2012 Record Aside, Hokies Earn Praise

Virginia Tech did not have a good 2012 season. While Alabama was roaring to its second consecutive national championship, the Hokies were struggling to a 7-6 season, quite a rarity for Virginia Tech since Frank Beamer took over the program 27 years ago.

It will come as a surprise to no one that Alabama Coach Nick Saban thinks that last year's Virginia Tech season was an anomaly. That's in no small part because on Saturday, Saban will take his Crimson Tide against Virginia Tech to start the 2013 season. For Bama it's about beginning a season with a chance to make history by winning three consecutive national championships, four in five years. For the Hokies, it's about rebounding to national prominence, and the rebound would be resounding if it started with a win over Alabama.

Saban said, "I think we're playing a good, a team that has very good tradition and a lot of 10-game winning seasons. They got a great coach, who's the winningest active coach in college football (258-127-4 in 32 seasons, 216-104-2 at Tech). They know how to win. They're a team that always plays really hard with a lot of toughness. They're really sort of old fashioned when it comes to the principles, values, and competitive character they play with."

Saban pointed out that the Hokies return six starters on offense and nine on defense. He said "the defense was good last year, and with nine starters coming back I'm sure they're going to be even better."

He said that Virginia Tech's reputation for outstanding special teams means the Hokies can make a lot of plays in that phase. "That's an area of the game we definitely have to pay attention to detail," Saban said.

But is the offense, and particularly quarterback Logan Thomas who gets Saban's attention. No wonder. It's not every day a team prepares for a senior quarterback who is 6-6 and 254 pounds.

Saban said, "Logan Thomas is an exceptionally talented quarterback who is really capable of taking over a game as a passer or a runner. He's a big guy who's very athletic.

"[Thomas] is an outstanding player. He's shown he has the capability of being an outstanding player in terms of making great throws as well as an ability to run the ball. He's a really big guys who has a really strong arm and is a really strong runner. So, we see him as one of the big challenges for our defense. All we look at is a guy's history to show what he's capable of. If he's not going to play well that's going to be something that we have to contribute to by how we play. We know he's capable of playing well if we don't do the things we need to do to play winning football on defense."

So how does Alabama's defense handle Thomas? Disguise the coverage? Pressure?

Saban said, "I think it's a combination of both. When you play defense, you're a little bit like a baseball pitcher. You've got to pitch. You can't throw a fastball every time. Sometimes you've got to disguise the coverage, sometimes you've got to disguise the pressure and come out and cover.

"Sometimes you've got to play man to man, sometimes you've got to play zone. But I think all those things are critical factors. I think pass rush lanes, pushing the pocket, being effective when you do pressure. All these things are critical to playing good defense against any good quarterback."

Saban said there were so few players involved in Bama's 2009 game against Virginia Tech – not to mention that the Hokies have a new offensive coordinator – that not much can be gained by studying that game. Alabama used the win over the Hokies in the 2009 Kickoff Classic in Atlanta as a springboard to a 14-0 season and the national championship.

Saban has a good relationship with Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer. "I've known Frank for a long time," Saban said. "I think he's certainly a class guy that's a credit to college football in everything that he does, from how he represents our game with a lot of class and integrity and the outstanding job he's done as a coach in terms of the product that he's put on the field on a consistent basis over a long period of time. I mean, 27 years is a long to be someplace and to have the consistent success that he's had over time, you have to have a tremendous amount of respect for that.

"Any time, you've had an issue or a problem, Frank's always there for you. He was one of the first guys to send something to Nick's Kids when we had a tornado here a few years ago. Just the kind of guy you'd really like to try to emulate in terms of class person, class program that they've had for along period of time. Tremendous amount of respect there."

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