Editor's Note: This is the second installment in a four-piece series that will give an in-depth preview of the individual unit match-ups, as well as a special teams preview, and finally ending on Friday with a final wrap-up before the two teams face off on Saturday night.
Part 1: Tide Offense vs Hokie Defense
The Virginia Tech Offense
Any in-depth analysis of the Virginia Tech offense must begin with proper consideration given to one man: Tyrod Taylor. What makes the Virginia Tech offense unique really has nothing to do with it's formations, it's passing concepts, it's run blocking schemes, or anything of the sort. No, what makes the Virginia Tech offense unique is because the entire offense completely and totally revolves around Taylor. When you watch the film of this unit, it's almost nothing short of amazing just how much of a linchpin that Tyrod Taylor is to the entire unit. Everything is predicated upon him; even when he performs the most fundamental of duties -- handing off to the tailback, direct snaps that go to other players, etc. -- the offense nevertheless somehow goes through him.
And with Taylor as the centerpiece, the Virginia Tech offense has changed quite a bit in recent years. Offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring is still in Blacksburg -- he was given the title of defensive coordinator in late 2001 -- and has remained a constant for almost a decade, but his offense is fundamentally different with Taylor at the helm. In years gone by, the Hokies tended to be a run heavy team that operated out of very conventional formations. They spent much of their time either in the I-formation or with two tight end sets, trying hard to establish the interior running game, and much of the passing game became a by-product of the playaction pass. But again, that's all different now with Taylor at the helm. They still spend a good deal of time in the I-formation and also with two tight end sets, but they are not limited in that regard any more. With Taylor, they also really like to spread the field and put Taylor back in the shotgun, thus taking full advantage of Taylor's athleticism in space.
Given Taylor's extreme importance to the offense, we should take a closer look at him as a player. From the outset, Taylor was a bona fide super recruit coming out of Hampton, Virginia's Hampton High School, a dynasty in Virginia high school football circles, with seventeen state football championships. When he came out of Hampton High on 2007, Taylor had been a three-year starter and was a consensus five-star recruit. Rivals.com had him as the #1 dual threat quarterback in the country, and he chose to stay in-state with the Hokies, turning down a scholarship offer from the Florida Gators, whose head coach Urban Meyer recruited him heavily to run his spread option.
The reason everyone wanted the 6'1 and 215 pound Taylor was simple... his legs. In a day and age where 40 times are often outright lies, Taylor is a legitimate 4.40 player, and it is his unbelievable speed and athleticism that makes him the player that he is, and it is also what makes him the focal point of the Virginia Tech offense. Because of his ability to make big plays with his feet at any given time, opposing defenses must always be aware of his positioning on the field, and that is why the Virginia Tech coaching staff ensures that their entire offense runs through him. Stinespring and company love to always make you account for Taylor even when the ball doesn't go to him. For example, in simple dive plays out of the I-formation, after giving the hand-off, Taylor generally makes very, long sweeping retreats from the location of the exchange as if he's keeping the ball and going out for a run. This is done, of course, to ensure that one defender must account for Taylor, even though it's an inside hand-off to a tailback. This is just one of many ways in which the Virginia Tech coaching staff constantly keeps the offense running through Taylor, regardless of what is actually going on.
And no Alabama fan should underestimate just how deadly Taylor's athleticism can be. Many like to paint Taylor as a typical run-happy quarterback with no real passing skills, and in all fairness that might be true, and in many ways is true. Still, nevertheless, even if that is completely accurate, Taylor is nevertheless such an elite athlete that he is still a very dangerous player. In today's game we often have mobile quarterbacks playing the position with good athleticism, but Taylor isn't just a mobile quarterback, nor does he just have good athleticism. I've been following Alabama football closely since 1990, so this is my 20th year, and I feel confident in saying that we have never faced an opposing quarterback with the kind of ultra-elite speed and athleticism that Taylor brings to the table. Again, he's not just a mobile quarterback, he's the kind of elite athlete who will certainly play in the NFL one day -- and probably be a fairly high draft pick at that -- thanks to that athleticism.
Soundtrack Warning: Crunk
Fortunately, the good news for Alabama fans and our coaching staff is that for all of Taylor's frightening athleticism, he's still a very incomplete player as a pure quarterback, and the rest of the Virginia Tech offense is riddled with holes and shortcomings. This unit finished 90th in the country last year in scoring offense, and 103rd in total offense, continuing a downward trend in recent years in their ability to move the football. From 2005, when Tech finished 17th in the country in total offense, they have fallen to 49th, to 53rd, to 103rd. Far from being a one year anomaly, the Hokies are a team that has seemingly struggled to move the football almost forever.
