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October 12, 2011
In the trenches with Brian Mohr
Brian Mohr is the publisher of HokieHaven.com.
1) It seems that the Hokies are nursing a number of bumps and bruises going into Saturday's game against Wake Forest. What is the injury report, and how serious of an impact does it have on Virginia Tech this week? "Jeron Gouveia-Winslow and Antoine Hopkins are all but certain to be out. Hopkins suffered an ACL and Gouveia-Winslow is continuing to get MRI's on his foot. The other big injury and the one question mark is James Gayle and there are mixed reports whether he'll be back for this game. This is the most serious injury of them as the entire side of Tech's line would be filled with backups if Gayle can't play. If that's the case, I'd expect Wake Forest to attack Tech's defense particularly running to that side of the ball. However, Virginia Tech is responding by getting backup DE Zack McCray more time on the left side if necessary so he and Tyrel Wilson can share duties if need be. The one other difference is that without Gayle in the lineup, the Hokies are forced to blitz to get pressure, so you'll see more blitzing from the likes of Bruce Taylor, Tariq Edwards and Alonzo Tweedy."
2) Logan Thomas was nearly flawless last week against Miami. Has he finally worked through the challenges a first-year starter at quarterback often goes through? "I don't think completely, he's still learning, but this game was a clear breakout for him. He really showed good vision and an ability to check down, he didn't force the ball deep as he has in other games. I expect we'll still see a learning curve, but he showed a drastic improvement too. I think his poise and confidence really improved from this contest."
3) What matchup(s) is/are the Hokies most concerned about and why? "I think the big one is Tech's defensive line particularly their defensive tackle and end if James Gayle isn't in the lineup against Wake Forest's offensive line. Wake has size and that could be huge in allowing Josh Harris to get to the second level and perhaps break big runs. If Tech's line continues to struggle like they did against Miami, Wake will be able to exploit them for big gains."
4) Who are a few key players Wake Forest fans should be on the lookout for outside of the household names? "James Gayle is a big one if he plays as he's had a sack in just about every game, on the opposite side J.R. Collins has been very productive too and together they have shown an ability to get a lot of pressure. Derrick Hopkins in the middle is a tough defensive tackle and a real playmaker in the middle, he'll burst through a few times on the day. Cris Hill is another player that has come in, Kyle Fuller and Jayron Hosley have gotten a lot of pub as major corners, but Hill has really stepped his game up and provides a solid third corner if they go to that.
On offense, D.J. Coles at wide receiver is Tech's fourth wide receiver and is starting to come on. Also, Chris Drager at tight end, he was the Hokies defensive end last year and was a much bigger part of the offense last week catching a season high two receptions."
5) How heavily does this Virginia Tech team depend on the play of its special teams unit as opposed to those of the past? "It's always an important factor for the Hokies and one they'll depend on, but this year they've struggled dramatically and that has hurt them a bit with regards to field position, etc. It may be on the rise though as Tech replaced punters against Miami going with true freshman Michael Branthover who has a big leg. That has been the biggest struggle for the Hokies this season finding a reliable punter. Outside of that, the kickoff specialist and kicker have been pretty consistent. Tech continues to try to block punts and has been close a few times this year."
6) Aside from having to slow down David Wilson and Thomas what are one or two other things Wake Forest has to do to be successful against Virginia Tech? "I believe the defense needs to either force turnovers or punts and Wake Forest can't turn it over themselves. Tech's offense has had issues at times struggling to score and convert on third downs. It wasn't something that popped up as much in the Miami game, but just about every other game this year. When the offense for Tech has struggled particularly early on they've been a tad less consistent. At the end of the day, Tech's defense is going to make some stops because outside of the two positions on the front four hit with injuries they are a very talented group, but that gap makes the Hokies defense a bit vulnerable."