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   Welcome to TSLMail #208 - Friday, January 6, 2006    
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2005 Hokie Defense One of Tech's Best
by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com

Always known for his stout defenses, Bud Foster guided the 2005 unit to the very top of the defensive standings, finishing first nationally in total defense. Very few teams enjoyed any success against the Hokiesí talented defense, which featured four senior starters in Jimmy Williams, Darryl Tapp, James Anderson and Jonathan Lewis. The group also managed to set a Virginia Tech record when they held the Duke Blue Devils to just 35 yards of total offense. But is this the best Virginia Tech defense ever?

Thatís hard to say, and you have to look at more than just total defense. Letís take a look at Bud Fosterís top units and how they fared in some important statistical categories.

Virginia Tech's Top Defenses
Year Total
Defense
Scoring
Defense
Rushing
Defense
Passing
Defense
Sacks

Third
Down %

1995 285 14.1 77.4 208.5 48 26.5%
1998 284.9 12.9 102.2 182.7 48 28%
1999 247.3 10.5 75.9 171.4 58 25%
2001 237.9 13.4 71.6 166.3 30 22%
2004 268 12.8 115.2 152.8 34 30%
2005 247.6 12.9 93.4 154.2 37 32%

All of the defenses above were outstanding, but only a few can legitimately lay claim to the title of ďBest Virginia Tech DefenseĒ. The 1999, 2001 and 2005 defenses are the top contenders, but each group is worthy of praise.

Back in 1995, the Tech defense led the nation in rushing defense, kept opposing quarterbacks on the ground for the majority of games, and allowed opponents to convert just 26.5% of their third downs. That group also scored some important defensive touchdowns against UVA and Texas. Their pass defense was the weakest among Bud Fosterís top units, but they produced some of the best known defenders in Tech history. Cornell Brown, J.C. Price, Myron Newsome, Brandon Semones, Antonio Banks and Torrian Gray played on that defense, as did some others that many Tech fans would remember.

The 1998 defense was basically the 1999 defense, just one year younger. They were very good against the run and the pass, but not exceptional against either. They did an excellent job of getting to the quarterback, recording 48 sacks. Corey Moore had his breakout season in 1998, and this defense caused a lot of expectations to be placed on the 1999 team.

The 1999 defense is considered by many to be the best in Virginia Tech history. They were great against the run and the pass, they recorded an unbelievable 58 sacks, and opponents converted just 25% of their third downs. Corey Moore outdid his 1998 performance and proved to be the best defensive end in college football. John Engelberger was on that team, and he is still in the NFL. Nick Sorensen, Ike Charlton, Corey Bird and Ben Taylor also went on to the NFL, and Sorensen and Taylor are still there. This group held opponents to just 10.5 points per game, which was the best in the nation.

The 2001 defense finished second nationally in total defense, just behind the Texas Longhorns. This group was thrown into the fire in 2000 and matured into arguably Techís greatest defense in 2001. They didnít get a lot of sacks, but they held opponents to fewer yards than any defense on the list. Despite not getting a lot of pressure on quarterbacks, opponents converted just 22% on third downs.

The Tech defense took a nap in 2002 and 2003, but they woke up angry in 2004. Led by seniors Jim Davis and Eric Green, they returned to the same form of past Hokie defenses. They were exceptional against the pass, with three seniors and All-American junior Jimmy Williams in the secondary. They didnít get a lot of sacks, but they did finish fourth nationally in total defense.

Most of that 2004 defense returned for the 2005 season, and seven starters will return for 2006. They finished the season first in total defense and were very effective against the run and the pass. However, their third down percentage was higher than any of the other top Tech defenses at 32%. They had 37 sacks, which was the most since 1999, but still far less than the first three defenses on the list.

So which of these defenses is the best in Tech history? There is no way to answer that question. If the 1999 defense could have defended the pass like the 2005 defense, then the answer would be 1999. Likewise, if the 2005 defense had as many sacks as the 1999 team, 2005 would be the best. But Bud Fosterís defensive strategy has changed throughout the years, and Tech no longer relies on blitzing and sacks as the most important part of their defense.

Another important stat is third down conversions. If the opponent canít keep the chains moving, then they canít score. The 2005 defense wasnít quite as good in this category as past defenses. Perhaps that is because they play more Cover 3, rather than blitzing the quarterback and playing man-to-man with the wide receivers. For the sake of argument, letís say Bud Foster had dialed up the blitz more often on third downs this past season, and Tech recorded ten sacks on third down, when otherwise the opponent would have converted for a first down. At that rate, opponents would have only converted 26.8% of third downs, which is more in line with previous numbers.

But blitzing on third down and playing man-to-man on the outside also increases the potential for big plays. Playing more Cover 3 has improved Virginia Tech pass defense throughout the years, as you can see from the declining passing yardage numbers in the table above.

