).
  • I love Hokie basketball, but you knew that.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

4 games later...

Sorry for the hiatus everyone. I was out of commission the past 2 weeks trying to get my ducks in a row so I could go on Thanksgiving vacation. I am back in full force now and ready to talk some basketball! Most of you would probably rather talk football, but you're going to have to wait a day or two because I love Hokie basketball first and Hokie football second. I hope this doesn't mean that I will love one child more than another when it's time to start popping out the kids... uh oh.

So, Virginia Tech has had 4 basketball games since my last b-ball post. They have shot poorly in 3 of those 4 games, and yet somehow they managed to win 3 of those 4 games. I mean, that's incredible. I guess we should have expected to win some games we shouldn't have this season since we lost so many that we should have won last season, right? Somebody once told me that everything evens out in the end (Jerry Seinfeld?), so it must be true. If you hear it on TV, it's the truth. We beat the lowly Campbell Camels in their home arena, then we lost to Temple in what was a demoralizing and uncoordinated effort, then we managed to eke out a win against Delaware the next night in an embarrassing overtime win over an awful team, then we had what I would call was our first quality win of the season against Iowa in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

Since I like things in bullet form, here are my most recent thoughts on VT:
  • To say Dorenzo Hudson is struggling is like saying that pancreatic cancer is a tough disease to beat. Let me give you his shooting percentages... .372 field goal percentage (above .400 is considered okay for a guard, below it is definitely not okay), .200 3-point percentage (above .333 is okay for a guard... Hudson is way below), and he's shooting a horrific .357 from the foul line (over .700 is okay for a guard). Those stats are miserable, and you'd better believe Seth Greenberg knows it. He can get the same production in every other stat category from freshman Ben Boggs, but unlike Hudson, Boggs has also been shooting the ball well. I would not be surprised to see Boggs take over the starting role at some point this season if Hudson can't find his shooting touch (it took Hudson almost the whole season to find it last year).
  • Boggs came off the bench about 2 minutes into the first half against Iowa when the Hokies were already down big and hit two clutch 3-pointers to help pull us even. Boggs plays with a ton of confidence, which is something our team has really lacked so far this season. You're also not going to lose anything on defense when you bring Boggs in... he fights and scraps to get in position. He played with a ton of energy and I loved every minute of it. He's also a local boy, from Hidden Valley High School in Roanoke, VA, which is sweet.
  • The other freshmen probably still need more playing time. Erick Green is hardly in long enough to realize which player he's guarding, and Manny Atkins seems like someone who can spell Terrell Bell at the 3.
  • Speaking of Bell, he's been terrific. He's not really hitting his 3-pointers yet, but everything else he gives our team helps to offset that. He changes shots with his athleticism and gets blocks. He is a fantastic offensive rebounder. He is a smooth scorer around the rim and creates fastbreak opportunities by getting his hands in the passing lane. It feels kind of like we traded Vassallo's shooting for Bell's everything else, and I'm very okay with that, especially if Bell's shooting can be considered "adequate", which I think it can.
  • Jeff Allen might never put it all together. Mentally, he is still a freshman. He makes the same mistakes he made as a freshman and I really haven't seen any improvement in his game. He takes bad shots early in the shot clock, he gets called for too many cheap fouls, he gets out of position regularly on defense, and he shoots too many outside shots when he can get easier points down low. With that said, I can't think of too many other players in the ACC who have his abilities, and that's why I still love him as a Hokie. He can score with both hands in the post (he had a soft, turn-around-lefty-hook against Iowa that reminded me of that fact). He has long arms and can get rebounds that other players his height can't. He has an incredible knack for poking the ball away for steals and he gets good elevation for shot-blocking. He also seems to see the floor pretty well and usually makes good passes. If he would just play smarter and grow up in his game, he could seriously be the next Charles Barkley. I'm not even remotely kidding about that... the similarities in the way they both play and their body types is so astonishing, you would think Jeff's father was the Round Mound of Rebound.
  • I think Victor Davila is going to be an excellent post player by next season. His play against Iowa showed me that he is starting to understand how to position himself defensively. Guarding the bigger Brendan Cougill (who shoots well from 3-point land), Victor did well in getting out to defend the guard on ball screens, then getting back to front Cougill as he raced to the basket, then getting behind Cougill as he was pushed out to the foul line, then racing out to defend another screen. There were plenty of chances for Davila to mess up just once and leave Cougill open, but that didn't happen and Iowa got a poor shot attempt. That's the kind of stuff we really need to keep seeing from Victor. He has great post moves on offense and everybody knows that. Rebounding and defense are what need to continue to improve, and I think they are.
  • Delaney's 3-point shot is MIA. That's not Miami, that's Missing-In-Action. Common mistake. He just isn't shooting with the confidence that we usually expect from Malcolm Delaney, but he'll come around. He's too good of a shooter to not come around. What's key is that he keeps getting his points by driving to the basket and earning free throws, and he's done that. He has 2.5x as many free throw attempts as the next closest person on the team (Victor Davila with 19). That shows you that Delaney is playing smart and doing what he needs to do to score the ball. I'd like to see Greenberg rest him for an extra minute or two in each game, but for now, things seem to be looking up.
Our next game is at home against Georgia. The Bulldogs are not good at basketball... in fact they're pretty terrible. They are 4-2, but they haven't played anybody of note and lost to basketball "powerhouse" Wofford on November 17. On top of that, the Hokies should be charged up by the fact that we lost to the awful Bulldogs last year on a last second buzzer-beater. I think the guys should be pretty charged up for a win in the Cassell. You may also notice Georgia Assitant Coach Stacey Palmore on the sidelines as he was with the Hokies from 2004-2009 before Mark Fox recruited him to the peach state.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

There's a UNC-Greensboro now?

I'm sure many of you knew there was a UNC-G, but I did that for effect. Brilliant, if I do say so myself. Apparently they are called the Spartans, and apparently we have played them several times in the last 5 or 6 years. Who knew? I guess they aren't very memorable because we throw the smack down on them every single time we play them. Tuesday night was no exception, although the beatdown wasn't as large as it could have been if we had actually shot the ball well. So with that, I thought I might include some points from the game against UNC-G:

- Foul shooting is our nemesis right now. Seth Greenberg and the players swear up and down that they practice 100 of them every day and that they are hitting the free throws in practice. My guess is that the team has game-time jitters and those will lessen as the season progresses. Hudson has been poor from the line so far, but I am pretty sure he started out badly from the line last season and turned it around by ACC play. What I do like is that Hudson is getting to the line more this year, and I'd like to see that continue.

