Ohio State vs. Virginia Tech Preview

Virginia Tech returns eight starters on offense, including every offensive player who scored a point last year. That sounds impressive, until you consider how few points the Hokies scored. They were 93rd nationally in that category in 2014.

Part of that can be blamed on youth and injuries. Mostly, though, Virginia Tech’s offensive struggles last year were the result of the inconsistent play of quarterback Michael Brewer and the porous performance of the offensive line.

Ohio State fans who remember broadcasters comparing Brewer to Russell Wilson during the Hokies September date with the Buckeyes in 2014 may be surprised to learn that Brewer ended his campaign with 18 touchdowns to 15 interceptions. In his defense, he was new to coordinator Scot Loeffler’s offense. Plus, he was sacked on more than 6 percent of the team’s passing plays, even though most of these plays were designed to only cover a short distance.

Brewer did win most improved honors for this spring. However, the line is still an awfully big question mark. The three offensive starters Virginia Tech lost to graduation were a guard, tackle and center.  As a result, four of the five projected first-teamers this year have fewer than 10 career starts under their belt.

Brewer does have a gigantic target in 6’5″ tight end Bucky Hodges. Hodges has already broken the Virginia Tech record for receiving yards and touchdown receptions by a tight end in a single season…and he’s just a redshirt sophomore.

Senior running back J.C. Coleman started to hit a groove at the end of last year with 468 yards in his final four games.

But the strength of the team, as it seemingly always has been, is the Virginia Tech defense.

The Hokies starting defensive linemen have combined for 74 career starts, and they’ve all earned All-ACC honors at some point in their careers. True, Luther Maddy, Corey Marshall, and Ken Ekanem all missed spring ball with injuries, but that just allowed the team to build depth at the position. They liked what they saw from Vinny Mihota in particular. So much so, they will have him play multiple spots along the line.

Oh, and we haven’t even mentioned Dadi Nicolas yet. He had such a productive junior season (18.5 tackles for loss and 9.0 sacks while also blocking two kicks on special teams), he considered turning pro. In the end, he decided to return for one last go-round.

The Hokies are likewise strong in the secondary, especially the corners so long as Brandon Facyson is healthy. He played three games last year before being sidelined by a stress reaction in his left leg. Then in December, he needed surgery on a tibia and fibula fracture in the same leg.

Even if he fails to return to form, though, Virginia Tech has an All-American in Kendall Fuller. In the 25 games he’s started, he has eight interceptions and an NCAA-best 34 passes defended.

The hope of defensive coordinator Bud Foster is that a healthy Facyson will allow the spring’s defensive MVP, Chuck Clark, to move to his more natural position of safety or play nickel. Any athlete with that sort of versatility is worth keeping an eye on.

Finally, although the name of head coach Frank Beamer is associated with outstanding special teams, Beamer admits they were lackluster there last year, and he hopes to see improvement going forward. The Hokies return the majority of their specialists. Punter A.J. Hughes had back surgery, though, and will battle Mitchell Ludwig for that job.

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Ohio State Schedule: By Opponents’ Media Guide Covers

VA TechHawaiiNIUWestern MichiganIndianaMarylandPenn StateRutgersMinnesotaIllinoisMichigan StateCover

Notes: Illinois pulled their media guide in the wake of Tim Beckman’s MICHIGANdismissal. This is the cover they were using prior to that. Michigan does not yet have a media guide yet posted on their website. I’ve checked with Wolverines beat reporter Angelique Chengelis, and she says she’s not aware of a media guide that exists in print.

UPDATE: MICHIGAN HAS A MEDIA GUIDE. REPEAT, MICHIGAN HAS A MEDIA GUIDE. THIS IS NOT A DRILL, PEOPLE. They posted it sometime between when this blog went up Friday and Monday evening. So anyway, here’s that cover.

Here, in case you’re curious, is Ohio State’s media guide cover.

Buckeyes

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More Questions About Baylor’s Handling of Ukwuachu

The national media are focused on one question: What did Baylor coach Art Briles know about Sam Ukwuachu when he transferred in from Boise State?

To put it more bluntly: Did he know enough to anticipate that Ukwuachu might rape a freshman soccer player after being allowed on campus?

Briles first said he only believed Ukwuachu left Boise State because he was depressed and homesick. These issues were made worse by “a rocky relationship with his girlfriend.”

