The Hokies are currently in the midst of a notable streak whereby they have put together eight straight seasons of winning ten or more games. But as with all streaks, they are a finely balanced configuration involving many variables and not prone to continue when too many sudden and unanticipated fluctuations are interjected. In order for Virginia Tech to make it to nine straight seasons of winning ten or more games, they are going to have to not only defeat Georgia Tech to open the season, but more importantly; overcome adversity.
Once again they are favored to win the Coastal Division then move on and play Florida State for the ACC Championship on December 1, 2012. My only comment on that prediction is that at least the sports world has finally gotten off the bandwagon of; Miami winning the Coastal and Florida State the Atlantic every year before meeting up in the ACC Championship Game. That was getting quite monotonous to read for the past five seasons.
After all, Virginia Tech has shown an ability to reload and maintain a consistent level of success under Frank Beamer ever since they became a member of the ACC back in 2004. Add to that equation long time defensive coordinator Bud Foster has been very successful on the defensive side of the program and the continuity is firmly entrenched for yet another successful ten plus wins this season in Blacksburg. Or is it?
Upon a closer look of the Hokies it appears that elevation to that status of being able to simply reload might be severely tested this season given that their opening game against the Yellow Jackets on September 3, 2012 is going to clearly test the underpinnings of their program. Especially considering that they have to undergo a substantial retooling of their personnel on the offensive side of the football.
This past season Virginia Tech was rolling along quite nicely until they lost their ACC opener at home against the Clemson Tigers 24 to 3 in week five. After that conference loss they won seven straight conference games culminating in a 38 to 0 blowout of their in state rival Virginia on the road at Charlottesville, setting up a rematch against those Clemson Tigers in the ACC Championship Game. Revenge factor notwithstanding, there wasn’t a single talking head picking Clemson based on the way the Hokies were playing football after that week five loss.
Funny thing about this game of football, the experts are not always right. In fact, the Hokies were thrashed even worse the second time around to the tune of 38 to 10. Wow, go figure! Despite that loss in the Championship Game Virginia Tech was selected to play the University of Michigan in the Sugar Bowl. The Hokies lost that BCS game 23 to 20 in OT. So Frank Beamer enters the 2012 season on a two game losing streak, just like the Yellow Jackets.
What that all means is while they are returning a very experienced QB in Logan Thomas and most of their starting defense, they have to replace a whole bunch of players on the offensive side of the line of scrimmage including four starting offensive linemen; two WR’s who caught more than 60 balls each last year; as well as their starting RB who was drafted in the first round.
Frankly, Virginia Tech might be in the exact same situation that Georgia Tech was in coming off that very successful 2009 season with an ACC Championship and appearance in the Orange Bowl. The interesting parallel is that shortly after their Sugar Bowl loss to Michigan, two key juniors declared early for the 2012 NFL draft; DB Jayron Hosley, and RB David Wilson, both highly successful and experienced players that were being counted on as senior leaders for this 2012 Hokies squad.
Just like the Yellow Jackets felt the sting in 2010 after their four juniors departed early for the NFL, Virginia Tech is now left with a junior QB in Logan Thomas to shoulder the entire offensive load for his team heading into 2012. Josh Nesbitt of Georgia Tech was in a very similar situation himself as the focal point for the entire program heading into his final season on the Flats. Now Logan Thomas is standing on that same tiny and isolate precipice as he prepares for a very critical division game to open the ACC schedule.
When junior players leave unexpectedly ahead of schedule it causes an unusual void in the leadership role for the team and creates a very heavy burden falling onto the shoulders of the remaining players much before their time. The passing of that torch of leadership is an internal process that operates independently of the coaching staff as it entails a unique dynamic that cannot be accelerated or just turned over due to sudden personnel departures.
This is another subtle yet very important component of the game that impacts the cohesiveness of a team and is quickly magnified when things start to go wrong on the football field and the inevitable finger pointing begins after the first loss. As Coach Paul Johnson likes to say; “good teams don’t lose two games in a row.” Good teams also have strong leadership to prevent those types of losing streaks from taking hold and quickly ruining a team’s season.
Just like the UGA dawgs last season who were left for dead after losing their first two games of the season to Boise State and South Carolina before rattling off ten straight wins, Virginia Tech accomplished that same feat a few years ago by also losing their opener to Boise State in a game in Washington, D.C., then fell the following week to FCS James Madison. A major component of both those teams was their strong senior leadership. As it stands right now, the Hokies are down two senior leaders, one on each side of the football and they haven’t even played their first game of the season.
That infamous phrase quickly comes to mind; what goes around comes around. I’m looking forward to September 3, 2012 in Blacksburg to see how well Virginia Tech handles that same type of early departure to the NFL adversity that was inflicted on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets immediately after their successful 2009 season. Welcome to karma. Go Jackets!