- Erick Green got a little more time in this game (6 minutes... double his last game!), but he needs to be out there even more. Delaney was in the game for 37 minutes. That's just way too much. I'm not sure why Seth Greenberg is trying to wear Delaney out before we even get into January, but that seems to be the plan. You'd think last season would have been a lesson for him. Sometimes you just have to trust that your backups will play well when they're in the game. I would think it's similar to mother birds letting their baby birds drop like rocks from the nest to see if they can fly.

- The Hokies' defense really shined through in this game. They caused 23 turnovers while only committing 12. That's 13 extra possessions right there, which is nothing to sneeze at. We also limited UNC-G to 35.3% for their field goals, which would have been even more awesome if we had managed to hit better than 37.5% ourselves. It wasn't as though UNC-G was playing stellar defense either... we just weren't hitting wide open shots. I am glad, though, that if we had to have a bad shooting game, it was against a team that we dominated defensively. Jeff Allen had 6 steals and 3 blocks. He also had his first double-double of the season with 14 points and 10 rebounds. He is a monster, and I'm not talking about one of those lame cuddly monsters with buck teeth like from "Where the Wild Things Are". Monsters don't say things like, "I don't won't you to go, I'll eat you up I love you so." Monsters just eat children up without the commentary on love.

- Our offensive rebounding was stronger in this game, although you have to expect that considering UNC-G's tallest starter is 6'6" (and very rotund I might add). They had a couple 6'8" guys come off the bench, but overall we out-rebounded the Spartans on the offensive glass 18 to 13. They had more total rebounds than us, but that has a lot to do with the fact that we had 18 more possessions (from turnovers and offensive rebounds), plus the fact that we didn't shoot well which boosted the Spartans' defensive rebounds.

- Victor Davila and Jeff Allen both had excellent games, which is to be expected against a team as small as UNC-G. Will they be able to do it against bigger opponents? I don't know, but I will say this... I LOVE that both of these guys have really worked on their post moves. They are a real danger on the offensive end. I'd like to see Davila grab more than 4 rebounds per game, but he did improve his defense by racking up 3 blocks and keeping Pete Brown in check (which is a little like keeping a caged sloth in check, but it still makes me happy). Allen played excellent defense on the Spartans' best player, Ben Stywall. Stywall was 3-9 and a complete non-factor offensively in this game.

- Terrell Bell had a mixed game as he stuffed the stat sheet with 3 blocks, 2 steals, and 8 rebounds, but he also shot poorly and turned the ball over 5 times. Most of those were unforced errors where Bell got over-eager and whipped the ball out of bounds or stepped on the line. He could stand to clean up his play a bit, but I love his athleticism and defense.

- Manny Atkins, Gene Swindle, and Paul Debnam got into this game for the last minute. They basically got one possession, so there's not much to say except that they got into their first game.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Finally, an EASY Win!

Something clicked in the collective minds of the Virginia Tech Hokies in Maryland on Saturday as VT beat Maryland 36-9 in a game that was basically over by halftime. I have to hand it to Tyrod Taylor... he bounced back from a couple disappointing outings to have an impressive showing in College Park. TT was 13-23 for a whopping 268 yards and 3 touchdowns. It's hard to throw for 268 yards on 13 completions... it means he averaged better than 20 yards for every completed pass. If I were from the deep south, I would probably say something like, "Well slap my mouth and call me Shirley." So let's all be thankful that I grew up in Ohio and won't be saying such ridiculous things. Taylor also ran for 91 yards on 8 carries. He had a monster game.

I think Jake Johnson has been taking his benching by Coach Foster seriously. He has been giving up a lot of playing time to Lyndell Gibson, who had a good game himself, but Johnson led the team in tackles with 7, sacks with 2, tackles-for-loss with 2, and also added a QB hurry. If Jake Johnson can get his head screwed on straight, then the Hokies have a bright future at linebacker. Jake is a physically impressive player. I'd rather we not have to go back to the drawing board and come up with a new starter. Gibson could be good as well, but the fact that I never really notice him in a game is disconcerting. You would never say that about Xavier Adibi... even when he was a freshman.

I like that Foster dialed up the pressure on Maryland's second-string QB (who isn't a terrible player). Our defense really seemed to be firing on all cylinders as auto enthusiasts and television commentators might say. And I like that Ryan Williams gives us a consistently solid performance week-in and week-out. He's only a freshman and he's one of the best running backs in the nation. Luckily, he can not bolt for the NFL draft as he's only been a member of a college team for 2 seasons (players can leave school early for the NFL draft after 3 seasons, which includes their redshirt year).

I'm excited to see the combination of Williams and Darren Evans next season, assuming Evans is full-speed by then. If he's not, then no offense to my man Darren, but I don't want to see him on the field except during mop-up duty. We return an arguably stronger team for next season and I will keep my hopes high right up until we either blow our chances to get into the ACC championship game, or we win the National Championship. I am really going to miss Cody Grimm, Nekos Brown, and Stephan Virgil. Kam Chancellor and Ed Wang are notable exceptions from that list.

Only 2 more regular season games left, then we get to go to a craptastic bowl game! If the rumors of the possibility of us playing Notre Dame are true, that would be freaking awesome. GO HOKIES!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ewwww... Brown

Let's talk turkey. We'll go with Hokie basketball today and football tomorrow. The VT men's basketball team kicked off their season yesterday with a 69-55 win over Brown University. That's right, they are indeed the red-headed step-child of the Ivy League, both in academics and in this case, basketball. The Bears were one of the worst teams in the Ivy League last season and they were not predicted to get much better this season. This is mostly because they rock a ton of underclassmen and also because they have a hard time recruiting talent. The smart athletes who can also play a little basketball go to Cornell, Princeton, and Penn. So you can see why I am a little disappointed in our 14 point win... I thought we were going to make some noise in the ACC this year, and we definitely still can, but good ACC teams usually blow out a bottom-dweller like Brown, and we didn't come close to doing that as we let them within 5 points twice in the second half and within 6 points as late as 8 minutes left in the half. That's not so great, but the history of Virginia Tech is to play up to (in this case "down to") our competition, so the result was not a huge surprise. However, a win is a win, and we'll take it!

You might be interested to know that Andrew McCarthy played in this game and scored a team-high 14 points! Andrew... loved you in Mannequin.