The Hokie Offense: A Critical Look
Given the struggles of the Tech offense, you don't have to look far to find its weaknesses.
Since we gave Tyrod Taylor so much focus in the overview, perhaps it's best we start with him, because for all of his greatness as a runner, he really struggles throwing the football. Truth be told, as a passer, he's just not much, period. Last year as a passer he completed only 57% of his passes, averaged under 6.0 yards per attempt, threw two touchdowns against seven interceptions, and his QB rating of 103.2 put him somewhere around 110th in the country. Making matters worse, the coaches have really simplified the passing game as a whole to help Taylor, effectively reducing it to a smattering of dink and dunk passes. You watch the Hokie offense and you see countless curls, hitches, screen passes, square-ins, and the like, and even so he cannot complete 60% of his throws. Furthermore, the few times that Taylor did actually play pretty well as a passer, it was predictably against bad defenses. The four highest individual game quarterback ratings that he posted in 2008 came, not so surprisingly, against a Division 1-AA team (Furman), a team still trying to make the jump to Division 1-A (Western Kentucky), a 5-7 ACC team (Virginia), and a team that finished 89th in the country in pass defense (Nebraska). Factoring out those four games and looking at the rest of the season, Taylor had a paltry QB rating of 82.0, averaged under five yards per attempt, and didn't throw a single touchdown pass (though he did throw seven interceptions).
And the vertical element of the Hokie passing attack with Taylor in the game is simply non-existent. By my count, only about six of his passes went for more than 20 yards a year ago, and in the rarity that he does hit a deep pass, it's usually ugly and even then not exactly ideal. For example, in their Orange Bowl victory last year against Cincinnati, Taylor hit receiver Danny Coale for a 34-yard completion, but a closer look reveals that Coale had gotten wide open on a post, and a ball that even hits him remotely in stride is a touchdown. Unfortunately, the ball sails wide, Coales has to lay out to make the catch, and the sure touchdown turns into a 1st and 10 at the Cincinnati 14. Unable to pick up a first down from there, the Hokies have to bring on the field goal unit, and with a missed kick a sure touchdown becomes a turnover on downs thanks to an inaccurate, though still completed, pass.
The results, though terrible, shouldn't be the least bit surprising. This time a year ago, Frank Beamer announced that the Hokies were actually going to redshirt Taylor in 2008, so truthfully had the coaching staff had their way Taylor wouldn't have played at all last year. Unfortunately for Tech, though, Sean Glannon was terrible in the opener, and after a surprising loss to East Carolina in Charlotte, the Hokie coaching staff had to reluctantly take the redshirt off Taylor and put him into action.
Of course, as should probably be expected, many Hokie fans are drinking the Kool-Aid talking about the incredible progress Taylor has supposedly made this off-season. In an objective light, though, there's little reason to expect any real, considerable improvement. From the outset, Taylor has never been a particularly accomplished passer, even in high school. Even as the quarterback for Hampton High -- where, again, he was playing on a very high caliber team with a lot of talent surrounding him -- he still only averaged about 125 yards per game as a passer, and barely completed 50% of his passes. Moreover, in terms of physical skill set, Taylor doesn't have a great arm, and is not very accurate to boot, plus he's short for the typical pocket passer. His delivery is a tad bit odd, and he's very inconsistent with his footwork. And his route progression, well, there is no route progression. As a general rule, he looks immediately towards his primary target, and if he's not open he takes off running. Anything might happen, of course, but I see no objective reason to believe that Taylor will take a major step forward this year as a passer. He has never been a particularly good passer before, and truth be told he will probably never be one in the future either. All such Hokie hopes to the contrary are just that, hopes, unsupported by any other objective factual basis.
