We had the chance to discuss the upcoming Virginia Tech vs. Duke football game with Hokie Blogger Dan Caro (@treadmillhorse). We discussed Duke’s perception in the ACC, Virginia Tech’s struggles this year, the fate of Frank Beamer and of course the big match-up in Durham on Saturday.
The Hokies have really struggled this year and are clearly not having the kind of season many envisioned heading into the season, especially after the win over Ohio State. What do you attribute to the struggles?
DC: To me, it’s been injuries coupled with a lack of depth. Everyone acts so surprised that we beat Ohio State and now stand at 4-5. We were a much better team before we were hit with a rash of injuries. In that Ohio State game, we had Brandon Facyson (our second best corner), Luther Maddy (last year’s defensive MVP) and Shai McKenzie (a really talented freshman RB). Since then, we’ve lost our leading tackler MLB Chase Williams and our starting LT Jonathan McLaughlin. Every team has injuries, but recruiting misses coupled with those injuries translates into the Hokies not having enough depth to make up for those losses.
Obviously, Frank Beamer is one of the major reasons the Virginia Tech football has been one of the powers of the ACC and Big East prior to that. Do you think it is time for Beamer to move on? If so, who do you see being the front runner to replace him?
DC: Immediately following the Miami game, I thought Frank Beamer had lost the team and he just looked lost in general. My opinion then was that he should hang it up. Since then, I have come around and I can see that he and his coaching staff are still trying hard to win even with all the injuries and off-the-field drama this year. I feel confident at this point that he will be given at least one more chance next year. He also has the opportunity to close on a huge recruiting class with multiple 5-star defensive players. I believe he will get at least one more year to try turn the program around.
In terms of who will eventually replace him, I used to think it would be our DC Bud Foster. I really don’t believe that anymore. What changed my mind about that is who our new AD hired as our basketball coach — Buzz Williams. If our AD can convince a perennial Sweet 16 coach to come to a bottom feeding basketball program, then my guess he is going to shoot for the moon when hiring Frank Beamer’s successor. I’d be happy with someone like Chad Morris. A system coordinator with a track record of success. If we could lure a big name, like Mark Richt, I’d be happy with that too.
Looking at Duke, what do the Virginia Tech faithful think of the Blue Devils and the season they are having? Some other ACC rivals and ACC bloggers have taken to criticizing Duke’s admittedly less that powerful non-conference schedule and the lack of them playing FSU, Clemson or Louisville in cross division games. Do Hokie fans feel this devalues the success the Blue Devils have had?
DC: I think you may underestimate how much respect the Hokie faithful have for the Duke football program. We see a lot of ourselves in what David Cutcliffe is doing in Durham. Building a program with hard-nosed, underrated kids who play disciplined football is how we built our program. Our fans respect that and I think on the whole, most of our fans think Cutcliffe is a fantastic coach.
The ACC scheduling is what it is. If it were so easy, Pitt and VT would be at the top of the division too. And since there is so much variability in ACC scheduling year to year, you have to take advantage of the schedule whenever you can.
What do you see as the Hokies’ game plan against Duke?
DC: Same as it always is, stop the run on defense and establish the run on offense. I think the Hokies will have trouble with both. They haven’t been able to run the ball consistently on anyone outside of FCS and mid-major teams this year. And before Luther Maddy and Chase Williams went down, they were able to stop the run consistently, but the defense got a lot softer after those two went down. Just look at Duke Johnson’s stats from the Miami game, if you need proof.[Editor’s Note: Against Virginia Tech, Duke Johnson had 31 touches for 286 yards of total offense and two touchdowns.]
Finally, how do you see the game playing out?
DC: If I were a Duke fan, I’d be a little worried. The Hokies have underperformed for the last three weeks and you get the feeling that one of these weeks they are going to put a good performance together. I don’t think they’ve given up on the season just yet. However, on paper, you have to like Duke’s chances. The Hokies have had a lot of trouble stopping the run and have been prone to giving up big plays on the ground. Also, on offense we will be starting a converted defensive end at left tackle. That’s not a formula for success against good teams like Duke. If you’re looking for reasons to pick VT, it’s because they’re due for a good performance, their young players are playing better each week and there is a revenge factor after what happened in Blacksburg last year. Ultimately, I think Duke wins in a close game 24-21.