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Offensive development will depend on coaching staff impact

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Posted: Monday, January 21, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 10:54 am, Tue Jul 9, 2013.

This offseason, the song remains very much the same as it did a year ago for the Virginia Tech Hokies' offense.

You bring back your quarterback, one or two somewhat-experienced linemen and not much else.

We all know how that ballad ended in 2012: a 7-6 record and the team’s worst offensive output since Frank Beamer went with the ever-unsuccessful two-quarterback system in 2007 and 2008. 

(That’s right, Tech fans: if you think watching Logan Thomas and co. struggle this year was painful, just imagine what it was like watch two quarterbacks take turns failing — one at throwing the football, the other at pleasing the fans.)

But, because of outstanding defense and special teams, those 2007-2008 teams still won 10 games — something the Hokies failed to this past season for the first time since 2003.

So what — if anything — can be expected of out of the 2013 version of Bryan Stinespring’s unit?

Well, for one thing, they’re no longer Stinespring’s unit. Which, if you ask most fans, is a good start.

After 10 seasons as Tech’s offensive coordinator, Stinespring was demoted by Beamer — his longtime friend — in favor of Scot Loeffler, who spent the last two seasons holding the same position at Temple and then Auburn.

Loeffler’s track record, although not the best by any means, is sufficient, given what Tech is known for offensively — a balanced attack paced by the running game that can milk the clock and keep its defense off the field and well-rested.

Beamer won’t expect much else from Loeffler. Except, maybe to help aid in the continuing development of Thomas, who underperformed in 2012.

During his time coaching at his alma mater, Michigan, Loeffler worked with NFL quarterbacks including Tom Brady, Chad Henne and Brian Griese. He also spent two seasons in Florida coaching Tim Tebow.

So what does all this mean for Stinesp…Loeffler’s unit, rather? With two new blue-collar guys in offensive line coach Jeff Grimes and wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead, they should be able to meet, if not exceed, Beamer’s expectations.

We’ll start with Grimes’ (feels weird to say that) offensive line. With the departure of tackles Nick Becton and Vinston Painter, as well as utility-man Michael Via, Grimes will welcome a few new faces to the starting lineup.

Redshirt-sophomores Mark Shuman and Laurence Gibson are the leading candidates to take the two tackle spots. Despite being highly touted recruits and possessing what is seemingly a large amount of potential, neither one of them has more than 40 career offensive snaps.

On the interior line, guards David Wang and Brent Benedict return, along with centers Caleb Farris and Andrew Miller. Miller missed the second half of the 2012 season with an ankle injury and will retake his spot in the middle, most likely forcing Farris to guard and either Wang or Benedict to the bench.

Judging a new offensive line is tough, because chemistry is such a vital component. We won’t know what to really expect from them until Grimes is able to work with them both individually and as a unit.

In the backfield, Shane Beamer welcomes back his top four rushers from a season ago in Thomas, J.C. Coleman, Tony Gregory and Michael Holmes, all of who ran for at least 300 yards apiece.

However, with the addition of freshman Trey Edmunds, who redshirted last season, as well incoming Fork Union transfer Drew Harris, it’s likely that Coleman, Gregory and Holmes will all be battling just to see playing time.

Although the coaching staff was unable to settle on a single “feature back” last season — or even two primary runners, for that matter — expect Loeffler’s arrival to bring Tech back to a more traditional system.

And don’t be surprised if either Edmunds or Harris — or both — fit well into that system.

A season ago, four Tech running backs had at least 52 carries — and none of them had more than 109.

In 2011, David Wilson had 290 carries. In 2010, Wilson, Darren Evans and Ryan Williams each had between 110 and 151 carries. In 2009, Williams had 293 carries.

Point here being, Tech failed to establish a running game in 2012 because it had no single back it could rely on — coupled with the fact that it had an unreliable interior offensive line to run behind.

Bring in a guy like Grimes, as well as a slightly more experienced group of ball carriers, and you’re probably looking at (at least) a little bit more success on the ground in 2013.

Out wide, Tech loses its three leading pass-catchers from 2012 in Marcus Davis, Corey Fuller and Dyrell Roberts. Replacing them will be no easy task.

Outside of D.J. Coles — who’s now in his sixth year of eligibility — no current Tech receiver has more than 20 career receptions.

Actually, if you eliminate Coles and redshirt-freshman Demitri Knowles, no current Tech receiver has more than two career receptions.

Coles and Knowles will most likely start at split end and flanker, respectively. Behind them, there’s minimal experience.

Kevin Asante had two catches last season in his first year on the field. Willie Byrn, Christian Reeves and Joshua Stanford each have one career reception. After that, no receiver on the roster has ever stepped on the field.

Expect Asante, Stanford and the crown jewel of the 2012 recruiting class — redshirt-freshman Joel Caleb — to compete for meaningful reps.

Again, it’s hard to figure exactly what to make of this bunch at this point — it’s still a little too early for that. But, you’d think such a young group of guys would respond well to a new, 32-year old coach in Moorehead. Time will tell.

And that leaves us with Thomas. His yardage and touchdown numbers from 2011 and 2012 are strangely similar — 3,482 total yards and 30 total touchdowns in 2011, 3,500 total yards and 27 total touchdowns in 2012 — but where Thomas really struggled was his accuracy.

Add in a shaky receiving corps and a not-so-reliable offensive line and you’ve got the disasterous recipe that made a Russell Athletic Bowl victory reason for serious celebration.

Now, Thomas returns for his senior season to an offense that’s in a very similar situation that it was a year ago, save for a new coaching staff.

That being said, the impact that Loeffler, Grimes and Moorehead have on this offense could very well make — or break — the 2013 Hokies.

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