Unfortunately for the Hokies, the problems are even worse up front with the offensive line. As a group, the offensive line seemingly run blocks well (though that's somewhat up for debate, too), but the pass blocking has been so horrendously atrocious the past couple of years that even an Alabama fan who lived through the Chris Capps / Kyle Tatum era could not understand. Last year the Hokies gave up a whopping 42 sacks on a mere 291 passing attempts for an adjusted sack rate of 14.43%. That literally put them dead last in the country in terms of adjusted sack rate, 119th out of 119 teams. And it wasn't just a one year anomaly, either. The year before -- despite having Duane Brown starting at left tackle, who would be a first round NFL Draft pick the following April -- they gave gave up 54 sacks on 379 passing attempts, for an adjusted sack rate of 14.24%. I'm not positive that was dead last in the country, but for the sake of the all the other quarterbacks in the country, I certainly hope no one struggled to protect the passer more than that. And perhaps not too surprisingly then, offensive line coach Curt Newsome had to undergo a double bypass heart surgery on June 19th. He himself said stress played a role in the near 100% blockage of his arteries, and while he was almost certainly addressing that more towards the high amounts of stress inherent in being a collegiate football coach, I'm sure as hell that having to watch this unit play for two consecutive years did no favors for his health.
Moving forward to the 2009 season, three starters return, but returning starters from a unit that has been consistently that terrible is rarely a good thing. I wouldn't expect it will be for this year's Hokies, either. Ed Wang returns at left tackle, and Blake DeChristopher returns at right tackle, plus Sergio Render returns at guard (though he has swapped guard positions). Those guys look physically okay, but obviously something is not right. Jaymes Brooks, a redshirt sophomore, is taking over at right guard, with an undersized Beau Warren taking over at center. Warren is listed at 288 pounds, and frankly just looking at him that might be a bit of a stretch.
What the Hokie offensive line did well in 2008 was run block, or at least it would seem that way on the surface, even if it's not necessarily true. Darren Evans ran over 1,200 yards a year ago, averaging almost 4.5 yards per carry, and put together a great season. Before really watching the Hokies on film, I thought it was just the typical case of a decent back behind a good, mauling offensive line, but seeing Evans on film I was very impressed with him as a player. He displayed good speed and a good short-yardage bust, but he also had good balance and field vision to boot. Perhaps most impressive of all, he could consistently drive his hips low for a quick change of direction, something quite rare for a back of almost 220 pounds. To put it mildly I became impressed, and he exceeded my expectations.
Which brings us to a pressing question, did he do well because of the Hokie offensive line, or did he do well in spite of the offensive line? In most cases I normally give the credit to the offensive line because their importance to the running game tend to get undervalued a bit, but if you look closer at the splits, the Hokies have a huge drop-off in rushing production when backs not named Darren Evans were given the ball. Kenny Lewis, Jr. and Josh Oglesby combined to get 102 carries for only 325 yards, right at 3.1 yards per carry, a significant step down from the production that Evans posted. On the surface, it seems like there was a very big gap between Evans and the rest of the tailbacks on the roster, and it certainly seems like Evans' torn ACL was indeed a huge injury for the Hokies. Perhaps Frank Beamer was being all too honest when he spoke of the impact that Evans absence would have on the Tech offense.
The rest of the Hokie offense looks to be generally solid, even if not spectacular. The wide receiver corps is nothing overly special, and there are no Julio Jones type players. That said, the group as a whole is a solid one, and several players have the ability to get the job done. Their biggest problem, honestly, more than anything else is that they simply haven't had a quality quarterback to be able to consistently get them the football. Also, one more weapon does exist on the roster, and he's one to keep your eye on, Greg Boone. A truly massive player, Boone is a 6'3 and 280+ pound tight end with good athleticism, and naturally he's as strong as a bull. The Hokies can often use him in a variety of ways, too, including even in the wildcat.
All in all, though, despite Taylor's elite athleticism, plus having a very unique player on the roster in Boone, this Tech offense simply isn't a very good one. Taylor can indeed be deadly with his legs, but aside from that there is just generally very little to fear. Taylor has the track record of a terrible passer, and the offensive line probably couldn't pass block competently if their lives literally depended on it. The running game would be pretty strong with Darren Evans, but he's not going to be playing this year, and if the track record from a year ago holds up, they may very well be struggling to run the ball this year. Not much else needs to be said... you finish at the bottom of nearly every statistical offensive category for a reason.
The Alabama Defense
Nick Saban brought with him to Tuscaloosa a reputation as a builder of big, physical defenses built on speed and aggression, and just over two years since he arrived, Saban is well on his way to building exactly that kind of monster. The roster that he inherited in January of 2007, built for Joe Kines 3-3-5 scheme, was nowhere near the type and / or caliber of personnel Saban needed to operate his 3-4 scheme at a high level, but thankfully a renewed focus on the S&C program and a recruiting juggernaut have allowed Saban to quickly construct his defense.