I subscribed to the CBS All-Access application yesterday in order to watch the game, but what I didn't realize is that I had to watch the game live. I thought I could watch it from the beginning any time I wanted to, and so was forced to learn a $9.99 lesson as I turned the game on with about 2 minutes left. I will be canceling the subscription after this month... book it. So my thoughts on the game are cheapened by the fact that I didn't really see the game, I just read the recaps and checked out the box score. With that said, here are some things I was thinking about:

- Delaney was exactly what he needed to be... great. He shot well, hit his three-pointers, got to the foul line and made his shots for the most part, directed the offense, and seemingly was active on defense. My only beef... he played 38 of the 40 minutes. Why? This isn't on Delaney, it's on Seth Greenberg. I realize that you may not trust Erick Green because he's a freshman and so you only gave him 3 minutes at the point, but he made his only shot (a 3-pointer) and regardless of whether he makes huge mistakes, he just needs more time against these crappy opponents to get ready for ACC play! If we continue to put Delaney out there for 38 minutes every game, he's going to be so battered and bruised by January that we'll get destroyed in conference play. That's what happened at the end of last season, and I don't want it to happen again.

- Terrell Bell got the start on the wing in place of the departed AD Vassallo, and he played well. Bell is not going to be the big time scorer that AD was, but he showed the same ability to rebound that Vassallo had, and Bell is a much (MUCH) better defender. He tacked on 8 points, which is enough... we just need him to continue to be a defensive presence on the floor. I had thought JT Thompson might start for us at the 3, but Greenberg decided to have Thompson back up Allen at the 4 and Bell at the 3, which gave him quite a few minutes. Thompson didn't have a good game (shot 1-7 and turned the ball over 3 times), but I think that's not always going to be the case, so I give our coach some love for the smart move. JT has played his best minutes in past seasons at the 4, so I thought it was wise to have him play both at the 4 and the 3 instead of playing JT entirely on the wing at the 3 where he seems less comfortable.

- Dorenzo Hudson looks like he is going to be our glue-guy this year... the kind of guy who doesn't always score a ton, but will stuff the box score with stats. He only had 8 points in this game, but he really seems to be making smarter decisions with the ball, as is evidenced by his 6 assists to 1 turnover. He's also getting into the paint, as is suggested by his 6 rebounds. He added a block and a steal for good measure. It would be nice to get more scoring out of Hudson, but if we can't get that, I hope we can still get the other stats.

- I've been wondering if anyone is going to step up and take some of Vassallo's heavy scoring load this season, and it looks like there could be a few candidates. Bell and Hudson both have the ability to do that... Hudson is more of a natural scorer than Bell, but Hudson seems to be more of a streaky shooter as well. The third guy is obviously Victor Davila, who had 8 points and seemed very comfortable in the post... at least offensively. His defense still needs a lot of work. Davila shot 50% with some nice post moves. I'd like him to shoot better than 50% at the free throw line, and his shot there seems to be evidence that he can shoot better. He has a nice touch and good arc (unlike his predecessor Cheick Diakite). I really want to see him get tough inside and rebound the ball better, but there's plenty of time for him to improve on that.

- As we learned from Hank Thorns last year, Seth Greenberg typically gives players a "green light", "yellow light", or "red light" for shooting 3-pointers. Thorns was given a "yellow light", meaning he could only shoot them when he was wide open and he probably had a limit on how many he could shoot. I think Jeff Allen was in the same boat last year, but I think he has a "green light" this year. Allen shot four 3-pointers, and although he only made one, I think we'll continue to see him shoot from out there. He is a good shooter, and really does need to improve his range to have any shot at playing in the NBA. No NBA team is going to take a 6'7" power forward who can't shoot from outside, regardless of how well he plays in college.

- What surprised me the most was that Ben Boggs got the most minutes of all the freshmen. He played 10 minutes, and seemed to be able to hold his own out there. Boggs was a terrific high school player, but the fact that he only played at the state AA level and missed all of his senior season due to injury made me think he would come in with the hardest road to getting playing time of all the freshmen. He totally rubbed my face in it. I should have known, but the most important thing for Seth Greenberg is the ability to play defense, so if you can do that, you can get playing time. Just ask Marcus Sailes, who couldn't hit the broad-side of a barn, but was a key contributor to our last NCAA tournament team. Because of this, if Cadarian Raines can come back from injury and show the ability to rebound and defend, he could easily steal a lot of playing time from both Victor Davila and Lewis Witcher, regardless of how much he contributes offensively. And finally, Manny Atkins didn't get any playing time, which was a bit of a surprise to me. I thought he was supposed to be a pure scorer, but maybe his defense was too bad to get him on the court.

- Greenberg confused me a bit in that he didn't send the scrubs in to play in the last minute of the game when we clearly were going to win. The only reason I can see for this is that he wanted his starters to get the feel of closing a game with a win. Coach probably wanted his players to show that kind of hard-fought effort in Brown's last possession, and he can't be happy that they ended up getting a basket.

Will this be another unlucky season where the Hokies get beat on several last-second plays? I don't think so, but you never really know. If Tech continues to let lesser opponents play even with them throughout the entire season, there are going to be some heart-breakers. But unlike with my 8th grade crush, my heart will be much better prepared this time around. I've got a sincere little shout-out to Ann and Chip for that golden nugget. granted it's hard for a girl to know you have a crush on her if you don't speak up, but that's neither here nor there...

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Nike Uniform Review

We have some cool new uniforms for the game against Maryland on Saturday. However, I am not the best source for conversations about football uniforms. That responsibility should fall to a man who knows what he's talking about. A man who can tell you the uniform being worn by every team in every Superbowl dating back to the very first one. That man is Lee, our special uniform correspondent. Take it away Lee...
Pat, I'm honored to act as a special correspondent for this special uniform segment of your blog. As a secure manly man, I still notice a good uniform and have somehow developed a trained-eye for subtle uniform changes. Sometimes it’s useful, most of the time it’s creepy. When I was a kid, my dad bought me a framed collection of the then 28 NFL team helmets. I paid delicate attention to each helmet, apparently due to a lack of modern conveniences in my humble West Virginia upbringing. So now, each time an NFL team changes their helmet, a small cash register sound reverberates in my head as I reflect on my priceless collection. This is my only explanation for how I pick up on such subtleties as the Jets changing their facemasks from white to black (when Boomer Esiason was their starter), or when the Ravens tried to pull a fast one and pretend like their original logo wasn't their decal with precious little angel wings on the sides (take that Ritt!), or when the expansion Jaguars intended to wear this helmet, but soon repented and went with this helmet. Unfortunately this poor guy had already cashed in on future Jaguar glory with this non-refundable purchase in 1995.

So here we are in 2009, watching the Hokies getting ready to debut their seventh different uniform combination and their third different helmet! And I have to say that I personally don’t mind, I think it’s fun to be uncertain of what your team will look like before they head out of the tunnel. I think the Hokies are quickly becoming the Oregon of the east for a few good reasons: they lack the tradition that will prevent many schools from ever changing (Penn State and Alabama come to mind for some reason), they have been a great team for the past 15 years, and they are the only team to brilliantly combine maroon and orange, so everything looks a little fresher and different. Considering Nike foots the bill and the special uniforms are auctioned off for charity, it seems like a win-win.

