Scott Haynes, College Football Senior Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Virginia Tech will certainly be the media darling this season, as the entire nation will be rooting for Frank Beamer's troops week-in and week-out. That being said, the product on the field could be top-notch, as the Hokies seek not only an ACC crown, but a national title as well. It could be a tremendous season on the gridiron in Blacksburg this year, something the campus as a whole could certainly use.
The Hokies finished last season as the top-rated defense in the country, giving up just 11.0 ppg, while allowing a mere 219.5 yards of total offense. Whether it be against the run (91.2 ypg) or the pass (128.2 ypg), Tech was up to the challenge. With eight starters returning to that side of the football, it is hard to imagine this unit being anything but dominant again. It starts with one of the nation's top linebacking corps, anchored by standout seniors Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi. Hall (6-0, 245), led the team by a large margin in tackles in 2006, registering 128 total stops (61 solo), with 10.5 TFLs, two sacks, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles. A two-time All-ACC selection, Hall is regarded as one of the top inside linebackers in the nation, picking up some All-American accolades last year. Adibi (6-2, 220) was a distant second in terms of tackles (82), with 6.5 TFLs, adding three sacks, three interceptions, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery returned for a touchdown. Adibi has battled through some injuries early on in his Hokie career, but has settled in as a top-flight linebacker aside Hall after earning All-ACC Second-Team honors in 2006.
The entire nation will be rooting for Frank Beamer's troops week-in and week-out.
The offensive side of the ball is where the Hokies will need to get significantly better. Last season was a down year in terms of offensive production, with the team generating just under 300 yards of total offense per game (295.2). A strong ground game has long been a constant in Blacksburg, but last season saw the team amass just 113.4 yards per game rushing on 3.2 yards per carry. Tailback Branden Ore was certainly serviceable in 2006, rushing for 1,137 yards with 16 TDs. The 5-11, 205-pounder has the talent to exceed those number in 2007 and be the top ground-gainer in the conference.
Of course, the true measure of Virginia Tech's offense will be the play of quarterback Sean Glennon. The 6-4, 220-pound senior played to mixed reviews in his first season as the Hokie starter, completing a healthy 56.3 percent of his passes, although throwing an equal number of touchdowns and interceptions (11 each). He will have numerous returning targets to look to downfield with Josh Morgan (33 receptions, for 448 yards, four TDs) and Eddie Royal (31 catches, for 497 yards, three TDs) representing the best of the bunch.
The schedule this season is inviting, although their is an early season trip to Baton Rouge to battle the LSU Tigers. However, if this team can pull out a win over the Tigers, it could be clear sailing all the way to the ACC Title game in Jacksonville on December 1st. The rest of the non-league slate seems easy with East Carolina, Ohio University and William & Mary all coming to Lane Stadium. The ACC schedule includes road games at Clemson, Duke, Georgia Tech and Virginia, but the Hokies catch a break in getting North Carolina, Boston College, Florida State and Miami at home. A win in the ACC Championship game and an undefeated season will land the Hokies in New Orleans with a chance to play for the national title.
Of course, this team has suffered from a "Jekyll & Hyde" complex the last few seasons, with incredible highs and devastating lows. If Tech is able to maintain any momentum gained and that shouldn't be hard considering everything that has transpired on campus, than a fairy tale season could very well dominate the college football headlines in 2007.
It would a healing salve for a program, university and community in desperate need of one.