I've heard coaches say before if you only have one film of a team, you might not be any better off than having none. I'm sure there is some validity to that, but with this being week two of the season, we're stuck. So what lessons are there to learn from Virginia Tech's 34-9 win over William & Mary to open the season? Perhaps many.
We'll start with the Virginia Tech offense, which like Ohio State had a new quarterback from Texas making his debut for the team last Saturday.
Michael Brewer looked very solid leading the Hokies offense, which is coordinated by former Michigan quarterback Scot Loeffler, a Barberton, Ohio, native. You might remember Loeffler from such films as, "The Big Tall Michigan Robot Quarterback Project of the 1990s," its sequel from the 2000s starring Jon Navarre and Chad Henne or, more recently, "How I Failed In Preparing Tim Tebow for the NFL."
Loeffler is a pro-style guy, but the Hokies did not spent a lot of time with two backs on the field against the Tribe. This would be more of the New England Patriots pro style than what many people think of when they hear that term. In a probable nod to Brewer's history as a former Texas high school quarterback and a transfer from Texas Tech, there were a lot of shotgun, spread formations, and he looked very comfortable operating the attack. He's not a big guy, but he has a smooth, quick release and put good touch on the ball. He also displayed above-average scrambling ability when he needed to move around in or get out of the pocket.
Brewer's top receiving threat is Isaiah Ford, a true freshman from Jacksonville, Fla., who was also used as a decoy with the jet sweep fake. The Hokies deployed 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends) a lot, and both Ryan Malleck and Bucky Hodges showed some skill. Hodges is only a redshirt freshman, but he was a major target in the red zone thanks to his 6-6, 242-pound frame.
Schematically, this may be a perfect test for the new Ohio State defense. Virginia Tech is going to do a wide variety of things, but the nice thing is the run threat seems to be somewhat minimal, though it's hard to tell based on the level of competition.
The offensive line did not show a whole lot, but it began to open some holes as the game wore on. It definitely leans left where seniors Laurence Gibson and David Wang are starters. Center Caleb Farris is a senior, too, but the sophomores on the right side (Augie Conte and Jonathan McLaughlin) had some rough moments.
There are two impressive young running backs in freshmen shaw McKenzie and Marshawn Williams. McKenzie didn't play much in the first half against WM but finished as the leading rusher with 106 yards. He is listed 5-11, 221 and has good quickness and some shake. He runs through arm tackles and gets through the hole in a hurry. Williams looks more like a power back.
But my overall point is it's probably not a bad thing for Ohio State to face a team that wants to be versatile offensively but maybe cannot run the ball just because it feels like it. The ability to make a team one-dimensional should then be a boon to the pass defense -- if the Buckeyes to succeed in doing that to Virginia Tech, of course. Can't hurt to try to break in a new pass defense against an offense think might try a variety of things but is also going through a growth period as well.
I think the Ohio State defense is going to need to pass this next test because the Virginia Tech defense looks like it's going to be a very tough one for the young Buckeye offense to deal with.
The Hokies really get after people. They play downhill every snap at pretty much every position, an attitude Urban Meyer had to love as he was watching film. I'm not sure he's going to like it much Saturday night, though.
VT has some new people up front, and they looked very good against William & Mary. That's an FCS team, yes, but the athleticism and speed was still easy to see. They have to be fast because they aren't very big on the line (aside from 293-pound senior tackle Luther Maddy, an impressive athlete) or at linebacker. Maddy, fellow tackle Corey Marshall and end Dadi Nicolas all were able to get regular penetration, and linebackers Chase Williams and Deon Clarke (215 and 213 lbs., respectively) were in the backfield a lot, too.
Whether they are blitzing or not, the Hokies are in attack mode, but they blitz fairly often, leaving the secondary of cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson, free safety Detrick Bonner and rover Kyshoen Jarrett to handle a heavy load in coverage. They are very aggressive most of the time and won't concede many throws.
They are going to force Ohio State to win one-on-one matchups, which is something the Buckeyes have the ability to do, no question, but will they? Part of me wonders if this is too much too soon for this young unit, but we'll find out Saturday night.
I don't expect this to be a high-scoring game, and it might not be one where either offense has many long, methodical drives. There are a lot of unknowns, considering it's only game two and both teams have quarterbacks that have started one game for them, but there also seems to be a lot of young playmakers on both offenses while both defenses are going to be anything but bend-but-don't-break. Should make for an interesting combination.
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