The Nick Saban 3-4 scheme is, for all of us 'Bama fans, are pretty well known commodity at this point. In many ways it's a typical 3-4 scheme, one that relies heavily on zone blitzes and the inherent lack of unpredictability built into the scheme. The 3-4 is a highly flexible scheme, and Nick Saban takes full advantage of that by constantly changing his fronts, cover schemes, and blitz packages. Making things even better, Saban's specialty of coaching defensive backs generally makes his unique version of the 3-4 that much more effective once it actually takes the field.
After experiencing some struggles at times in his debut 2007, the defense quickly came together for the 2008 season. Saban found the space eater he needed to play the nose in Terrence Cody, Rolando McClain carried his game to the next level, Dont'a Hightower made a huge impact as a freshman, and several other players improved as well. The impact of it all quickly became evident. The Tide run defense was nearly impossible to run on with a healthy Terrence Cody in the lineup, and very stout against the run even when he was out with less than 100% with his knee injury. The pass rush never materialized, but even so the Tide led the SEC in pass efficiency defense, and allowed a stingy average of 5.8 yards per passing attempt.
Moving into the 2009 season, things continue to be on the rise in Tuscaloosa. Eight starters return from the 2008 defense, and quality depth has increased dramatically everywhere. As of this writing, we legitimately have somewhere around 25 players who can legitimately be contributors to this defense. With little doubt, if we can stay even remotely healthy, this should be the most productive defense we've had in years.
The Alabama Defense: A Critical Look
At the risk of being deemed a homer, I must nevertheless objectively say that when taking a critical look at this defense, there are really just very, very few flaws to even legitimately address. Bottom line, it's a very well coached defense, and one that is loaded with not only experience and top-end talent, but quality depth throughout the roster at almost every single position. If you were looking for an ideal defensive unit, you'd be hard-pressed to find one much more attractive than this one.
In the short-term, the biggest problem the Tide has is overcoming the likely loss of Brandon Deaderick, who was tragically shot outside his apartment Monday night in Tuscaloosa. Fortunately for Deaderick and the Tide, the shooting effectively went as well as it reasonably could have -- just puncture wounds in the arm and hip; no damage to bones, arteries, or nerves, no surgery required, and released from the hospital approximately 16 hours later -- but even so I imagine he's unlikely to play against the Hokies. Deaderick was going to start in 2009, just like he did last year, at defensive end, and his loss is not what anyone hoped to see. Fortunately, if there was any year to have this sort of a tragedy, it was this year. His back-up, Luther Davis, is good enough to start for about any other SEC team, and he should transition into the starting role without any real trouble, if needed, but don't discount the possibility of Marcel Dareus -- who normally backs up Lorenzo Washington at the end-tackle combo position -- moving over and starting in Deaderick's absence. Dareus has the best long-term upside of any defensive lineman we have, and he is likely the #3 defensive end on the pecking order, regardless of position, so he may very well move over to the natural end position. Either way, as much as Saban and company rotate the defensive linemen, Davis and Dareus were going to see a lot of meaningful playing time regardless, so this won't be a major transition for either one. Darrington Sentimore now has a much better chance of playing as a true freshman, and Damien Square will likely be moved back from Jack linebacker, and both should provide quality reps at the position as well. Time will tell, but rationally speaking it seems we should be able to pick things up in Deaderick's absence with no major drop-off in production.
Aside from the Deaderick shooting, the Tide defense has remarkably few concerns. Pass rushing was a major problem a year ago, but even so we still played very effective pass defense, and things look improved this year. The linebacker corps is more athletic than a year ago, we're getting our best edge rusher (Eryk Anders) on the field more often, and Sal Sunseri has brought with him a renewed focus on pass rushing techniques. Thus, our pass rushing attack ought to improve this year, and frankly even if it doesn't, we showed last year that an inability to rush the passer was not fatal to the success of our overall pass defense.
Our biggest weakness, of course, assuming that we continue to be unable to rush the passer with any degree of consistency, is probably against spread teams with accurate quarterbacks who can consistently spread the field with quality receivers to boot. But again that may be a problem we fix anyway in 2009, and even if not, the Hokies don't have anywhere near the pieces in place to power such an attack. Yes they do spread things out occasionally, but it's to maximize Taylor's running ability, not to emphasize the passing game. Taylor isn't a very accurate quarterback, Tech might not have the receivers in place to do it effectively, and even if they did the offensive line probably wouldn't be able to hold up regardless, so even that is a moot concern in this particular game.
