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You can compare that to the two-deep shared before the Navy game here.
Asked to describe his football team in one word, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer answered, “Developing.”
Considering that the Hokies have just five seniors on defense (not in the starting lineup, but in the entire two-deep); considering that, on offense, freshman scored all but six points in the squad’s 34-9 season-opening win against William & Mary (and those aforementioned six points came on a fourth-quarter touchdown); considering they played a total of 10 true freshman in that victory; and considering they have a new starter at quarterback (and he’s not the signal caller who came out of the spring as the projected number one)?
Well, given all that, Beamer’s word choice might not only be considered appropriate, but an actual understatement.
The overhaul was considered necessary after the program’s worst two-year win total (15) since 1991-92.
Not included in the makeover is Beamer himself, who is in his 28th season and just signed an extension that has him under contract through 2019. Also, there’s Bud Foster, architect of the Hokies defense, who is likewise in his 28th season.
Given that, it shouldn’t be a surprise that defense is one of the foundations of the Hokies identity. Even as they struggled last year, Virginia Tech was fourth in the nation, only allowing 283.6 yards per game. They didn’t give up even that many in their season opener, just 193 yards and three field goals, no touchdowns.
VT plays a 4-2-5 scheme that makes life difficult on opposing quarterbacks. Since 2000, no FBS team has more interceptions, and there are 7 current Hokies players who have registered a pick.
Some of the leaders of this year’s D include sophomore defensive back Kendall Fuller (6 career interceptions), whose brothers Vincent, Corey and Kyle all played or are playing in the NFL. There’s senior free safety Detrick Bonner (4 career interceptions). He’s already been named one of the Hokies game captains for the Ohio State kickoff. Up front at defensive tackle, Luther Maddy had 13.5 tackles-for-loss last season.
The offense is where the bulk of the remodeling took place. Shai McKenzie is a freshman who ran for 106 yards, a touchdown and an average of 11.8 yards per carry last week. Receiver Isaiah Ford and tight end Bucky Hodges both caught touchdown passes last week. They’re both freshman.
Their 6’0″ tall quarterback, Michael Brewer, is actually a graduate student, but even he is new to Virginia Tech, and new to this style of offense. He transferred in from Texas Tech. Both the Red Raiders and the Cavaliers of Lake Travis High School had him playing from shotgun rather than from under center.
One other player to keep an eye on is receiver Willie Byrn, also an Ohio State game captain.
Of course, when you talk “Beamer Ball,” you’re generally referring to excellence on special teams. Virginia Tech struggled in that category last year, but if Beamer believes his club is developing, this is an area where he would have concentrated on their development.
Ohio State Buckeyes, we are told, don’t give a darn for the whole state of Michigan.
But that’s only true in the same way that liberals don’t give a darn for conservatives, and yet spend entire shows carving up Rush Limbaugh; and conservatives don’t give a darn for liberals, yet seem obsessed with some guy named Barack Obama.
Unfortunately, “We’re actually constantly driven to outdo the whole state of Michigan in every way, shape and form,” makes for an awfully clunky song lyric.
Judging by ticket sales, it is even possible that some Ohio State fans are more interested in Michigan’s game this weekend than some Wolverines supporters are.
Reminded that the Maize and Blue will be playing Appalachian State, OSU linebacker Joshua Perry, for instance, admitted he’s familiar with the history there. “That would be something to see. I remember a few years ago, when they went down to those guys.”
Obviously, he’s hoping for a repeat, right?
“I doubt that they’re going to let that happen again, and I want them to play really well, so that when we play them, it’s going to be a big game.”
While he’s not pulling for the upset, note that Perry doesn’t refer to Michigan. He doesn’t even call them the School Up North. He just calls them, “them.”
Buckeye tight end Jeff Heuerman, on the other hand, is cheering for a Mountaineers victory. “My high school coach is the linebackers coach at Appalachian State, so I’ll be obviously rooting for him,” Heuerman said. “I’ll wish him luck before the game, as he always does to me.”