Later, he added that he’d also heard that Ukwuachu was insubordinate with Boise State coaches and missed practices.

It might be naive to think that the Broncos would part with a freshman All-American for those reasons, but let’s give Briles the benefit of the doubt.

Because, even in that scenario, there are still more questions that need to be answered.

If Briles believed Ukwuachu suffered from depression, what did he do about it?

Ukwuachu has admitted to battling suicidal thoughts. His high school coach said he’d been warned by the Boise staff that his former player might hurt himself. Maybe, you argue, Briles didn’t realize the defensive end was more than just sad. But Ukwuachu had cut his wrist. In fact, Boise State e-mails indicate he re-cut the wrist when punching a window. Surely that scar would have told Briles a story.

What was Briles response to this? Depression doesn’t cause someone to rape another person, but were there other issues that could have contributed to the attack that would have been addressed if Briles had insisted on therapy?

Why was Ukwuachu allowed to remain with the team after he was accused of rape?

At the point the accusation was leveled, there should have been two options for Baylor: Monitor Ukwuachu even more closely or dismiss him.

Why? Because Ukwuachu was either an innocent, depressed man going through a traumatic event; or a rapist.

The Bears chose neither. Instead, they kept him at arm’s length, not listing him as part of the roster, but–at the same time–keeping him just close enough that he could rejoin the team if he was cleared of the charges.

Ukwuachu’s supporters might have argued it’s not fair to release an athlete just because they are charged. I’d have responded that it’s not fair to give someone like Ukwuachu, already on their second chance, the same leeway you give someone who’s still on their first shot.

Why wasn’t it obvious to someone that Ukwuachu was guilty?

All the debate so far has centered on why coach Briles seemed so dangerously incurious about Ukwuachu’s circumstances before he allowed him to transfer in. What about after? Was there really nobody associated with Baylor football who was close enough to Ukwuachu to realize what he was capable of?

Reading his testimony, it’s hard to believe Ukwuachu could fool anybody who spent much time with him. He couldn’t answer why it took him six weeks to inform Baylor his roommate Peni Tagive was supposedly home the night of the assault. Ukwuachu claimed not to know what “oral” meant. At one point, he had to clarify that he didn’t think rape was funny.

Think about that for a minute. He had to clarify that he didn’t think rape was funny.

And don’t forget the fact that Briles admitted to knowing of a troubled relationship Ukwuachu had with another woman. That’s not an overly disturbing detail on its own, but in the shadow of a rape accusation, it’s a definite red flag.

What’s become of Peni Tagive?

Remember the Baylor investigation that was so shoddy, the judge wouldn’t allow it to be brought up in court by Ukwuachu’s lawyers? The school admitted to only interviewing four people–Ukwuachu, the victim and a friend of each.

The friend of Ukwuachu was roommate Peni Tagive. Tagive claimed to be home at the time and heard no sign of a struggle.

After he spoke to Baylor’s investigators, a grand jury wanted to hear from him. But he failed to respond to the subpoena and spent a couple nights in jail as a result. Eventually he told the grand jury something similar to what he told Baylor.

Then at the trial, Tagive threatened to invoke his right against self-incrimination. Why? Because the victim testified Tagive was not at home that night, and prosecutors produced phone records that seemed to prove that.

Tagive is a former Baylor running back who started helping out the Bears strength staff when injuries cut short his playing career. Is he still working with the strength staff? It’s not entirely clear. The Bears may have done the right thing here, but they haven’t said so.

…..

As you probably know by now, Ukwuachu was sentenced to 180 days in jail. And it will almost certainly take us longer to get all the answers then it will for Ukwuachu to serve his sentence.

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Heading A New Direction

All the Buckeye offensive lineman (with the exception of Jacoby Boren) wear this newer helmet. Pat Elflein shows it off in this video.

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Hear From The Ohio State Buckeye Quarterbacks…

We’ve cut down the interviews from Ohio State’s quarterbacks to just the highlights. So now it will take just a couple of minutes to get a recap of what Cardale Jones and JT Barrett told the media this week!

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A Drone Has Braxton Miller In Its Sights

It was check-in day for the Ohio State football team. The most surreal sight was wide receiver Braxton Miller being followed by a drone. His friends are filming a documentary about Miller they are tentatively calling “The Return of the Real.”

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Perry Speaks at Big Ten Luncheon

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