football

Then Now: Bama vs VT

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Before each game, I preview each team position-by-position. By the end of it, I hope you know who's playing where, how well, and which team has the edge at each position. That story will come, but today we take a look back at the 2009 game between Virginia Tech and Alabama and compare each position to what the teams will put on the field in Atlanta.
2009:
2013:
McCarron replaced McElroy after the 2010 season, and essentially spent the 2011 season playing like McElroy did in 2009. He was a game manager and a very good one at that. He threw for 2,634 yards, 16 touchdowns, and five interceptions as he led the Tide to a national championship.
However, McCarron took a huge step forward last season as a dynamic passer, throwing for 30 touchdowns and avoiding throwing an interception until the ninth game of the season. He capped it off with four touchdown passes in a rout of Notre Dame in the national championship and is entering the 2013 season with very real Heisman aspirations.
2009:
2013:
The Hokies needed a big step forward from Taylor in 2009, and he did just that. Taylor used his arm (13 TDs, 5 INTs, 2311 yards) and his legs (738 yards, 7 TDs) to lead the Hokies to a 10-3 record. But against Alabama, Taylor had yet to take that leap forward. He completed 9 of 20 passes for 91 yards that night, although his leadership and poise on a big stage were crucial in keeping VT in that game.
Thomas replaced Taylor after the 2010 season, and put together an incredible 2011 season as he guided the Hokies to the Sugar Bowl. 2012 was anything but incredible, as Thomas and the Hokies struggled to a 7-6 mark. A new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in
2009:
2013:
Ingram was the horse that made Alabama go in 2009. He won the Heisman Trophy that season and began the year with 150 yards against the Hokies. Alabama also had Richardson, a freshman at the time, and Upchurch at tailback, so they were a run-heavy offense that took a lot of the responsibility out of McElroy's hands. He basically had to either hand it to one of those three or throw it to Jones. While Ingram ran for 1,678 yards on his way to the Heisman, Richardson added 784 yards as a backup.
In 2012,
2009:
2013:
In 2009, the Hokies swallowed a tough pill in August when 2008's leading rusher
From 2008-2011, the Hokies had a string of unbelievably talented tailbacks. Evans, Williams, and
Coleman might miss the Alabama game with a pair of sprained ankles, but Edmunds is expected to start and will carry the load anyway. Will he be as successful as Williams? Probably not, but he will have to give it a shot.
2009:
2013:
The top option at receiver in 2009 and 2013 is very similar. In 2009, it was the ultra-athletic and physical Jones, who would become the No. 6 overall pick in the NFL Draft. In 2013, it is Cooper, who is a bit more lanky and smooth, but just as dangerous. Cooper caught 59 passes for 1000 yards and 11 touchdowns as a freshman last season; Jones hauled in 58 passes for 924 yards and four touchdowns his freshman year. Cooper is likely neck-and-neck with
Where the teams differ is behind the top gun. Jones had a pair of talented guys in Maze and Hanks behind him, while Cooper has a host of talented returners and freshmen looking to emerge. The Tide are looking for another receiver out wide and a guy to play in the slot. According to
2009:
2013:
Virginia Tech's passing in 2008 was horrendous, as it took until late in November for a wide receiver to catch a touchdown pass. However, in 2009 they truly took a step forward as Boykin and Coale emerged as the top two guys and became the Boykin and Coale that everyone now remembers them as. Even Roberts put together a big year with 22 catches for 390 yards and three touchdowns.
The receivers of 2013 are unproven and inexperienced, which means they could either perform like those of 2008 or those of 2009. The difference in production from Boykin, Coale, and Roberts from 2008 to 2009 was 21 catches, 763 yards, and eight touchdowns. With Coles still bothered by a bum knee and the others working on consistency, you have to give the edge to the guys of 2009 here. Advantage 2009.
2009:
2013:
For Alabama, the tight end and H-back positions are traditionally some of the most underrated parts of the offense. They don't tend to get a ton of production or hype, largely because they've never truly had an elite athlete there. These guys tend to be blue-collar workers who do just about everything solidly. In 2009, Peek was the fourth leading receiver with 26 receptions and his backup Williams had just three catches.
This year, the tight end and H-back position has been about the biggest question mark in pre-season camp. Saban likes what he has in Vogler at tight end and Fowler at H-back, but behind them they are still working to figure that out. With that in mind, the advantage should go to the 2009 team. Advantage 2009.
2009:
2013:
The 2009 year was the season assistant
This year, shutting down the position just to block isn't an option because none of VT's options include elite blockers. Malleck, a junior, has a very balanced game and is one of the guys to watch for a breakout season from, especially with the lack of proven options at receiver. McCray and Perez-Means are former defensive ends that are just trying to get the light to turn fully on at the position, but if they do they could be solid threats in the passing game. Because of the need for the tight ends to be threats downfield in 2013, the edge goes to this year's team here. Advantage 2013.
2009: LT
2013: LT
The 2009 group of offensive line was a very talented group as Carpenter, Johnson, and Jones are all playing in the NFL now. They paved the way for a Heisman Trophy winner and gave McElroy enough time when he needed to throw, to settle in as a starter.
Jones graduated after last season, along with two others, leaving large question marks for the Tide up front entering this season. They have a stellar left tackle in Cyrus Kouandijo and right guard in Steen. Both are likely first team All-SEC team members. Kelly must replace Jones at center, which is going to be incredibly tough to do. The two problem spots right now are left guard and right tackle, where Shepard and Arie Kouandijo recently switched (Shepard from RT, Kouandijo from LG). Regardless of the uncertainty, these guys were all highly recruited and should be fine come opening Saturday. However, the nod has to go the 2009 group. Advantage 2009.
2009: LT
2013: LT
During the 2009 game against Alabama, it was the Virginia Tech offensive line that made the difference in the second half. They wore down, which led to a fourth quarter that made the game seem like more of a blowout than it really was. Entering 2009, however, there weren't too many question marks around who was going to play. That is not the case entering 2013.
New offensive line coach
All this shifting and shuffling that Grimes is doing while trying to establish his pecking order will either work perfectly or go terribly. We should know by about the 5:00 minute mark in the first quarter against the Tide. Advantage 2009.
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