Stock Watch: Russell Ath Bowl
It's been over a month since Virginia Tech defeated UVA to secure a spot in the Russell Athletic Bowl, but there's been plenty of movement on the stock watch for this final battle. The Hokies are looking to capture a 7-6 season, which would mean three consecutive victories to close out the year.
That's certainly something to build on for next year, if Virginia Tech is able to capture it's 12th win in 15 tries over Rutgers. Without further adieu, here's the players (and coaches) whose stock is rising and whose is falling.
FS Detrick Bonner, sophomore, Virginia Tech
The sophomore safety has grown into his position as the free-roamer in the secondary, and has produced two of his best performances recently. In the 17-14 UVA victory, Bonner recorded a career-high of 10 tackles (5 solo tackles also tied a career high). Not only has he made tackles on a consistent basis (21 total in the last three games), but he also has eight passes defended or broken up in those three contests.
With a currently confident mindset, it wouldn't surprise me if Bonner nabbed a pick against Rutgers. A solid performance would only increase the hype next year for Bonner, who hasn't even completely grown into his body.
QB Logan Thomas, junior, Virginia Tech
As much as we'd like to think otherwise, this could be the last game of the Logan Thomas-era. Regardless of his overall resume, the 2013 quarterback class has been incredibly unimpressive, which has left Thomas smack-dab in the middle of first-round draft talks. The junior signal-caller's performance in this game could ultimately decide his fate in Blacksburg.
On top of the added pressure, Thomas has been on a scoring binge as of late, scoring a total of seven touchdowns in the last three games. He's rushed for a touchdown in five consecutive contests (rushing TD in 9 of 12 games), and Thomas needs one more to tie Bob Schweickert (21) for the second-most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback. (Tyrod Taylor had 23)
If Thomas throws three touchdowns (which he hasn't all season), it will eclipse his mark of 19 in the 2011 season. He also needs 217 passing yards for back-to-back 3,000-yard seasons, which has never been accomplished in VT history. Either way, it appears the quarterback will find a way to put points on the board, whether it's via the pass or run.
LB, Khaseem Greene, senior, Rutgers
Greene has basically been Rutgers' version of Jack Tyler this season (and then some), recording an astounding 125 tackles as well as 5.5 sacks and six forced fumbles. The senior was named the Big East's defensive player of the year recently, and is surely one to watch in the April draft. He anchors a defense that is 11th in the country in run-defense (oh, boy) and fourth in scoring defense at 14.3 points per game.
Perhaps even more scary is how well Greene is playing right now: He's recorded at least 10 tackles in three of the past four games, including a ridiculous 22 tackle effort against Army. It will be interesting to see the battle between Greene and the Hokies offensive front. Logan Thomas may have to win this game on his own.
ROV Kyshoen Jarrett, sophomore, Virginia Tech
Jarrett was one of the best defenders in the the first two-thirds of the season, but has seen his production dip as of late. After recording seven games of at least seven tackles in the first eight contests, the rover has managed just one in the four games since. He also doesn't have any tackles for loss in those four games after registering 4.5 in the first eight.
Perhaps his recent slide is due to fatigue, but Jarrett has failed to create a turnover (besides one forced fumble) in one of the playmaking spots in the Hokies' defense. That's certainly something that will need to be improved upon for next year. Hopefully a few solid weeks of bowl practice has allowed Jarrett to rest and return to mid-season form.
Virginia Tech Offensive Coaching Staff
In a season that has seen the Hokies have the 78th-best scoring offense (26.1 points per game) and the 71st ranked total offense (392 yards per game), each of the offensive coaches has faced a ton of scrutiny. And believe it or not, it's likely that many of these coaches are fighting for their jobs in this bowl game, and some fates may have already been chosen.
It's inconceivable to put up those kind of offensive numbers with a possible first-round quarterback behind center. I don't think the offensive-style is the problem (we see the Redskins run the pistol to perfection), but there has to be something wrong within the system. Let's see if this group can put together a solid gameplan in what is likely their final game working together.
RB Jawan Jamison, junior, Rutgers
The 5'8" 200-pound ball of muscle has rushed for 1,054 yards on the season, including five straight 100-yard performances to open the season. However, Jamison hasn't rushed for 100 yards in five consecutive weeks, and hasn't recorded over 50 since Nov. 10.
During his three-game slide, Jamison has 28 carries for just 101 yards. The junior also hasn't scored a touchdown in four straight. If the Hokies are to win this defensive battle, the defense will have to keep Jamison on his cold-streak. If they are able to do so, the secondary should be able to capitalize on some quarterback Gary Nova mistakes- he's thrown a pick in six straight games (13 total).