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April 13, 2013

Good & Bad Of Scrimmage 2: Offense

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Virginia Tech conducted its second scrimmage of the spring Saturday, a week before the annual Spring Game. The Hokies are busy implementing and perfecting a new offense under offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. With a week to go, it's clear there are some things that still need work, but there is also a fair amount to be excited about.

Virginia Tech's offense finished with 13 first downs and 232 total yards of offense as the Hokies mixed up between first team vs. second team and first team vs. first team for much of the day. QB Logan Thomas finished the day 6-16 for 119 yards and a touchdown, although he looked much better than that. There were numerous drops by the Virginia Tech receivers that hurt his final line.

The Hokies scored five touchdowns on the day, as RB Michael Holmes and Thomas scored on the ground and WR Demitri Knowles, TE Zack McCray, and WR Joel Caleb all hauled in passes in the endzone.

Five other observations from the Hokies first scrimmage:

1.In the first scrimmage last Monday, the Virginia Tech offense didn't really look like it had clicked yet. Part of the reason was that the team had yet to implement the goal-line offense, hence the 0-0 final score. Today the offense showed a big improvement, mostly because of the play of Thomas.

"He really improved from the last time we scrimmaged immensely," Loeffler said. "He's going to get better and better and better and better." The scrimmage featured a ton of five-wide formations out of the shotgun and host of boot-legs as well.

Thomas' arm strength is impressive as he whipped passes over the middle to Knowles early and later to WR Charley Meyer. "He reminds me of the guys that I've had that play in the NFL."

2. During both of their post-scrimmage interviews, Loeffler and Shane Beamer lamented on the fact that the team struggled yet again in short-yardage situations.

The scrimmage schedule called for a number of drives to start inside the defense's five-yard line, but the ground game from there wasn't very effective. One series started as first and goal from the four-yard line and Holmes was stuffed three times without reaching the endzone.

The fourth play of that series Loeffler singled out as particularly telling to him. Thomas scrambled on a boot-leg for a touchdown, diving for the pylon to get the points. Despite the score, Loeffler didn't want to have to make that call at all.

"Down on the goal-line we had to pull the ball on a naked to score," Loeffler said, "That's not our mentality. We need to run the ball between the tackles and score on fourth and one and fourth and two."

3. Knowles finished with two catches on the day, one on the opening drive of the game over the middle and the other a long 35-yard touchdown reception during which he beat Kyle Fuller to get to the endzone.

The Hokies need some receivers to start to separate themselves and establish a pecking order within the offense and it looks like the redshirt sophomore might be ready to lock himself into the No. 2 receiver role once D.J. Coles returns full speed.

4. Once again, the starting offensive line from left to right was Jonathon McLaughlin, Brent Benedict, Caleb Ferris, Andrew Miller, and Laurence Gibson. Despite the struggles at the point of attack in short yardage situations, the group as a whole seemed to play pretty well.

McLaughlin was especially impressed as he went through the whole scrimmage without a noticeable error from his left tackle position. If he keeps playing like he did on Saturday, the true freshman will be starting against Alabama in the Georgia Dome.

5.Attendance was pretty good today and probably around 1,000 or so, which means that so far only a select few have seen Loeffler's coaching style in action.

"Coach Beamer told us to be ourselves," Loeffler said. "That's the way I've coached since I was at Central Michigan. It's the same I coached when we were 3-9 last year." He is about the complete opposite in terms of what his predecessor's were as far as coaching style and it is readily apparent that he demands perfection. He doesn't think he got anywhere near it today, so he was noticeably negative - even he recognized his general negativity - during his post-scrimmage interviews.

There's still a lot of work to be done offensively, but if anyone is going to make this thing progress, it is going to be Loeffler.

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