In this day and age of fast-paced spread offenses, it’s not every week that a fullback sticks out on film.
Like Clemson, Virginia Tech runs a power-spread offense, and it’s fullback Sam Rogers who brings a lot of the power.
“He’s definitely popped up on tape for us,” Clemson linebacker Kendall Joseph said on Tuesday.
Rodgers, who has been utilized primarily as a blocker throughout his career, may be one of the most underrated players in the ACC. The senior captain from Mechanicsville, Va., has played in 51 career games for Virginia Tech after walking on four years ago.
The 5-foot-11, 230-pound load of a player ranks third on the team in rushing with 61 carries for 269 yards (4.4. average) and two touchdowns. Rogers hadn’t carried the ball more than 12 times in a game during his career or rushed for more than 57 yards in a game prior to last Saturday, but against Virginia, he ran for 105 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries in Virginia Tech’s 52-10 win.
“He’s a great player,” Clemson linebacker Kendall Joseph said. “Very physical. He has deceptive speed and agility, and he’s just hard nosed.”
Joseph feels that Rogers’ physicality and grit embodies the Hokies’ offense as a whole.
“I think that kind of resembles that Virginia Tech team,” Joseph said. “Just hard nosed. They go to work and grind.”
Virginia Tech’s offense totaled a season-high 579 yards and 289 rushing yards against Virginia.
Rogers’ stats were more gaudy than usual, but as always, he was imperative in the ground game’s success without the ball in his hands, too.
Joseph likened Rogers to an extra offensive lineman, but a more athletic one that comes out of the backfield and gets to the second level as he paves the way for Virginia Tech’s other backs.
“A lot more athleticism, and he brings the cut block into play,” Joseph said. “He’s a big part in their offense. He plays a big role.”
Virginia Tech is fourth in the ACC in total offense and 38th nationally at 453 yards per game. The Hokies average 34.8 points per game, a figure that ranks fourth in the ACC and 35th nationally.
Junior quarterback Jerod Evans has also made his mark in Virginia Tech’s ground attack. The 6-foot-4, 230-pounder is the ACC’s second-leading rusher at quarterback behind Lamar Jackson, having chalked up 713 yards on 161 attempts (4.4 average) and eight touchdowns while throwing for 3,039 yards and 26 touchdowns against just five interceptions.
“He kind of resembles Tajh Boyd, and they do a lot of QB run game and pound it,” Joseph said. “He’s a very good quarterback. He’s a talented player, and he’s one of the best quarterback’s we’ve seen this year.
“So, it’s going to be a big challenge. They’re very balanced all over the offense and have good skill, big receivers, so they’re very talented across the board.”
Tight end Bucky Hodges is a big part of Virginia Tech’s offense, as well. The junior is the team’s third-leading receiver with 42 receptions for 598 yards and seven touchdowns.
“With his size, he’s going to win his fair share of plays and jump balls, but it always goes back to technique,” Joseph said.
And Joseph said that will again be the key for Clemson’s defense against Hodges, Rogers, Evans and the rest of Virginia Tech’s offense when the two teams meet on Saturday in Orlando, Fla., for the ACC Championship game.
“It always goes back to doing the film study and being in the right position. Usually when you’re in the right position and using the technique you’ve learned, you give yourself a fair chance,” Joseph said. “This is big-time college football, so if they make their plays here and there and we’re in good position, we move on. But it’s always about technique and just playing hard.”