As for the Nike combat uniforms, Virginia Tech is the second (after TCU) of 10 teams that will debut a new look this year. I predict that like TCU and VT, the other participating schools will be short in tradition but rich in current success. Although I don’t love this uniform up close (especially the fading of the numbers from maroon to orange and the lines on the shoulder pads), I think they’re going to look great on the field. I love the white helmet and think the Hokies should seriously consider wearing it in different combinations. Still my all-time favorite combination is the uniforms the Hokies wore against Georgia Tech. As long as they avoid these uniforms, I think Tech’s uniform future is bright, I wish I could say the same about their offense.

Powerful stuff from a man who knows a thing or two about what looks bad-ass on a football field.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Purple Pirate Eaters

I'm not going to say that Virginia Tech's 16-3 win over ECU was a good game. I simply cannot say that. What I can say is that I'm proud of our guys for gutting out an ugly victory on the road, and I'm proud they kept their heads up after back-to-back losses. The defense let up a few sizable plays, but for the most part they held their ground and got turnovers when they were needed. Now, you could argue that ECU had more to do with those turnovers than VT did, but it's all semantics when looking at the win-loss column.

I had some friends over to watch the game, and admittedly we were more concerned with our own conversations and eating a fantastic spread of appetizers (shout-out to my wife) than the actual game. It was just boring to watch. Our offense struggled mightily against a team that has won a few games, but has really lacked a win against a quality opponent. They got beat down by both West Virginia and UNC, so for all the talk I heard about ECU being the probable winners of Conference USA, that distinction is like saying that out of all the guys who hunt for scraps with metal detectors, you're the absolute best. Congrats, here's a shiny nickel for you.

All in all, it's tough to get pumped up about a 16-3 game where craptastic ECU would continuously get in good field position for a score, then hand the ball over to us (once without the aid of any of our defensive players). The offense continued to look lackluster. Tyrod was driving me nuts... and maybe I just couldn't see the whole play, maybe his wide receivers were really struggling to get open, but it was frustrating to see TT hold the ball for so long only to unload a bad pass after getting 7-10 seconds of protection. I expect better than that. No. I DEMAND better than that! You're the starting quarterback for the best team in the ACC. Let's see you zip a pass into a tight spot instead of constantly throwing behind the receiver and making him adjust.

Urgh. Sorry, I need to apologize for the negativity. I am just still severely disappointed in our back-to-back losses. I thought our team had a legit shot at the National Championship game this season, and maybe I shouldn't have fooled myself. This defense hasn't been spectacular at any point of the season, and the offense is only a shade better than past seasons, so the obvious conclusion should be that we will be just as good as last year. I guess, being a Cleveland sports fan, I just want to be a fan of a team that is relevant towards the end of the season. Thank goodness for the Cleveland Cavs, otherwise I'd probably hop into the bathtub with a plugged-in toaster.

I take that back... way over the top. But for the first time in what seems like ages, the VT football team is out of the ACC championship hunt and we're going to have to settle for a mediocre bowl, at best. Meineke Car Care bowl anyone? Blah. It's tough to eat ramen noodles again when you've been eating steak for so long. My focus will probably shift more to player development at this point. Jason Worilds is a stud... does he come back next season? I would assume so. Nekos Brown is solid, but is he NFL draft-worthy? We have some promising interior players like Antoine Hopkins. Can he develop into a front-line force? Cody Grimm is one of my favorite players ever to don a Tech jersey, but is he anything but a special teamer at the next level? Will anyone besides Ryan Williams step up and assert themselves on offense? What happens next year when Darren Evans comes back? Those type of questions all of a sudden become much more intriguing than, "Will we win next week?" Because at this point, it doesn't seem to make that big of a difference.

But hey, I'll still be rooting for another 10 win season for Frank. GO HOKIES!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Picture for the Ages

My brother-in-law managed to snag this photo that is from the new practice facility. I can't believe that this image was chosen because as amazing as the play was for Deron Washington to leap over Paulus for a bucket... the image is Paulus with a mouthful of crotch. So like I said, I can't believe it, but that doesn't mean I don't absolutely love that it happened.

I'm going to miss the "Teabag Paulus" chants during home games against the Dookies. Luckily for us, Duke never fails to recruit players that every other team despises for their poor sportsmanship. Maybe next year I'll get to yell "Teabag Singler" as Jarrell Eddie leaps over him for a dunk? A man can dream.

Monday, November 2, 2009

2009-2010 Basketball Preview

WOOO-HOOO! I know it's considered pure blasphemy at Virginia Tech, but as many of you know, my true passion is Hokie Hoops with a modest edge over Hokie Football. Well with the season beginning in two weeks (November 15 against Brown), I thought I would throw some crap down in blog form and call it a season preview. GLHF (that's gamer talk for Good Luck Have Fun... I am not a gamer, although I aspire to be one day).

I'm excited for this season, as I have been the last several seasons, although it's probably because I have a tendency to see the good and neglect the bad. First off, if you look at the quality of our recruits last year to this year to next year to even the year after... the quality of the recruits is getting better and better. We have top-100 recruits in the coming years, which never used to happen, and I think a lot of it is because of the new practice facility that we've been hearing Seth Greenberg talk about for over a year now (it was finally finished in the offseason). Our incoming freshman class this year isn't eye-popping, but it's solid. Erick Green will play backup point guard from the start of the season and should be the best one to watch. Manny Atkins could see some playing time as a pure-scorer. He can hit the long-range jumper and he can slash to the basket, and he can rebound in traffic. Then again, Dorenzo Hudson was described the same way coming out of high school and has turned more into a defender, although his scoring improved late in the season. It is easier to predict Green as an ACC-caliber player than Atkins, although they might both be great when all is said and done. Ben Boggs missed most of his senior season with an injury, but he is back at full speed and Greenberg likes him to be a lock-down defender (probably not much of a scorer). And finally, we have a banger in Cadarian Raines. He doesn't have much in the offensive arsenal, but he's active, can jump out of the gym, rebounds and blocks shots. He's Cheick Diakite except with much better hands. Raines' negatives are that he is starting the season injured and needs to add more muscle to his frame. He also needs to develop some post moves, but there's a lot to like about him.

