Seven months, two new position coaches, three players drafted and a brand new starting quarterback and running back all mean one thing: It was a long offseason.
Months of pain and suffering for the Virginia Tech faithful will come to an end Saturday when the FCS-powerhouse Mountaineers of Appalachian State invade Blacksburg.
“When you talk about Appalachian State, you’re talking about a quality program for a number of years,” said Frank Beamer, head coach. “They’re a program that knows how to win, and they play extremely hard.”
Of course fans will recognize the Appalachian State name from the school’s monumental win over BCS power school Michigan in 2007. However, the team looks very different from that squad that shocked the football world.
“We really haven’t mentioned much about Michigan,” said Jerry Moore, Appalachian State head coach. “We’ve got about three or four kids that played against Michigan, so it’s a completely different team.”
Quarterback DeAndre Presley, while standing only 5-feet, 11-inches tall, 180 pounds, is a constant thorn in the side of defenses. Presley, who replaced Armanti Edwards last year, passed for over 2,600 yards in his first season as a starter. Running in their hybrid spread-option offense, stopping Presley is a big part of shutting down the Appalachian State offense.
“It’s just everybody’s got to know their position and their technique and what they have to do to make it work,” said Bruce Taylor, linebacker. “If you have pitch, you’ve got to play pitch no matter what.”
Beamer, while not overtly showing concern, expressed his trepidation over playing such an explosive quarterback like Presley.
“They have a quarterback that might be as good as we play all year,” Beamer said. “He’s athletic, can throw the football, experienced. I think this is a difficult football game for us.”
Running beside Presley is tailback Travaris Cadet, who led Appalachian State backs with 671 yards in 2010. While he should get a fair amount of carries against the Hokies, the main threat on the ground will be Presley.
“It’s proven with them (against Michigan) and then with JMU last year against us, if you’re not sharp, you turn it over or whatever, anybody can beat you,” said Bud Foster, defensive coordinator. “And this team’s capable if you do that.”
Foster’s defense, which struggled with tackling in early season games in 2010, will not have an opportunity to catch its breath when it looks across the line of scrimmage Saturday. The mental toll alone of defending the option is tough.