It’s the bye week for the Virginia Tech football team, and those lucky souls get a break from talking to us reporters. We’ll speak with some of the Hokies’ offensive personnel on Saturday before getting Bud Foster’s take on Georgia Tech on Sunday.
So I figured now would be the perfect time to take a closer look at some of Virginia Tech’s offensive numbers, especially the situational statistics that paint a much broader picture than standard statistics like receptions and yards. All of these numbers were procured through studying box scores and scouring the terrific Web site, cfbstats.com.
Let’s start with redshirt sophomore quarterback Logan Thomas, who by all measures is having a fairly successful first season as the Hokies’ starting signal-caller. In fact, if Virginia Tech plays 13 games this year, Thomas is on pace for 3,206 total yards and 24 touchdowns. If the Hokies make the ACC championship game, and therefore play 14 games, Thomas’s current pace would put him at 3,451 total yards and 25 total touchdowns.
Just how impressive is that? Well, Tyrod Taylor only went over 3,000 total yards once – last year as a senior. Bryan Randall never did it. Neither did Michael Vick.
But Thomas still has his issues. While Virginia Tech is middle of the pack nationally in terms of third-down conversions this year, the Hokies rank 112th in the country this year having completed just 44.1 percent of their passes on third down.
On first down, Thomas is completing more than 69 percent of his passes; on second down, that figure drops only slightly to 66.7 percent. But with the Hokies facing third down, Thomas has a completion percentage of 42.4. The biggest reason for this is Thomas’s inability to convert long third downs – he has completed just two of his 19 attempts when the Hokies face third and 10 yards or longer this year.
In the red zone, Thomas has also been inaccurate thus far. The Hokies rank 89th nationally having converted just 35 of their 46 trips inside an opponent’s 20-yard line into points. They also have just 25 touchdowns. Thomas has completed only 14 of his 32 throws in the red zone (43.8 percent), although half of those completions have resulted in Virginia Tech touchdowns.
Now some of these numbers can be a bit misleading because on third down or in the red zone it’s harder to throw, especially in third-and-long situations when the defense knows the Hokies are going to pass the ball.
But to give you a little perspective, compare Thomas to another impressive first-year starter in the ACC – redshirt sophomore Tajh Boyd of Clemson. Boyd’s numbers improve on third down. He’s completing 59 percent of his passes on first and second down, but that figure jumps to 67.5 percent on third downs. Boyd has a completion percentage of 57.1 in the red zone, with 13 touchdown passes.
Third downs have also been a stumbling block for Virginia Tech running back David Wilson. Like Thomas, he’s on pace to finish with some remarkable numbers, including a couple school records, and currently leads the country with 1,185 rushing yards. By my count, 53 of Wilson’s runs this year have either resulted in a Virginia Tech first down or a touchdown. He’s also had nine run plays of more than 20 yards so far.
But Wilson has one glaring deficiency in his resume this season: He’s not all that reliable in third-and-short situations. When the Hokies have needed to gain three yards or less on third down this year, Wilson has picked up the first down on just five of his 14 attempts. It’s no wonder then that Virginia Tech’s coaches have turned to quarterback Logan Thomas more often in these short yardage situations of late. Thomas is actually 12 for 12 picking up first downs on third-and-short situations this year, and 32 of his runs this season have resulted in either a first down or a touchdown.
To give you some perspective on Wilson’s short yardage figures, a sampling of three other running backs with similar overall statistics – Alabama’s Trent Richardson, Washington’s Chris Polk and Western Kentucky’s Bobby Rainey – revealed that none had converted less than 70 percent of their third-and-short situations.
And in case you were wondering, redshirt senior Josh Oglesby has converted three of his five short yardage situations on third down this year. He has also had 16 plays that have resulted in a first down or a touchdown.
Part of Thomas’s success throwing this year has been his ability to effectively spread the ball around. The Hokies’ top four wide receivers all have at least 19 catches and seven players have at least five receptions. But for me, the most telling sign of how effective a receiver is depends on how many of those catches result in a first down or a touchdown, and how many receptions resulted in explosive plays of 20 or more yards.
For Coale, 25 of his 42 catches this year have resulted in a first down or a touchdown. He has also had eight receptions of 20 or more yards. Twenty two of Boykin’s 38 catches so far have ended with a Virginia Tech first down or touchdown. He has also had nine receptions of 20 or more yards.
On third down, it seems Boykin is the favored target as he has 11 catches for 105 yards. Coale has just five receptions for 40 yards on third down this year. Redshirt junior Marcus Davis actually leads the Hokies on third down with five catches for 184 yards, but that figure is a bit misleading since he had two catches for 85 yards on third down with backup quarterback Mark Leal in the game at the end of the Hokies’ season-opening blowout of Appalachian State.
Perhaps the most intriguing statistics belong to tight end Chris Drager. All nine of his pass receptions this season have resulted in Virginia Tech first downs, and the Hokies have been involving him more often recently. At Duke, the redshirt senior had a career-high four catches for 39 yards.