Buckeye Defensive lineman Chris Carter has another perspective still. Once Ohio State’s game with Navy wraps up, he’ll have more pressing things to do than to check in on the Maize and Blue.
“The first thing I’m going to do is call my brother, who’s in his eighth year in the Navy, and he’s stationed in Djibouti,” Carter said. “And my father, who’s a Navy vet.”
After those phone calls? “Then maybe I’ll find out the score,” Carter laughed.
So if you ask an Ohio State fan on this, the eve of their college football season, if they’re also eager to know the outcome of the Wolverines game, they might tell you, “Frankly, I don’t give a darn.”
But tomorrow is another day.
Imagine being a piano prodigy who suddenly couldn’t quite make sense of the music; or a math genius who, for some reason, started struggling with long division; or a chef whose taste went from impeccable to inexplicably off.
Imagine doing whatever it is you do best, and almost overnight finding it just wasn’t quite as easy as it was before.
That’s what it had to be like for Buckeye senior Curtis Grant, as he went from 5-star recruit to “just a guy” on the Ohio State roster.
For years, OSU fans have been waiting for Grant to live up to the billing he received on Signing Day 2011, when both Scout and Rivals had him as the top linebacker in the country. In fact, Rivals ranked him as the second overall prospect nationally regardless of position.
However, he went from playing in ten games as a freshman (mostly on special teams), to eight games as a sophomore with eight total tackles, and last year started in ten of the 12 games he played, but was also slowed somewhat by ankle and back injuries while tragically losing his father to illness.
He was recruited by Jim Tressel, played his first year for Luke Fickell, who is now his position coach, and has–perhaps unbelievably–ended up a captain under Urban Meyer.
“His confidence level has really gone up, and that’s probably the biggest thing,” Fickell said earlier this month. “And not to give Curtis an excuse or anything, but he’s had a lot of tough things that have happened and things haven’t quite gone his way since the day he walked in here. But I’ll tell you what, he’s a different kid. I shouldn’t say kid. He’s a different man. He’s the passion and energy of that defense right now.”
Fellow linebacker Joshua Perry has noticed a difference, too.
“The thing that he did this year that’s worked was instead of trying to be ‘that guy’ and trying to say, ‘Okay, well, I’m going to do this, so I can have a lot of stats this year and be a really good player,’ he said, ‘I’m going to help everyone in my unit room out.'”
In Grant’s unit room is another heralded 5-star in freshman Raekwon McMillan. Grant has, according to coaches and teammates, both beaten McMillan out for the middle linebacker’s spot…and helped him out.
McMillan, after all, was one of the first freshman to have his black stripe removed, making him a full-fledged Buckeye, and Grant was his assigned “big brother.”
They say that one of the best ways to master a skill is to teach it, so maybe Grant got as much out of the mentoring as McMillan did.
“I know what I’m doing, and now that I understand what I’m doing, I can understand what my opponent is doing,” Grant said, “And I think that’s very big for a middle linebacker.”
Is that the reason for his transformation?
Ask him to explain it, and he says this: “This being my last year, I was telling coach, one of my biggest fears is not being able to play football anymore. You have to get your life together. If you want to get to where you’ve got to go, you have to grow up, or get out.”
Ohio State players and assistants met with the media Wednesday for one last session previewing their season opener against Navy. Here are Michael Bennett, Curtis Grant and our favorite “Rocket Surgeon” Tom Herman.
Statement from Browns General Manager Ray Farmer on Josh Gordon Suspension
“While we may have strong feelings on the timing and the process of this decision, we have also consistently communicated that we will focus on what we can control in our day to day approach. Right now that is preparing our team for the 2014 season and at the same time, supporting Josh however we are able under NFL guidelines during his suspension.”
Statement from Browns Head Coach Mike Pettine on Josh Gordon Suspension
“We will continue to support Josh and we understand that there is accountability for one’s actions. Our job and that of the team is to focus on what we can control. Our philosophy in building this team and the mentality we’re establishing is that we’re going to have to overcome challenges and situations throughout the course of a season. We’ll continue to be relentless in our approach, in how we work and focus on our goal of returning winning football to Cleveland.”