Aside from that, the rest of the concerns are really more nit-picking and the luxuries of riches than anything else. Many 'Bama fans would probably still complain about Marquis Johnson, but what is that really? At worse, it's a complaint that we only have a serviceable SEC level player (and a senior to boot) as our nickel corner, and a player that at any rate who will see his playing time getting major challenges from two five-star recruits currently on the roster. Geez... how will we ever manage to get by? Again, it's basically nit-picking from that point on.
The truth of the matter is that unless 'Bama gets unexpectedly hit very hard by a run of injuries, there is absolutely no reason to expect that the Tide won't field a great defense in 2009.
What To Look For
In the aggregate, this looks to be an good match-up for those who bleed crimson. The Hokies do not have a very good offense, and the Alabama defense should at the least be in the discussion with regard to who has the top defense in the country. It doesn't take any real, in-depth analysis to figure out that when two units of those respective abilities collide, it's likely to result in the offense scoring very few points and the defense dominating the day. When factoring out defensive and special teams scores, the Hokies offense only averaged 19 points per game last year, and it would probably be a surprise to see them score that many against what should be a very stingy Alabama defense. And making matters worse for the Tech offense is that the one true weakness of the Tide defense -- which, it should be said, is something that might not even be a weakness this year at all -- is something that the Hokies do not have the right personnel in place to exploit.
The Virginia Tech running game, in particular, seems to be in for a long night. With Darren Evans out for the year, it's a running game of arguably questionable quality to begin with, and going up against the Tide's incredibly stout run defense is a tough task for even a team with a strong rushing attack in their own right. The Hokies might try to run the football inside a good bit on the Tide -- then again, if Beamer and company think it's futile, they'll probably move away from it pretty quickly -- but it's highly unlikely that it will yield any real success. Beau Warren, at least 60 pounds lighter than Terrence Cody, will need help with the gargantuan nose guard, so Cody should command double teams every single time the Hokies plan to run inside. That alone plays right into our hands. Moreover, even without Brandon Deaderick, our deep rotation of big, strong, and physical defensive ends -- Lorenzo Washington, Luther Davis, Marcel Dareus, Damien Square, and others -- will be able to hold their own at the point of attack throughout the course of the game. That alone will eat up the bulk of the Hokies' blocking unit, and it will largely allow a great linebacker corps to roam free all night long, looking to make plays, and the same goes for two good run defenders at safety in Justin Woodall and Mark Barron. Making the match-up even more advantageous for the Tide is the Hokies' complete lack of a vertical threat in the passing game, which will allow the Tide to stack the box when needed. Bottom line, if the Hokies can have any considerable degree of success in the running game, it will come as a legitimate surprise to any objective observer.
The Hokie passing game looks to fare little, if any, better. The Tech passing game will likely be one of the worst in the country yet again, and the Tide pass defense will likely be one of the best. Again, do the figurative math. Taylor is a below average passer, and while the Virginia Tech wide receiver corps is a solid group filled with more than a few quality targets, they likely aren't as good or as experienced as their counterparts in the Alabama defensive backfield. All in all, it's simply a match-up that heavily favors the Tide.
All of the aforementioned, though, is pretty basic stuff. No real analysis is needed to discover that a very good defense is likely to shut down a bad offense. The real strategy in this game will be how the Tide chooses to defend Tyrod Taylor and his abilities as an elite runner.
Many would advocate playing man coverage on the receivers and trying to rush Taylor with all you have. Given how much Nick Saban loves to give different looks from his 3-4 defensive scheme, I'm sure we will do that a few times, but as a general strategy it's probably not as ideal as many would initially think. To begin with, from the outset, bringing a lot of pressure on Taylor isn't necessarily a good strategy. Taylor is unbelievably elusive, and if you bring a lot of rushers and he slips out of it -- which I can guarantee you he will do on more than one occasion -- you have very few defenders left downfield, and he's going to turn it into a very big play. Don't misinterpret what I'm saying... getting pressure on Taylor is a good thing, but having to bring a lot of defenders on blitzes in order to generate it quickly becomes a very risky strategy with a runner like Taylor that can get you burned. Furthermore, consistently playing man coverage against the Hokie wide receivers fails to exploit one of Taylor's biggest weaknesses as a quarterback, which is reading defenses. If you predictably play man on the outside, Taylor's almost complete inability to read a defense completely goes away because he can correctly assume the overwhelming majority of the time that he will be throwing against man coverage.
