Tuesday, May 13, 2008

5 Things I'm Worried About in 2008

Five areas that concern me heading into the 2008 season:

1. Rush Offense

Here's what I think about the running back situation: If Darren Evans leads the Hokies in rushing yards next season, they will have a good year. If Tyrod Taylor, Kenny Lewis or Jahre Cheeseman lead the Hokies in rushing next year, it means it was a down year.

Basically, I think one of the freshmen, be it Evans, Josh Oglesby or Ryan Williams, needs to be THE GUY in the backfield. Lewis is best as a situational back and I don't think Cheeseman has the skills to be a great ball carrier. But the untapped ability of the freshmen trio could be Tech's greatest asset in the backfield. One of them has to step up. However, I don't think it will happen until after the Western Kentucky game when the Hokies get into the teeth of their ACC schedule.

The coaching staff will likely give most of the early carries to Cheeseman and Lewis because they have more experience with the offense. It will be up to one of the other three to take carries away from Cheeseman and Lewis. The best bet is Evans, who has shown the ability to pass block, which is the best way on to the field with running backs coach Billy Hite.

For Tech to have a great year, one of the freshmen have to break through. And if Tyrod leads the team in rushing, it means the whole system was shot to hell.

2. Rush Defense

The Hokies lost two of their best linebackers in recent memory with the departures of Hall and Adibi. They are also not very deep at defensive tackle. In fact, the Hokies lost the top three on their depth chart at the position.

Tech faced a similar situation in 2003 and saw teams rush for ridiculous numbers against them that season. And most of those rushing yards came right up the gut.

The coaches are raving about sophomore Taco Thompson, who is likely to start and be No. 2 on the depth chart next year. However, even if he is as good as advertised, the Hokies have no depth at the position.

If the defensive tackles have trouble stopping the run, it means the Hokies are going to have to use more linebackers and safeties to help stop the run. That will leave them vulnerable to passes over the middle to backs and tight ends and to long bombs on the sideline to wide receivers facing man coverage.

3. Kicker

Senior Dustin Keys will likely win the kicking job. It will be the third kicker the Hokies have had in as many years. If Keys has the same year Jud Dunlevy had in his only year as the starting kicker last season, the Hokies will be fine. If he doesn't, we could see two or three kickers get their shot during the season.

4. Early Games

With the influx of new talent, there is likely to be some growing pains. The Hokies struggled to score points early in the season last year, but were still able to win the games they were supposed to win. They may not be this lucky this season because of how green the defense will be.

I'm worried about the ECU game because they Pirates are a solid team and its on a neutral field. If last year's ECU game had been played in Charlotte instead of Blacksburg, who knows how the game would have turned out.

The Hokies also have road games against up-and-coming UNC and Nebraska. The Huskers are trying to return to glory and their new head coach, Bo Pelini, did a number on the Hokies as the defensive coordinator at LSU last year. However, he had a lot more talent at LSU than he does at Nebraska.

Still, the road game will be a very tough test for the Hokies.

5. Keeping the QB Upright

Protecting the quarterback's blind side next year will be Ed Wang at left tackle. It's a new position for him. I think he's the best offensive lineman Tech has going into 2008, but there will likely still be a learning curve.

At the other tackle spot is Blake DeChristopher, who has never played in a college game.

Coming Wednesday: 5 Guys Who Need to Excel in 2008

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