In year’s past, preparing for Virginia Tech’s defense was a difficult challenge.
Bud Foster was one of the top defensive coordinators in the game and he always did his best to confuse a quarterback and a play caller when he could. Using his famous “Robber Scheme,” Foster brought exotic looks on third down to confuse quarterbacks and rush them into bad decisions.
However, whether its COVID-19, injuries or guys just leaving the program, the Hokies have not been the same defense it once was. In fact, it is just a shell of its old self.
“They don’t have an exotic third-down package,” Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott said.
Instead, the Hokies have been playing a lot of base defense with an occasional blitz here and there. With all that has gone on this year in Blacksburg, Va., Virginia Tech’s defense has suffered the most, which has not been a fair assessment of the job new defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton has been able to do in replacing Foster, who retired at the end of last season after 32 years at Virginia Tech.
The Hokies, who will host No. 3 Clemson on Saturday, ranked 14th in the ACC in total defense (463 yards/game) and are giving up 32.6 a game.
Elliott says Virginia Tech (4-5, 4-4 ACC) has looked all over the place this season and used many combinations while trying to find something that will work.
“With personnel, looks like they’ve been hit. They play a lot of guys in different positions in the secondary, play a lot of guys up front,” he said. “So not quite the continuity you normally see when you’re getting ready for an opponent.”
Those issues don’t bode well going against a Clemson offense that leads the ACC in scoring and is hitting its stride, especially with the return of Trevor Lawrence at quarterback. Last week, Lawrence ripped through Pittsburgh for 403 yards and two touchdowns in his first game back in more than a month.
Lawrence leads the ACC in total yards, passing yards, completion percentage and passing efficiency.
“Every now and again you come up against a guy, or you see a guy, or you get a chance to coach a guy that you really say there’s nothing this guy can’t do,” Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente said about Lawrence.
The Tigers (8-1, 7-1 ACC) are also hoping to get running back Travis Etienne back on track against a Virginia Tech defense that is yielding 189.2 yards a game on the ground.
Etienne, who has just under 700 rushing yards and scored 13 rushing touchdowns, is overdue for a big day in the running game.
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