Before the season started, two teams were commonly ranked as having the best defenses in college football. Those two teams were the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Alabama Crimson Tide. Through four games, Bud Foster and the Hokies’ defense have not lived up to expectations.
The Hokies’ first team defense had a good game against Furman, and a dominant performance against Purdue, but also gave up 42 points to Ohio State, and couldn’t get the job done after two early turnovers against the Pirates in giving up 35 points.
Virginia Tech’s offense is ranked in the top 40 in the nation, which should make the Hokies a 3-1 football team based on the competition they’ve played. However, the defense is outside the top 50 in the nation, and has been shockingly bad against the run, costing the Hokies a game and any remote chance of making the playoffs.
Fundamental tackling was a shocking problem for the Hokies against East Carolina. ECU had barely played Summers, but they played him enough to where the defense should have been ready to make open-field tackles on a mobile quarterback.
We’ll go into that more in a second, but the fact of the matter is this, the Hokies had a fundamental tackling breakdown by multiple players against ECU that allowed the Pirates to make big plays. This was exposed the most on Summers’s 41-yard touchdown run, in which Summers shook off Ken Ekanem to go for the big touchdown run that turned out to be the game-winning touchdown.
This week, the Hokies need to focus on fundamental, open-field tackling to avoid an embarrassment down the road against a mobile quarterback like Georgia Tech’s Justin Thomas.
However, there are a couple other concerns that came out in comments after the game, and it starts with comments by Ekanem.
DE Ken Ekanem on ECU's running QB: "I’m not saying we were underprepared, but we just weren’t ready for it." #Hokies
— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) September 27, 2015
Ekanem did not say that the Hokies’ defense was underprepared for this game, but he basically found a way of saying that without saying it.
Yes, Summers did not play much before this game and only had one carry in his career. However, there have been a couple of signs that East Carolina was going to give him a chance in this game and with a run defense that struggled against Cardale Jones, you have to think that opponents will try to follow the same example until you can prove you can stop it.
It is definitely surprising to hear a comment like this, but Bud Foster and his coaches just have to make sure that they are ready for just about anything that opponents could reasonably put in and against ECU, that included the mobile Summers.
However, this was maybe the most frustrating comment from anyone on the defensive side of the ball.
On night full of odd quotes, thought Bud Foster saying Torrian Gray surprised him by using Stroman not Edmunds at CB was one of the weirdest
— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) September 27, 2015
Mike Barber is 100% right on calling this one of the weirdest comments because it simply doesn’t make sense why this would happen. Yes, Torrian Gray is the DBs and has power over choosing which defensive backs play, but for Foster to be surprised about a decision is a breakdown in communication.
Foster is arguably the best defensive coordinator in college football so for this to happen under his watch doesn’t make sense. Foster should be the one that still makes the final decisions on who plays, and who stays on the bench. For something like this to happen is completely unacceptable, and has to be fixed immediately.
Also, the fact that Gray decided to leave Greg Stroman in so long was not right. Stroman is already the nickel cornerback, but the Hokies should have made the change from Stroman to Donovan Riley sooner. Riley is still a more-talented cornerback than Stroman, and with Stroman struggling, the change should have happened in the first half.
Stroman will have better games, but he should’ve been pulled earlier for a combination of Riley, Mook Reynolds, and Terrell Edmunds with one on the outside and one on Isaiah Jones in the slot.
The Hokies have proven on offense that they could even win out, but they need the defense to fix a few things, and be the elite unit that they have the potential to be this season.