Kyle Bosch, Kyzir White Give Their Takes On Tech’s Offense & Defense
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – There’s little question that the challenge awaiting West Virginia this weekend is significant.
Virginia Tech returns seven players on defense, led by six on their back seven at linebacker and in the secondary. Inside ‘backers Andrew Motuapuaka and Tremaine Edmonds anchored the unit last season, with the former leading the team and finishing fifth in the ACC with 114 tackles, while Edmonds had 18.5 tackles for loss. Outside linbacker Mook Reynolds gives coordinator Bud Foster coverage ability on the exterior, something that helped the Hokies rank in the top 32 nationally in scoring, passing and rushing defense.
The starting corners also return in Brandon Facyson and Greg Stroman, while Terrell Edmonds slides to free safety as a major protector on the back end. Edmonds showed versatility last season at the hybrid rover spot, and helped Tech finish with 16 interceptions, second in the ACC. The line has some inexperience, but also has bulk, especially in 328-pound sophomore tackle Tim Settle.
It all sets up as arguably the best defense the Mountaineers will face this season, and one which – as always under Foster – is at its best when it can be aggressive, bring pressure and gamble a bit.
“It’s a base four-down front and they like to run a lot of blitzes and a lot of stunts,” WVU guard Kyle Bosch said. “I think it’s going to be very challenging for us an an O-line because we are a younger group and I think we are at a point where we are going to embrace that challenge. I will be very anxious and excited to see what we can put on film.
“The longer you play, the more games you play in, it is kinda residual. It stays with you. Some of these young guys are gonna have some trouble; somebody will let up a sack. It’s not going to be the end of the world. Gotta make sure we come together, jell after the inevitable happens. Nobody’s perfect. We just have to make sure it doesn’t affect us on the next play. Coach (Joe) Wickline has done a good job of that, making sure we focus on the next play, and now the past play.”
Tech allowed just 22.8 points per game a season ago, while limiting foes to 200 passing yards per game, along with 140 on the ground. The total of 340.7 yards per game was the fourth-best in the ACC, and ranked 18th nationally. The numbers were the baselines for the Hokies’ 10 wins a season ago under then first-year VT head coach Justin Fuente, and that number figures to be challenged again…if the offense can get on track by October. After WVU, Virginia Tech sandwiches home games against Delaware and Old Dominion around a road game at East Carolina. The conference schedule starts Sept. 30 at Clemson, followed by a string of winnable games in Boston College, North Carolina and Duke. The Hokies likely need at least a 6-2 start to challenge for nine wins.
The questions are all on the flip side, with Tech brandishing a new quarterback in redshirt freshman Josh Jackson and a new tight end in fellow frosh Dalton Keene. The departures of QB Jerod Evans, wideout Isaiah Ford and tight end Bucky Hodges in arguably mistakenly declaring for the NFL Draft loom large, even with the return of the entire left side of the offensive front.
Cohesion expects to be an issue early, with Jackson and running back Travon McMillian (145 rushes, 671 yards, 7 TDs last year) trying to settle in behind a new right guard and tackle. Senior center Eric Gallo could offset that, along with an entirely new starting three along the line for WVU’s defense. This is the weaker match-up for both the Mountaineers and Hokies, though Jackson has flashed a maturity beyond his years over his first season in the program. If WVU can limit receiver Cam Phillips (76 receptions, 983 yards and 5 TDs last season) and at least contain the rushing game, it will put itself in a position for a key victory.
“They’re a good team, athletic,” safety Kyzir White said. “Do a bunch of different things on offense. With the option stuff, you have to stay discipline. It’s hard to get a good read because you don’t know what to expect until you get out there.”
West Virginia is indeed lacking film on most of Tech’s individual players on offense, and it’s style could well lean more conservative behind a young quarterback. Look for WVU defensive coordinator Tony Gibson to heat up the freshman with a series of blitzes behind a front that’s as difficult to read as any in the game, and try to hold the Hokies to about half of last season’s scoring average of 35 points per game. While that might be a lofty goal, a score in the low 20s gives West Virginia a chance to win.