No matter what kind of thought you put into it, there will always be varying opinions as to which Virginia Tech defense is the best ever. Each had a different cast of players, each faced different circumstances in games, and the philosophy of Bud Foster changed over time. But with Foster at the helm you can count on Virginia Tech being near the top of the defensive standings for most seasons.

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   TechSideline.com Updates From the Past Week
With OOC Done, Hokie Women Dive Into ACC Schedule
January 6, 2006
Over the summer, Tech fans argued over whether or not their beloved Hokies would be able to go 12-0 during the regular season. Although the football team fell just a little short, the womenís basketball team accomplished this remarkable feat a week ago when it defeated Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to win the Lady Luck Classic. This was the fifth consecutive in-season tournament where Tech has gone undefeated. Tech dropped their next game, the ACC opener against NC State, but bounced back Wednesday night to rout High Point 91-52, leaving the Hokies undefeated in out-of-conference play.
more

Countdown to Signing Day 2006
January 6, 2006
We have less than one month until Signing Day 2006. Stay tuned to Techsideline.com, as we will continue to provide regular updates on remaining targets as well as Countdown to Signing Day articles. Taking the place of the War Rooms for this month, the Countdown to Signing Day articles includes a brief summary of the class to date, recent developments and a look at the remaining targets still in play.
more

Greenberg Adds 4th Player to 2006 Class
January 5, 2006
Virginia Tech men's basketball coach Seth Greenberg signed three players to letters of intent during the fall signing period last year, but he wasn't finished there. He has now landed a verbal commitment from Tyrone Appleton-Miller, a 6-3, 180-pound point guard/shooting guard out of Harmony Community School in Cincinnati, Ohio.
more

Stompgate Rolls On
January 5, 2006
Three days after Marcus Vick stomped on the leg of Louisville's Elvis Dumervil in a momentary fit of passion, Hokie fans continue to be up in arms over the incident. Something that took just a split second has ignited a portion of the Virginia Tech fan base into a rage. The message boards are full of talk about the incident, emails are pouring into the Tech athletic and academic administration, and there are a lot of people out there who want something to be done about it. The situation has put the decision-makers at Virginia Tech into a difficult position. What will they do, if anything, and when?
more

Eckerson Names Favorite
January 4, 2006
6-6, 270-pound offensive line prospect Hutch Eckerson, fresh off an outstanding performance during the Shrine Bowl week and feeling refreshed from the recent recruiting dead period, will head back out on official visits beginning next weekend. And it may not be long before the Lumberton (N.C.) star will make a decision.
more

Will Cuffee Decide Around Signing Day?
January 4, 2006
Deep Creek (Chesapeake, VA) standout offensive lineman Billy Cuffee plans to make his next official visit this weekend. He has already been to UVa and Maryland on officials, has two more scheduled this month and plans to make a fifth as well. What plans are in store for the 6-5, 320-pound recruit?
more

Bowl Game Projections, Part 7
January 3, 2006
The New Year has brought us numerous come-from-behind victories in the bowls including an exciting Virginia Tech win over Louisville 35-24 in the Gator Bowl, hopefully bringing an end to the ďJacksonville jinx.Ē The Hokies were able to move the ball on the ground behind big efforts from Cedric Humes and Brandon Ore as well as the revamped offensive line. Marcus Vick handled the Cardinalsí pressure well and made some big plays on several deep passes. Tech also won the turnover battle 4-0 including a huge interception by James Anderson to seal the game.
more

Is Whitmore Looking Around?
January 3, 2006
Oscar Smith (Chesapeake, VA) 4-star defensive end recruit Brian Whitmore made a verbal commitment to the University of Maryland following an official visit last month. In an interview last night, it appears the 6-4, 250-pound standout is interested in taking a look at at least two other programs before he signs in February.
more

Seniors Give Hokies a Gator Bowl Win, 35-24
January 3, 2006
Virginia Tech got three touchdowns from three different seniors in the fourth quarter and outscored the Louisville Cardinals 22-0 down the stretch to pull out a 35-24 victory in the Gator Bowl. The Hokies overcame deficits of 14-3 and 24-13 to pick up their 11th victory of the season, just the third time in school history they have accomplished that feat. Tech finishes the 2005 season with a record of 11-2, while the Cardinals finish with a 9-3 record.
more

Collins Hits for Career High, Hokies Dominate Dukes 77-58
January 2, 2006
Virginia Tech's Coleman Collins shook off the after-effects of a subpar performance against Old Dominion and lit up James Madison for a career-high 32 points Monday afternoon, and the Hokies cruised to a 77-58 win over the Dukes in Harrisonburg. Deron Washington added 19 points as the Hokies had their second-best shooting game of the season and were never threatened. With the win, VT finishes the out of conference portion of their schedule at 10-4, while JMU falls to 3-7.
more