So, I guess my lead-in is why I'm not writing for a real publication instead of my tiny blog... I led with our freshman recruits rather than our returning players. Whoops. We return one of the best scorers in the ACC and a predicted first-team All-ACC point guard in Malcolm Delaney. Delaney scored about 18 points per game last season, but a lot of those points were from free throws late in the game when the other team was fouling to catch up. He scores well both from the 3-point line, going to the rim, or pulling up for a jumper. He just got way too tired-out last season and the wear and tear caught up with him, which is why Greenberg will need to lean heavily on Erick Green to learn the offense and defense quickly. Green will see plenty of minutes against Brown. We may see some point guard play from Dorenzo Hudson as well... Greenberg challenged him to play as much point in pickup games as possible during the offseason, and to focus on his dribbling. Either way though, Hudson would probably be our emergency point guard at best.

Also returning to the team is "The Big Donut", Jeff Allen. The name seemed apt when Allen was a freshman because of his rotund physique and the fact that he wore the number zero. The nickname grew significantly less funny last season as Allen shed about 30 lbs in the previous offseason. However, this past summer Allen was told to put that weight back on again, but with a good portion of that weight being muscle. This may sound strange because you are probably thinking, "The coaches wanted Jeff to get FATTER?" Well... yeah. Allen's per-minute numbers were better as a freshman than they were as a sophomore. A lot of the reason for that is because Allen's previous excess of weight is what allowed him to move bodies around in the low-post. Carrying that weight tired him out quickly, and the coaches saw that and asked him to lose the weight. Well, last season we saw Jeff get pushed around easier down low despite adding a little muscle and losing a ton of weight. The coaches then decided to put Allen on a regimen that would increase his weight, but do so at a safe pace that increased muscle mass as well. Allen is supposedly up to 255 lbs and is moving well and staying in shape, which I think will have big benefits for him this season. I am predicting that he averages a double-double, with at least 14 points per game and 10 rebounds per game. His low post moves are already fantastic... I don't think I'm being a homer when I say he has the best low-post moves in the ACC. But, I guess this all depends on whether he can keep himself from getting in foul trouble.

So we have 2 definite starters and then 3 guys who are likely to start. Those guys would be Dorenzo Hudson, JT Thompson, and Victor Davila. Their presence in the starting lineup will depend largely on whether they commit to defense. Greenberg was not at all happy about our team's spike in defensive ineptitude last season, and he wants to get back to the defense-first mindset that won us so many games with such lesser talent from 2004-2005 through 2006-2007. My gut tells me that it is going to happen. With a junior-laden roster and a coach who knows how to drill defensively, I see an improvement in that area this year. However, I also see a slight drop offensively. That can't be helped... we lost a big-time and clutch scorer in AD Vassallo.

Otherwise, our roster has some guys who might be able to step in and contribute. Terrell Bell shows signs of athleticism from time to time. Lewis Witcher may finally be able to put it all together for his senior season. Heck, Gene Swindle even has a chance to get in the mix... but I am mostly expecting the usual suspects to contribute.

Overall though, I like the Hokies' chances for success this season for several reasons:

1) We are being picked to finish in the bottom half of the league by everybody and their grandmother. In the past this has fired our team up and given them good motivation.

2) Our team is as experienced/seasoned as any other team in the ACC

3) We have a favorable schedule (although it might be a little light on big name opponents... could either help or hurt depending on if we win the games we should win and also win a few that we shouldn't)

4) And finally, I think the biggest reason is because the ACC is down this year. I mean think about it... most of the star players are gone. Just look at these player losses:

UNC - Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, Danny Green
Duke - Gerald Henderson, “Teabag” Paulus, and Eliot Williams
FSU - Toney Douglas, Uche Echefu
Miami - Jack McClinton
Wake - James Johnson, Jeff Teague
NC State - Brandon Costner, Ben McCauley, Courtney Fells
Clemson - Terrence Oglesby, KC Rivers
BC - Tyrese Rice
GT - leading scorer Lewis Clinch (not exactly a star, but you know), Alade Aminu

Almost every one of those guys is a gigantic loss... not just a small one. So I know that losing AD Vassallo is huge, but so are these losses for the other teams. The ACC is young and inexperienced this year, which could open things up for teams like VT or even (gasp) UVA, who lost arguably their worst player from last year and that's it (addition by subtraction... also works for their coach Dave Leitao being fired and bringing in proven winner Tony Bennett). Maryland should also be competitive having only lost Dave Neal, a good shooter but poor rebounder/defender as a center. Guys, this conference is wide open this year... Delaney and Allen could have a field day.

And so with that, I will give you my prediction for this season. I am predicting a 4th place finish in the ACC and a trip to the NCAA tournament. We have been on the edge for years and I think this is the year that we finally put it together. This is an extremely attainable goal for the Hokies. In truth, it's possible our team could win the ACC this year, but I am not going to claim anything so outlandish. I really think we get a bye in the first round of the ACC tourney this season assuming there are no more major injuries. An injury to Malcolm Delaney would cause a complete 180 degree turn and would put us at 10th or 11th in the ACC. Maybe even 12th, although NC State would put up a major fight for that spot.


Friday, October 30, 2009

Oops, I Crapped My Pants (Twice)

Disgusting. This game was basically a mirror image of last week, even though the Hokies went about achieving the result in a different way. UNC decided to stack the box and make Tyrod beat them with the throw. Bryan Stinespring, for the most part, did a good job of recognizing this. The difference this week is that Tyrod was just off. He couldn't hit the broad side of a barn in the first half, and his efforts seemed to be tentative. He would buy some time, scramble free, then have time to unleash a pass, only that the pass wouldn't come. On third down and long, I have no problem with taking a shot downfield and hoping a receiver can make a play. At worst it's like a long punt. But instead Tyrod would take the sack. That makes no sense to me, and I won't stand by that logic. So there were three things that I learned from this game:

1) Our offense only works if Tyrod can make the opposing defense pay. Look, you can't call the play-calls stellar, but you can't call them bad either. They were safe, but they would have worked if TT could have hit his men in stride. Sure, I would have loved to see a Wild Turkey (what ever happened to that??), or maybe another type of gimmick play thrown in, but you can't blame BS for that loss. And trust me, I would really like to do that. Also the offensive line was not what you would call "great", but I felt like they did enough. I am putting this loss on Tyrod's shoulders, and let's not overreact to this statement... I still think he's had a fantastic season and will continue to improve. He just blew this one game.

2) Our defense isn't nearly as good this year as it's been the past 3 or 4 seasons. It's just not. You can slather make-up all over a pig, but it's still a pig. Foster, with the exception of the second half last week, is scheming really well. His players just aren't using their heads. For whatever reason, there's been a lot of mental errors on the defense this year that allowed some long plays. The best example in this game against UNC was when they would motion their RB down to WR and then motion a WR over to RB. For whatever reason, this caused our defense to mess their pants the first couple of times they saw it. They eventually got their stuff together, but it took a while. It took too long.

