Virginia Tech defensive line coach Charley Wiles may boast one of the stoutest pass rushes in the country this year, with the depth to potentially rotate nine players into the lineup, but he has already seen more than enough preseason press clippings concerning his charges since training camp began. He even lamented about being “set up for failure, man. . . . We gotta go prove it.”
If it were up to Wiles, he’d be reading more about Georgia Tech and he threw out a potential assignment to a contingent of reporters Monday while discussing the suprises the Yellow Jackets are sure to throw at the Hokies in less than two weeks, when the teams meet Sept. 3 in the season opener.
“I would love for one of you guys to go down there and do a spread on [Georgia Tech Coach] Paul Johnson and come back and tell us what they’re doing,” Wiles said with a smirk. “Let’s find out what they’re doing. Everything they’re doing is closed. You know what I mean? It’s closed. They’ve got some wrinkles and we will, too.”
Virginia Tech officially began preparations for Georgia Tech on Monday, hopeful the extra preparation time this preseason will prove beneficial.
For a second consecutive year, free safety T.J. Shaw is playing quarterback on the scout team as the Hokies search for the fastest possible practice simulation of Johnson’s variation of the triple option. Shaw ran a similar scheme at Franklin County High.
On Monday, the coaching staff and many players watched film of the Hokies’ 37-26 victory over the Yellow Jackets last November, and the team will begin to implement its game plan later this week. Though the defense has made adjustments and improvements in slowing down Johnson’s run-oriented attack, the defensive strategy remains very much a work in progress.
The Hokies were also without both of their starting defensive ends in practice Monday, as redshirt juniors James Gayle (ankle) and J.R. Collins both were in blue jerseys, signifying that they’re restricted to limited contact.
“We’re getting it figured out, trial and error from when we started playing them to where we are now,” Wiles said. “Little tweaks here and there each year and we’ve gotten better at it.
“It’s a tough offense. It really is. They limit your possessions. They go for it a lot and keep your offense off the field. One person breaks down and they got a big run on you. . . . They keep coming back at you and it’s physical and they’re chopping and they’re working at their craft, their technique. . . . They’re gonna be good.”
Linebacker Jack Tyler noted that facing Georgia Tech right off the bat will be even more of a challenge, because it’s usually the most physical game of the year and the Hokies will have to adjust on the fly to Johnson’s chop block-intensive offense.
The goal these next two weeks, Tyler said, is to get the defense working like a “Swiss watch and get all the components together.”
With the status of linebacker Tariq Edwards in doubt for the season opener, Tyler will once again take on a critical role against the Yellow Jackets alongside backer Bruce Taylor. Last year, he finished with a team-high 12 tackles against Georgia Tech starting in place of an injured Taylor.
But Tyler’s formula for success is actually quite simple.
“I love to come up and hit people. Who doesn’t?” he said. “Georgia Tech, it’s a game where you have to be very physical and you have to be downhill and those are the better parts of my game, so I guess it suits me pretty well.”