Advance Auto Parts Hokie Hotline Notes for 1/1/06
January 2, 2006
Sunday night's show came from Jacksonville where the Hokies are preparing to play Louisville in the Gator Bowl. Guests included athletic director Jim Weaver, defensive coordinator Bud Foster, offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring and head coach Frank Beamer. They took a look back on the season and also previewed the Gator Bowl.
more

Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech at James Madison
January 2, 2006
Virginia Tech will look to get back to their winning ways on Monday afternoon when they travel to Harrisonburg to take on the James Madison Dukes at 4 pm. The Hokies are coming off a 58-55 defeat at the hands of Old Dominion in which they played poorly on the offensive end and did not shoot well from the free throw line. This will be Tech's final out-of-conference game, and it is important that they get things back on track before playing 15 consecutive ACC games to end the season.
more

Bowl Game Projections, Part 6
January 1, 2006
Happy New Year football fans! We are now done with the bowl season preliminaries and we get to watch the "big boys" play. The Hokies will be in action against the Louisville Cardinals in the Gator Bowl in a very interesting matchup. The old Big East Conference would like nothing better than to have their new member knock off the Hokies, but Virginia Tech has a lot riding on this game as well with a potential top 10 finish hanging in the balance. This game looks like a fairly even contest with key injuries to both teams potentially being a major factor. In this article, I have my analysis and projection for the Virginia Tech-Louisville game, as well as the other New Yearís games (okay, actually the day after New Yearís).
more

Keys to the Game: Louisville
January 1, 2006
The Hokies head to Jacksonville to make their 13th consecutive bowl appearance against the Louisville Cardinals. Tech will be looking for their second Gator Bowl victory in five visits to the event. It's a venue very familiar to the Hokies, returning to Jacksonville's Alltel Stadium less than a month after a disappointing loss to FSU in the ACC Championship Game.
more

Bowl Game Projections, Part 5
December 31, 2005
December 30 has to be considered the day of the rally in this bowl season as three of the four games involved big comebacks. The ACC split their two games as Virginia rallied from a 21-7 first half deficit to win an exciting Music City Bowl game 34-31, but Miami was unable to get anything going in the Peach Bowl as LSU dominated the Hurricanes 40-3. In the other bowl games, UCLA roared back against Northwestern, scoring 36 straight points after falling behind in the first quarter 22-0, and Missouri, led by dynamic quarterback Brad Smith, came back from a 21-0 first quarter deficit to beat South Carolina 38-31. I had my worst day of the bowl season, only getting the UCLA game correct and falling to 12-5 on the bowl season.
more

Hokies Falter on the Road, Lose to ODU 58-55
December 31, 2005
The Old Dominion Monarchs withstood a late Virginia Tech rally and knocked off the Hokies 58-55 on Friday night. Virginia Tech spoiled a good defensive effort by missing numerous open shots and shooting poorly from the free throw line. Tech cut the ODU lead to one point late in the game, but a costly technical foul on Jamon Gordon gave the Monarchs two free throws and possession of the ball, and the Hokies were unable to overcome the deficit. ODU improves to 8-4 with the victory, while Tech drops to 9-4.
more

Matchups to Watch: Virginia Tech vs. Louisville
December 30, 2005
Virginia Tech returns to the scene of the crime Ė Jacksonville, Florida Ė to take on the Louisville Cardinals in the Gator Bowl. Jacksonville has not been kind to the Hokies, who are 1-3 in previous Gator Bowl appearances and now 0-1 in the ACC Championship Game (though in reality Tech is 1-1 in the ACC Championship Game since the Miami game in 2004 was for the championship). I remember in 1994 that Tech fans were overjoyed to be playing Tennessee in the Gator Bowl, but this year fans seem disappointed that the Hokies have to ďsettleĒ for the second-place bowl game. That statement alone tells you how far the Virginia Tech program has come in the last dozen years.
more

Bowl Game Projections, Part 4
December 30, 2005
The bowl game upsets have started as three favorites lost in the last two days. Michigan was stunned by Nebraska 32-28 in the Alamo Bowl on one of the most bizarre endings in college football history; the game will likely go down in infamy as the Sun Belt Ref Bowl in a horribly officiated game (and Iím not one to complain about referees). Georgia Tech forgot to show up in the Emerald Bowl and lost to Utah 38-10 to give the ACC its first loss, and Oklahoma knocked off Oregon 17-14 despite trying to give the game away in the closing minutes. At least I called the Oklahoma upset and went 2-2 for the third set of bowl projections, putting me at 11-2 for the bowl season to date.
more

Basketball Game Preview: Virginia Tech vs. Old Dominion
December 30, 2005
The Virginia Tech menís basketball team will begin a three-game road stretch when they travel to Old Dominion to play a very tough game on Friday night at 7pm. It is a very important game for the Hokies. A road win would give them extra points in the RPI as well as ten wins in the out-of-conference portion of their schedule. But getting a victory is far from certain. Old Dominion is the favorite, and they are very tough at home. The Hokies will have to play their best to win.
more
 
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