3) We apparently are no longer to be feared on Thursday night in Blacksburg. This used to be a game that would cause opposing players to start shaking in their pads and urinating in their cups. We had the 12th man effect for just about the entire game. Our fans were loud, and probably a little obnoxious. But, this never amounted to having a 12th man on the field. We got maybe 1 or 2 false start penalties, but that was it. UNC was not scared of us, and that fact might be the most depressing of everything that happened last night. Losing to an unranked team in Blacksburg on a Thursday night... just saying it out loud sends shivers down my spine.

The short and simple is that you can't expect to win a game where you don't score at all in the first half, regardless of how the defense plays. Ryan Williams did a great job and the fact that his fumble came at the end of the game was a huge let-down, but he showed in the rest of the game that he was working hard and getting the extra yardage and you can't fault the guy's effort. This loss hurt, but not nearly as bad as the GT game. We were already looking at a long shot to make the ACC title game. Now it's completely gone. It's time to back the Hokies for the sake of rivalry and for the sake of football. And whatever crap team we play in our bowl game better watch out.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Oops, I Crapped My Pants

I apologize for the tardiness of this post... I really wasn't looking forward to writing it. The fact of the matter is that there is one way to beat a team like Georgia Tech, and that's to put some points on the board early so that you force GT's limp-armed quarterback, Josh Nesbitt, to throw the ball much more often than usual. If you try to establish the run early, knowing that GT was keying on the run, you are digging yourself an early grave. But apparently Bryan Stinespring decided to revert back to his old tentative ways and treated our players like corpses. We tried to run up the middle for the first down twice on 3rd and 2. TWICE! WHAT THE FREAKING CRAP! Stinespring saw that it didn't work once, so what did he do? He tried it again. The other damning fact is that we had yet to put up any kind of yardage running the football. GT had clogged the lanes, forcing us to use Tyrod. We didn't use Tyrod. The Yellow Jackets' offense is perfect for eating time off of the clock and gaining 3-4 yards per play. You can put the pressure on your defense to play flawlessly in order to win, but that's asking a lot of some young players. This game would have looked completely different if BS didn't tiptoe down the field and take the ball out of our quarterback's hands despite a lack of success running the football. You all saw what happened in the second half... we let Tyrod make some plays, and that forced GT to drop another player into coverage, which opened up the running lanes for Ryan Williams. It's just too bad it took BS 3 quarters to figure out what the rest of us saw by the end of the 1st quarter.

Sure, there's blame to go around. Brent Bowden punted like a pansy after getting some talk for being the best punter in the NCAA ranks, but we got great returns off of kickoffs which was all thanks to Dyrell Roberts. The defense let up some big plays, but they were pretty worn down by the 4th quarter due to the fact that our offense couldn't sustain drives. There's also some talk about Paul Johnson changing up GT's blocking schemes that helped thwart our defense. However, it seems that most of the blame should go to the offense for failing to execute in the first half, and to Bryan Stinespring for failing to call the plays that would put us in a position to score more easily in the first half. That was the easiest way to win this game... force GT to air it out. Why he reverted back to his sheepish play-calling after having so much success in previous weeks from letting Tyrod throw the football, I will never know. Tyrod was 10-14 with two interceptions... one was tipped at the line and the other was a hail mary at the end of the first half. So he threw incredibly well, despite the fact that we didn't give him a chance to throw it. All in all, a very disappointing loss as it not only knocks us out of contention for the National Title, it also makes an extreme uphill climb to reach the ACC Championship. VT has a new nemesis... move aside Boston College and make room for the "other Tech"... the Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech!

Something else I noted from the game was that Tyrod looked really tired and possibly sick during his final two drives. I've been trying to find talk about that, but surprisingly I didn't see anything. I mean he looked absolutely exhausted, then went over to the sideline and put his head in his hands like he was dealing with something. He had that look that people get where their mouth starts to water profusely and they're forced to start spitting it out. Usually Kyle Tucker would cover something like that in his blog and at least let you know that it was nothing, but I didn't see anything there. I covet answers.

So now expectations have to be lowered. It's time to root the Hokies on to another ACC championship and another Orange Bowl. This team can do it... it's the most talented team we've had in years in terms of offensive potential. Let's just hope that BS doesn't crap the bed again. I will now fling my arms about wildly at random times in a fit of discomfort. Go Tech (the real one).

Thursday, October 15, 2009

A Soccer Post

As most of you already know... I'm a big fan of the US Men's National Soccer Team. They had a couple of games over the last week that were very important and meant the difference between qualifying for the 2010 World Cup or else possibly going to a playoff against the 5th best South American team (the winner of that game goes to the World Cup and the loser stays home). Their first game was on Saturday in Honduras. Honduras is actually a much better team than people realize. Their lineup is littered with players who are either starters for European club teams, or else key contributors. And making things more difficult is the fact that Honduras was unbeaten at home in qualifying (8-0-0). The US was expected to lose this game and go home to face Costa Rica needing a win to qualify.

However, that's not what happened. The US Men's National Team came into Honduras charged up and unafraid of their rowdy fan base. After a rather boring first half, the second half opened with a Honduran goal from Julio Leon. Leon plays for Torino, one of the best teams in Italy's 2nd division, Serie B. After that goal, Conor Casey decided to go to work. Casey plays for the Colorado Rapids of MLS and was a surprise inclusion in the game. Most thought that Bob Bradley would opt to start both Charlie Davies and Jozy Altidore at forward, with the possibility of Brian Ching starting instead of Altidore. To everyone's surprise, Casey got the nod ahead of Altidore, who plays overseas in the English Premier League for Hull City. Casey had looked poor in his previous stints with the national team, but on Saturday night he buried two goals in 7 minutes to put the US on top. Another beautiful, curling goal from a set piece off the foot of Landon Donovan put the US on top for good. They just need to weather another goal from Leon and a missed penalty kick from Carlos Pavon to get the win, which no one expected them to get.

So with the win over Honduras, the US did not need a result in its final game of qualifying in order to get into the World Cup... it was already done. There was nothing left to play for but pride. That is until Charlie Davies got into a life-threatening car accident on Monday night. Davies had been making a lot of noise over in France with the first-division club Sochaux, and had been very effective as a forward for the US team. The accident claimed the life of a 22 year old woman, and it left Davies with multiple broken bones and a lacerated bladder. It will take a minimum of 5-6 months for Davies to heal, and several more months to get into soccer-playing shape. He will most likely miss the World Cup. The car accident has been kept under wraps, and it leads me to wonder why that would be. The names of the two other people in the car have not been released, one of whom was the driver. Nor has there been any explanation of how the car was literally severed in half. The accident took place later than 3:00 AM, during which time Davies was in violation of the team's curfew. I'm just really interested to hear what the real story is here.