Spying Taylor is also an attractive option to many, but again it's probably not ideal as a general strategy. Putting a spy on a mobile quarterback is generally a good strategy, but that generality only holds up well against quarterbacks who have good mobility, not great mobility. Trying to spy such an elite athlete like Taylor is a fundamentally difficult task because you really don't have an equal caliber athlete to put on him. To be sure, we have some guys with Taylor's athleticism, but they are playing corner, and it's very difficult to spy with a corner. Corners are forced to line up so far away from the quarterback (and that goes even for the nickel corner) that the spy himself can effectively be eliminated by the offensive coordinator just sending the play in the opposite direction. What you need in order to have an effective spy is someone who is going to be able to consistently line up relatively close to the quarterback -- without giving away his responsibilities with his pre-snap alignment -- someone like a safety or a linebacker. But, again, who do we have at safety or linebacker that can legitimately go toe-to-toe with Taylor in the open field? Arguably no one. Jerrell Harris, Mark Barron, and Robby Green would probably be our best candidates, but even they would likely face a speed and agility deficit to Taylor. Again, it's an attractive option to many as an initial matter, but a closer look reveals such a strategy can be problematic when dealing with a truly elite athlete like Taylor.
A better strategy, and one I expect we will probably be using frequently, is to employ a wide variety of zone and rush packages. Playing a wide variety of heavy zones against Taylor is an ideal option because it great limits his ability to run with the football, which in truth is when he is at his most dangerous. At the end of the day, what we really want is for Taylor to throw the football, and even Rolando McClain explicitly said yesterday that the assignment of the defense is to contain Taylor and make him throw the football. Playing a heavy zone helps accomplish that because it largely removes the possibility of a big run, and also helps to ensure that when Taylor does take off to run, he'll quickly be met with a host of defenders arriving with bad intentions, both of which are incentives for him to stay in the pocket and throw the football. Furthermore, by constantly mixing up zone blitz packages, we can more effectively exploit Taylor's inability to read defenses. Also, it should be kept in mind that with Tech's complete lack of a vertical threat in the passing game, and it's reliance on short, dink and dunk throws, we can play heavy zones that almost solely attack the short and intermediate routes, thus creating some very narrow windows for Taylor to throw the football into, which can easily lead to a slew of incomplete passes and a chance at interceptions. Truth be told, we could probably play Cover Zero most of the night and still not give up a big passing play, and that alone provides us with a competitive edge over the Hokie offense.
Now, to be sure, I do imagine we will see some spying on Taylor, and I also imagine we'll see some heavy blitzes. The base defense, I think, will frequently use the heavy zones that I described earlier, but Nick Saban likes his defenses to be multiple in their approach and inherently unpredictable. That alone will ensure that Taylor sees a little bit of everything come Saturday night. Either way, in terms of individual assignments and responsibilities, three words must be effectively tattooed into the foreheads of every Alabama defender... contain, contain, contain. Keep Taylor in the pocket, limit his big runs, and make him beat you throwing the football. If you can consistently do that, you've won the battle.
On the other side, the Virginia Tech offense will probably have a few things up their sleeve, and they might not operate exactly how we think. Even though they haven't been a very good offense, the Hokies are a well-coached football team, and they are perhaps a bit more imaginative than you would at first think. If we really can shut down their interior running game with no problem, this isn't a staff dumb enough to keep futility running it straight into the line. They will mix things up and try something else, probably with Taylor operating almost solely from the shotgun. Moreover, again, they have used Boone in the Wildcat in the past (even with him throwing a pass once), and have at times lined Taylor up out wide and brought him down on jet sweeps. And, of course, with a mobile guy like Taylor, a bit of the option game is never out of the question. One way or the other, If things aren't going well, don't expect this coaching staff to just lay down and take it, they'll probably try a few things outside the box in an attempt to muster some offensive production.
That notwithstanding, though, it nevertheless looks to be a very tough night for the Hokie offense. For all of Taylor's dynamic athleticism and Boone's unique physical skill set, this is still a poor offense, and one that struggles to move the ball effectively. They have no real big play ability aside from Taylor's runs, and they cannot muster the kind of consistent production needed to methodically march the football down the field to put points on the board. Rest assured Taylor will make some big, incredibly frustrating plays -- at least frustrating for the 'Bama fans -- he's just too good an athlete not to. Likewise, Boone could be a tough match-up, and a few more guys in the Hokie rotation can get the job done. That will result in some good things happening, but again it's hard to see this unit having the consistent success needed to put any considerable number of points on the board. By all objective measures, this is a bad offense going up against a potentially great defense, and the strength of the Crimson Tide defense should dominate the night.