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   Welcome to TSLMail #337- Thursday, July 3, 2008    
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   Tech Sports News

Injuries Have Come at Critical Spots on Offense
by Chris Coleman,

Yesterday's news that wide receiver Brandon Dillard ruptured his Achilles and will be out 4-6 months was certainly not good news.  The Hokies were desperately in need of wide receivers to begin with, and now they will have to rely even more on young players who have never stepped on a college football field before.

Say what you want about Tech's offense, they have been snakebit when it comes to injuries over the past couple of years.  They have suffered critical injuries at the exact spot where they could least afford them.

First let's go back to 2006.  In the first game of the season, against Northeastern of all teams, starting left tackle Brandon Frye suffered a nasty elbow injury that kept him out of the UNC game the next week.  The Hokies didn't have any backup tackles, not any true tackles at least, so they had to turn to Nick Marshman, who nearly got poor Sean Glennon killed in Chapel Hill .  Despite that, Tech pulled out an easy win.

Frye's injury set the offensive line back in terms of gelling together, but they seemed to get their groove back, and they were playing much better by the middle of the season.  Then, things got nasty again. Guard Ryan Shuman (Danny McGrath played center that season) got hurt early in the Clemson game, and Brandon Gore played in his place.  Shuman was out for the rest of the regular season.

Still, despite all that, Branden Ore was ranked #9 in the nation in rushing yards per game following that Clemson game.  He had run for 200+ yards in two straight games.

Those injuries stretched the offensive line as far as it could go, and they couldn't afford anymore injuries.  Unfortunately, they got them in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.  Shuman wasn't close to 100%, yet he was forced into action.  Brandon Frye was banged up again, which meant more Nick Marshman at tackle, and Brandon Gore was sometimes lining up right next to Marshman at guard.  That line ultimately helped get the Hokies beat in that game.

In 2007, once again, the position where they could least afford an injury was the offensive line. Depth was even thinner than it was in 2006.  This time disaster struck before he season began.  Starting right tackle Ed Wang broke his ankle, which caused a major shuffle on Tech's line.  Starting left guard Nick Marshman moved to right tackle, and Richard Graham moved into the starting lineup at left guard.

Marshman wasn't quick enough for tackle, and Graham wasn't strong enough for guard.  You can sometimes get by with one subpar lineman, but not two.  The result was the worst offensive line play that we've seen in Blacksburg in quite sometime, maybe ever.  By the end of the season, with Wang back at tackle and Marshman at guard, run blocking improved quite a bit on that line.

Heading into 2008, the Hokies lost their top four receivers. Eddie Royal, Josh Morgan, Justin Harper and Josh Hyman were all major contributors throughout their careers at Virginia Tech.  They are going to be very difficult to replace.

That job got more difficult on Tuesday with the news of Dillard's injury.  First, let's discuss how that changes the wide receiver position.

Well first of all, it robs the Tech offense of its top playmaker not named Tyrod Taylor.  Dillard ran a blazing fast 4.28 in the 40 this past spring, electronically timed.  He showed a knack in the spring game for making big plays.  He's the fastest player on Virginia Tech's team.  It's never good to lose your fastest player, and arguably your most dynamic threat at wideout.

It also puts pressure on other players who might not be quite ready.  Patrick Terry has a good future, but he might have still be a year away from being a heavy contributor.  Now he'll be counted on sooner.  Dyrell Roberts was going to play anyway, but now he might be called up to be the best wide receiver on the team as a true freshman.  Some guys can do that (Eddie Royal), but lightning doesn't always strike twice.

Also, think about Tech's offense as a whole.  First, think about the 1999 offense without Andre Davis.  Can you imagine that team without that deep threat?  Michael Vick was huge that year, but that offense wouldn't have been as good without that deep threat.  Davis was capable of scoring from anywhere on the field.

Teams also didn't respect Davis right away, because he was an unknown heading into the season, same as Dillard.  They didn't bother wasting a safety on him.  I have a feeling that Dillard would have made some big plays early on this year, before opposing defensive coordinators learned how fast he was.

Don't underestimate the trickledown effect this could have on other positions as well.  There has been talk of redshirting Tyrod Taylor all summer.  I've never really bought that it was really being considered, and this injury reinforces my opinion.  Without Dillard, who is a major home run threat on the Tech offense?  Just Taylor right now, though incoming freshmen Dyrell Roberts and Ryan Williams could make their share as well.  At some point this year, Tech will need someone on offense to make a play.  Well, they just lost the wide receiver who was most likely to do so.

The Hokies are still my pick to win the ACC Coastal Division, but they now have less wiggle room. Pass - Your Ultimate Ticket to Hokie Sports!

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For more info on TechSideline Pass, and to subscribe, click here. Updates From the Past Week
Muldoon Reflects on Visits to Virginia, Virginia Tech
July 3, 2008
St. Xavier (Cincinnati, OH) star defensive end Pat Muldoon concluded his string of spring and summer unofficial visits with a trip to the state of Virginia to see Virginia Tech and Virginia. It was the 6-4, 265-pound rising senior's first experience at either school, but he came away impressed by both programs.

Hermitage Prospects to Focus on Recruiting?
July 3, 2008
Hermitage (Richmond, VA) captured a Central Region Championship before falling in the state semifinals last, but if the Panthers make a second consecutive state title run it will do so with a new starting signal caller. 6-3, 190-pound rising senior Theron Norman, a standout recruit who projects a wide receiver or safety on the next level, will take over the reigns as Coach Patrick Kane's starting quarterback in 2008.

Dillard Ruptures Achilles Tendon
July 2, 2008
Virginia Tech was already lacking proven receivers for the 2008 season, but today they are in even worse shape than before. Rising r-junior Brandon Dillard ruptured his Achilles tendon on Tuesday while participating in a voluntary summer workout. The injury will require surgery, and Dillard will be out 4-6 months.

Thomas Impressed with Visit to Virginia
July 2, 2008
Brookville (Lynchburg, VA) star Logan Thomas certainly is a hotly contested recruit, boasting 18 Division 1A scholarship offers, but he appears to be an even hotter commodity in the state of Virginia. Virginia and Virginia Tech are each recruiting the 6-6, 225-pound athlete extremely hard, with the Cavaliers receiving the most recent visit yesterday.

Victory Christian Stars Expected at Tech's Camp
July 1, 2008
6-4, 220-pound defensive end Justin Foxx plans to attend Virginia Tech's next camp, which will take place on July 12th. According to Victory Christian (Charlotte, N.C.) head coach Frank Crockett, the rising senior defensive end will not be the only Victory Christian standout in Blacksburg that day.

Q&A: Antoine Hopkins Talks Tech Future
June 30, 2008
6-3, 280-pound defensive lineman recruit Antoine Hopkins has been cleared by the NCAA Clearinghouse and the former Highland Springs (VA) star says he will be in Blacksburg "by the end of July or early August" for preseason practice. TSL caught up with Hopkins for a "Q&A" to discuss his future at Virginia Tech.

Tech's Queen Harrison Qualifies for Olympics
June 30, 2008
Virginia Tech's banner year in athletics isn't quite over. Tech star hurdler Queen Harrison became the second Hokie athlete in school history to qualify for the Olympics. She'll compete for the United States in the 400-meter hurdles after finishing in second place in the Olympic Trials on Sunday.
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