So with the crash still fresh in the minds of everybody on the USMNT, the Yanks took the field at RFK Stadium in DC against Costa Rica with a resolve to play for Charlie. Roommate and good friend Jozy Altidore had the letters "DAVIES" written on his shirt beneath his jersey, which were easy to see thanks to the combination of rain and white team USA jerseys. The crowd held up papers with #9 on them in support of Davies and the families affected by the accident. However, as fired up as the US team was, they were shaky on defense in the first half and gave up two goals to Bryan Ruiz, who starts at striker for FC Twente in the Netherlands' Eredivisie (top division). The second goal came about 5 minutes after the first goal, where Ruiz was unmarked about 5 yards from the top corner of the penalty box, and he ripped an amazing shot into the top left corner of the net. Tim Howard stood no chance. After these goals, the US shored up its defense and put together a ton of chances on goal, but the formerly adept Conor Casey looked horrible and couldn't finish the easiest of chances. Jozy Altidore was all over the place and created tons of opportunities, but he couldn't put them away. Landon Donovan was also active, but couldn't get the ball in the net. Some second-half subs saw Jose Torres and Robbie Rogers come into the game, and both created the spark necessary to finally put the ball in its home. Rogers crossed a ball that bounced around a little and finally found Michael Bradley's foot as he shot it home off of the goalkeeper's leg. That was around the 72nd minute... the tying goal wouldn't come until 4 and 1/2 minutes into overtime. Costa Rica had done their best to waste time off of the clock, including having both their manager and assistant manager sent off by the referees for complaining (supposedly about a substitution issue, but I am fairly certain they were just trying to waste time). That left the Strength & Conditioning coach as the man calling the shots for Costa Rica. The tying goal came off of a last-minute corner kick where Jonathan Bornstein flew in unmarked to nod in the goal into the bottom right corner of the net. The defender on the near post hardly had enough time to react and just barely got a toe on the ball. The loss sends Costa Rica into a playoff game with Uruguay for a shot at the World Cup. I would not be envious of that position.

So as you can see, it's been a terribly exciting week of soccer. The US is headed to the WORLD CUP in South Africa!! The last week, both on and off the field, has cost the US two of its best players in Charlie Davies and Oguchi Onyewu, our gigantic defender who plays for AC Milan. Onyewu was injured trying to plant his foot on the wet field of RFK in order to jump for a ball that was sailing over his head. The motion caused Onyewu to tear a tendon and he's out 3-4 months. He should be back for the World Cup, but the lack of a chance to play for AC Milan during that time is extremely unfortunate. But there's also a lot to be excited about. The US team has had great contributions from a bunch of young players (Robbie Rogers, Jose Torres, Benny Feilhaber, Stuart Holden, Chad Marshall, Jonathan Bornstein, and even Conor Casey). There's a lot more depth to the US team than there was four years ago when the US Men's National Team traveled to Germany for the World Cup. And, for once, the coach of the US team has some decisions to make as to which players he will use to match up with whatever teams are drawn. In previous years, there wasn't much of a decision... the best players were obvious, but the player pool has gotten so much more talented since then that it leaves a lot of possibilities.

There are certainly several players who will compete if healthy. Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, and Tim Howard are definite starters if they're healthy. Even with Dempsey's seeming lack of effort in qualifying, he is still going to be a starter because of what he can do offensively. Nobody else on the team has the same skill with the ball at their feet or the ability to finish like Clint does, so he'll be included in the starting lineup even if he's half-assing it on defense and giving the ball away by trying one too many fancy tricks. But we also know that Clint brings his "A" game for the World Cup, so I am not worried.

The remaining decisions are who else should join those players. Defensively, you would think Steve Cherundolo and Jonathan Bornstein will join Bocanegra and Onyewu. As wing backs, they both get forward well and help out the offense with incredible speed and good crossing ability. Defensively, they are both lock-down defenders when on the ball, but they can get caught wandering out of position on occasion. They are also both short in stature and have a hard time beating tall strikers for balls in the air. Jonathan Spector is a nice option to replace either if there is a need for height. He also possesses a very good ability to pass from wide positions, but is more inclined to be beat in a 1-on-1 matchup.

In the midfield, Bob Bradley has opted to keep Donovan and Dempsey on the flanks, using his son Michael and either Ricardo Clark or Benny Feilhaber as the other center mid. The positioning of Donovan was a stroke of genius, in my opinion. Donovan has always been a forward at the club level in MLS, but on the international stage, he has been extremely ineffective as a striker. I think it's because he's just too small to be a target forward, and if he's playing a withdrawn forward, his ability to defend and hold the ball up is missed. He's not a player you want running onto a cross to try to head the ball into the net, he's a player you want to be the one crossing the ball because of his accuracy. He's played incredibly well on the wing. Michael Bradley has had his moments and definitely seems to have a nose for goal. Something like that can't be replaced, so I think he's going to be in the starting lineup come June. The other position seems to be much more open. At this point, the only true defensive midfielder on the roster is Ricardo Clark, and his size and passing abilities are both negligible. He might win the ball for you, but he's going to give it right back to the other team. He also hasn't really shown the ability to score, save one fantastic shot against Trinidad & Tobago that secured a win for the US. I think his spot is likely to be claimed with by recent US acquisition Jermaine Jones (who had been waiting to play for Germany's national team, but opted to play for the US because he wanted more playing time), or else by Maurice Edu when he finally gets back into playing shape. Edu is a young, up-and-coming defensive midfielder who players for Scotland's Glasgow Rangers. Edu is just now getting over his injury and starting to play again, so he has some work ahead of him to get back into shape.

Finally, the forward position. It's a little tricky to see what will happen here. I think most USMNT fans would say that the best pairing is Jozy Altidore and Charlie Davies because the first gives you world class ability and athleticism, plus the ability to hold the ball up, while the other gives you the blazing speed and finishing ability that you want from a striker. However, since it looks like Davies might not be back for the World Cup, you have to consider other options. Conor Casey has a nose for the goal in MLS, but he's mostly just a blunt instrument. Not a lot of technical ability, just a lot of mass. He's hard to keep away from the ball when it's in the air. This works okay in the MLS and against Honduras' suspect defense, but not against most of the teams we will see in the World Cup. Brian Ching is a similar player to Casey, with maybe a little more ability to win fouls and hold the ball up, but you can't expect him to beat anyone with his talent. Personally, I like Kenny Cooper as a possibility. He's huge for a soccer player... 6'3" and 210 lbs. It's all muscle. He looks like a poster-child for the Aryan race until you hear him talk. He's soft-spoken with a love for just about everybody... kind of like a huge teddy bear, and maybe that is why he's not terribly physical. However I don't think he needs to be terribly physical alongside Altidore... Jozy is physical enough. Cooper needs to be the player who finishes the chances that Altidore creates and gets himself into good positions to score. Cooper had been doing that with FC Dallas in the MLS and is doing it now with 1860 Munich in Germany's 2nd division. He has very good speed to complement his size, and I think he may eventually wind up being a starter for the USMNT. It might not happen until the next World Cup though... my gut tells me Bob Bradley will use Brian Ching in this one to pair up with Altidore, and although that's not exactly an offensively potent decision, it's a decision I can live with.

