Like most major NCAA football programs' head coaches, Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer has heard the complaints of a schedule that is soft outside of his team's conference games. With an opening game against a highly regarded Alabama team in Atlanta and with Nebraska and Miami being in the first four games of the 2009 schedule, that won't be an issue this season.
Beamer recently commented to the media, “If we get through this one, we will deserve everything that we get.” With a team that is ranked preseason No. 7 and has high expectations, Beamer will have little time to shore up any weak areas that may create difficulties in reaching those expectations.
Virginia Tech, whose defense ended the 2008 season ranked in the top seven statistically, has fielded an offense that has ranked 99th or worst the past three consecutive seasons. If the Hokies have any hopes of emerging from September unscathed, that has to change right away.
Of the potential problems that could plague Virginia Tech, inexperience ranks as the No. 1 issue.
Tyrod Taylor steps in as the No. 1 quarterback after sharing time at the position last season with Sean Glennon. Taylor struggled at times in 2008 and only threw for two touchdown passes on the year.
Tech averaged 129.07 passing yards per game last season. That was due in part to one redshirt freshman and two true freshmen receivers playing for the Hokies.
Taylor has also worked to correct some mechanical issues in his throwing motion. Coaches have commented it appeared better through the spring, but they are unsure what may happen in a game when he's under duress.
Taylor organized seven-on-seven drills during the summer with his receivers to work on timing, showing he is accepting the position as a leader on offense.
Behind Taylor, inexperience is a major factor. Freshman Logan Thomas and redshirt freshman Ju-Ju Clayton are in a battle for the No. 2 quarterback position. The inexperience behind Taylor is concerning because Taylor has missed time the past two seasons due to ankle injuries.
Taylor, who is a dual-threat quarterback, emerged from last season as the second leading rusher on the Hokie squad; that is also a concern for Beamer.
With the recent injury to starting tailback Darren Evans, the Hokies have virtually no experience in the backfield returning. Last season, the Hokies averaged 174.36 rushing yards per game. Evans was 90.36 of those 174.36 yards.
Redshirt sophomore Josh Oglesby steps in as the starting tailback in fall camp. For his career, Oglesby has 38 carries for 88 yards. That is the only game experience the Hokies have in the running back mix.
Freshman Ryan Williams, who has already proven to have playmaking ability returning punts in fall camp, and freshman David Wilson will compete for playing time.
Pass protection has been a key issue along the offensive line, where the Hokies must replace two starters. The offensive line has allowed an average of 3.4 sacks per game over the past two seasons. With an opening game against a highly ranked Alabama defense that likes to bring pressure at the quarterback, that has to stop.
Junior Beau Warren steps into the starting role at center, and senior Sergio Render will slide over from right guard, where he has started the past three years, to the left side. Sophomore Jaymes Brooks, who made his first career start in the Orange Bowl, will resume his position at right guard.
The inexperience with Warren and Brooks is a concern in the Hokies' efforts to improve pass protection.
Gaining experience in key positions is difficult to do against teams like Alabama, but the Hokies have no choice but to step up right away.
If Beamer had his druthers, I'm sure he would prefer to start out against some of those cupcake teams fans like to complain about; instead, he must now prepare his team for a matchup between two top-10 teams.
After the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game, fans hope their desire for better quality out of conference opponents doesn't equate to a loss, as a team with inexperience on offense tries to find its identity before the Alabama defenders find them.