Preview: UNC at #14 Virginia Tech

29Oct09

To say last week was disappointing for Tech fans would be a massive understatement but it’s time for the Hokies to move on and look ahead to the Tarheels coming into town on Thursday night. Thursday nights in Blacksburg have been kind to the Hokies who have only lost twice on the Primetime game and both those losses coming at the hands of the BC Eagles including a last second miracle win by Matt Ryan. So yes, I have brought up 2 of the most frustrating losses in recent VT memory at the beginning of a Virginia Tech preview. Let’s move on.

Saying the North Carolina offense has been anemic this year would be an understatement. They are averaging only 23 points per game which is only good enough for 90th in the country. Led by T.J. Yates the passing offense has been less threatening than a Mike Paulus  2 minute drill.  The struggles have really been the cause of losing 3 wide receivers to the NFL draft this past year. Hakeem Nicks a 1st round pick, Brandon Tate a 3rd round pick and Brooks Foster a 5th round pick led way to unrefined talents Greg Little, Jheranie Boyd and Dwight Jones who have yet to provide a much needed, consistent down-field threat. Yates only went 13-25 with 64 yards and an interception against at home last thursday night and against a struggling FSU defense. Uhh Sorry T.J. that just ain’t goin to cut it here in the big leagues. I was impressed with Yates last year before he was injured but the inexperience of the offensive line and receivers mixed with a running game with Shaun Draughn that is still trying to find itself is a recipe for disaster. Ask Virginia Tech fans how that works out.

The North Carolina defense has been relatively stout this year giving up a little over 16 points and 264 yards per game, good enough for 7th in the country. This is mainly due to the dominant individual players along the D-Line and maybe the best Linebacker in the ACC in Quan Sturdivant. Occupying one side of the DLine is athletic freak Robert Quinn. Quinn, who is only a sophomore, is tied for 8th in the country in sacks with 7 and leads the ACC in tackles for loss with 11. North Carolina’s other impact player along the defensive line is DTackle Marvin Austin who after being one of the top recruits in the nation struggled at times his rookie year but has really come into his own this season. Austin possesses a rare combination of size, agility and quickness that pro scouts salivate over. He still tends to disappear at times but has the ability to make a game changing play at any moment. While the front 4 have been very good so far this season there is still inexperience at the other 2 line backer spots, the secondary has been strong with safety Deunta Williams leading the charge. It is not going to be an easy task for the VT wide receivers to get open for Tyrod Taylor.

Tyrod Taylor is going to have to be as dangerous as he was with his feet in the Georgia Tech game if the Hokies want to find consistent success on offense. The offensive line has been good at times but not good enough to give Taylor a pocket to throw out of every time he drops back. It is going to be up to Taylor to move around in the pocket, buy time and be a threat with his feet to open up the field for the rest of the Virginia Tech offense. What can’t happen is let the North Carolina front 7 compact the box to neutralize Ryan Williams and get pressure on Taylor without having to bring a blitz. What can combat this, and what the VT offense seems to do when it is at it’s best is utilize misdirection with Dyrell Roberts going in motion and spreading the field out a little more early in the game. Too often do we see Stinespring motion the tight ends in a 2 tight end set and run right to the strong side. Not only is it predictable but it really brings any rhythm to the offense to a complete halt. I would love to see screen passes and play action to Williams much more. Especially against a defense that is going to be very aggressive in getting up the field to attack Taylor. I don’t think there is a player in the country who can bring Ryan Williams down in a one on one situation. It is going to be up to Stinespring figure out how to use the defense’s strengths against them as opposed to trying to impose the Offenses’ will on a defensive line that to me, has proven they will put you behind the sticks if you don’t mix things up. Especially with Render and Dechristopher being banged up.

There’s not much that needs to be said about the Hokie defense in this game. Bud Foster and co. were not able to slow down GT in the 2nd half and they are going to come into this game with a chip on their shoulder and a Lane atmosphere behind them against a struggling UNC offense. Translation: Not a lot of points for UNC. Worilds has proven it doesn’t matter who he goes up against he will get pressure on a quarterback. I expect Cody Grimm and pals to swallow up any lame running game UNC will try to put together. Don’t expect Shinskie like numbers but not much more than that. I expect UNC to try a few downfield shots to Boyd to try and get lucky but all signs point to that not working and even if they do get in the redzone……I don’t expect a touchdown.

Although both of these teams are coming off of excruciating losses I still believe they are headed in different directions. The Virginia Tech offense has to unpredictable to offset the UNC Dline and get in 3rd and manageable situations while I don’t expect the UNC offense to score much if at all. VT just has more explosive game changing players on offense. Ryan Williams will show the country why he is one of the top backs in all the land. I expect him to be swallowed up a few times in the beginning of the game but will break off multiple runs in the 15-20 yard range once the UNC offense is unable to keep them off the field. I am predicting around 22 carries for 145 and 2 TD rushing and another 40 yards receiving, hopefully. I also believe Greg Boone will have a couple 3rd and medium conversions and God forbid a couple Dyrell Roberts end-arounds which if he has just returned a kick for 80 yards can be postponed for a couple plays. This is a classic game where if the Hokies jump ahead early on a big play they will force Yates to throw the ball when the only possible way they will win the game like that is if Paul Johnson sends in chop blockers from the sidelines.

Prediction: VT 30 – UNC 6

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