Okay, that's it for now... no more soccer talk for a while, I promise. We can get back to football now. I am just extremely excited about the World Cup. You understand, right?

Monday, October 12, 2009


Yep, that was the word that Frank Spaziani used to describe his team at halftime. I'm sorry Frank, but that is not actually a real word. If you meant that your team was discombobulated, then I would be inclined to agree. BC left their man-pants in Chestnut Hill and showed up in some pretty pink culottes. The much-celebrated Boston College offensive line, with their 5 returning starters, was absolutely abused by the Virginia Tech defensive line all afternoon long. Nekos Brown had his best game of the season and was all up in Dave Shinskie's mug for the better portion of 3 hours. Every time Shinskie dropped back to pass, it seemed like he had at least 2 Hokies bearing down on him. Maybe that's why the guy only completed 1 of 12 passes, but you probably can't blame him... he had zero time to throw the ball.

Tech looked frisky... like maybe if you dropped a rubber mouse full of catnip onto the field, it would have been picked off and returned for a touchdown by Rock Carmichael. Rock keeps showing us that he's ready for the full time responsibility of that boundary corner role, and he's keeping a soon-to-be-fully-healthy Stephan Virgil at bay. The two TDs that VT gave up were against our second string defense, so I'm cool with that. Well done VT D! You deserve a Kudos.

The real story of this game is how freaking sweet our offense looked. Tyrod Taylor was completing pass after pass after pass. Ryan Williams, Josh Oglesby, and David Wilson ran around the field like they were playing soccer. It's possible that BC didn't realize what sport they were playing that day as their defensive backs kept looking at our receivers like, "No fair, you just used your hands." My favorite touchdown pass of the day was the one to Jarret Boykin, where the defender nonchalantly jogged along beside Boykin as he was burned for a TD. I think that the defender was pondering whether he left the iron on at home or possibly looking for his parents in the stands.

It didn't end up hurting us today, but man did Jayron Hosely have a bad day returning the football! It seemed like he ran backwards every time he touched a punt. Beamer will be all over him about going north/south this week. I'd bet a shiny nickel on it. Matt Waldron also got a missed field goal out of his system at an opportune time. If you're going to miss them, Matt, then by all means do it in a game where we're killing the opposition.

Another note: one of the announcers on Raycom kept calling Boston College kicker Steve Aponavicius "Sid Vicious" during the game. It might have been an amusing little joke if he'd done it once, but we're talking about 5 or 6 times, which leads me to believe that he didn't know that Steve Aponavicius was the kid's real name. I could be wrong, but I really don't think I am. If I am wrong, then that announcer needs to understand that "Sid Vicious" is a cool nickname for a linebacker or a safety or something... it's not a cool nickname for a kicker. That would be like having a toy poodle named "Killer". (Yo, they killed Killer, B!)

I'm nervous about our game against Georgia Tech this weekend. It's the hardest game remaining on our schedule, and you know the Yellow Jackets are going to be gunning hard for the Coastal Division title. Foster's defenses are usually designed to stop gimmicky offenses like GT's (their quarterback is more of a running back who occassionally throws the ball in a triple-option type of offense), but Jake Johnson & company have shown that they aren't terribly adept at staying home in their assigned gaps. That's the key to beating an offense like Georgia Tech's... if you play your assignments, you win. If you have mental errors, then you see Jonathan Dwyer's well-toned ass leaving you in the dust and running into the endzone. Seeing as how I don't particularly care about dude's asses, go TECH! I am calling for a win, but not a blowout... should be high-scoring, but close like the Duke game.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Really? Duke?

Yeah... Duke. They're not as bad as they would appear at first glance. Their two losses before this past weekend were against Richmond and Kansas. Despite being in the FCS, Richmond is 4-0 and could run the table this year. They're good enough to hang with at least half of the the FBS teams. Kansas could also be decent in the Big 12 North this season... they're 4-0 at this point and have some talent. I don't think VT's coaches are the least bit surprised that Duke put up a fight on Saturday, and we shouldn't be surprised either. Their depth is terrible, but Thad Lewis, Vince Oghobaase, and a few other Duke starters are quality ACC talent and could end up being selected in the NFL draft. I had a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach that this was a trap game, so I'm glad to see Tech come out on top.

As usual, Cody Grimm was all over the place. He is our best player at this point of the season with 14 tackles (2 for loss) and a forced fumble. Jason Worilds is a close second and he's making a real case for himself to be selected in the first round of the NFL draft. He had 3 tackles (.5 for loss) and 5 QB hurries. Steven Friday also had a coming-out party with 2 tackles for loss, 2 QB hurries, and a sack. Let's hope Friday is good enough to replace Worilds when he leaves.

The offense looked competitive and you have to hand it to BS for getting another solid performance. I really liked the effort we got from Tyrod Taylor in that game. He played with confidence and threw with a chip on his shoulder. 17-22 with 327 and 2 TDs is nothing to scoff at, even against this suspect Blue Devil defense. We can't expect to get this kind of yardage from Taylor every week, but I would love to get this type of completion percentage from week-to-week. Duke obviously keyed on the run, limiting Ryan Williams to 83 rushing yards. Williams did a nice job with what the offensive line was able to give him. I am also being forced to eat a little crow in regard to Josh Oglesby. I didn't think we'd get much of anything from him this year, but he's been a good Darren Evans clone so far this season. Not much in the break-away speed department, but man is he running with power! Jarret Boykin and Danny Coale quietly had monster games with 144 and 97 yards respectively. They also each had EXCELLENT touchdown catches. Those catches were extremely difficult, and I love that they were able to give Taylor a reason to put the ball in the air.

Honestly, I think we are going to crush Boston College this weekend. The players want revenge for past losses, and there's no better place to do that then at home on Homecoming weekend. Nobody is going to overlook BC's defense, so our Hokies should be fired up and ready for the challenge ahead of them. I would still like to see more play-action from Stinespring, and I think he really needs to key on that... especially when we're racking up yardage on the ground! We'll see what the offense has in store for us next weekend. No let-downs, boys!