Is Virginia Tech's offense tipping its plays?
This has been another rough week for embattled Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring. Coming off a 16-point showing against James Madison, a game in which the Hokies drove into the red zone six times but came up with just one touchdown and three field goals, there are once again rumblings within the fan base about his job security.
Stinespring didn't help quell the speculation Monday during Virginia Tech football's weekly radio show when he said Coach Frank Beamer had given him "an incentive" when they spoke following the upset loss to the Dukes. Tuesday evening he clarified that comment, saying it was made in jest and that he and Beamer met like they always do after a game.
Stinespring could not, however, explain why through two games what was supposed to be one of the most talented offenses in the country has 34 plays that gained three yards or less (19 against Boise State, 15 against James Madison). Perhaps the most interesting theory is that the Hokies are tipping their plays, which Beamer was asked about during his weekly press conference Tuesday.
“There’s some people who’ve been in good calls for a particular play," Beamer acknowledged. "Whether they fell into it or not, we’re checking it out. I don’t think we are [tipping off plays], but we need to check it out.”
Beamer added that associate head coach Billy Hite, his longest-tenured assistant, was making some phone calls to other coaches to try and get to the bottom of this. Stinespring said he's already spoken with J.C. Price, the defensive run game coordinator at James Madison and a Virginia Tech alum, about the possibility. He also plans to speak with Chris Petersen's staff at Boise State, because the Hokies won't be facing either team anytime soon.
In addition, to help grade his play calling, Stinespring uses a computer printout called a "self scout," which breaks down the ratio of run and pass plays, as well as at what down and distance they were called. It also tracks what personnel groupings and what plays were called in certain situations.
“The answer was there was not really anything that we tipped off, there’s not anything that was predictable in terms of what we do and how we do it," said Stinespring. "[Price] said we’re a multiple offense with a lot of looks. They were obviously going to crowd the box and try to make some plays, moving their front. ... They got us a couple times, but not anything we shouldn’t have been able to handle, not anything that we shouldn’t have been prepared for, could have handled a little bit better."
Senior tight end Andre Smith (Seneca Valley) was also asked about the possibility of plays being tipped at the line. He intimated it was unlikely but didn't completely discount the theory.
“As an offensive player a lot of the plays, teams try to read your stances or certain motions," said Smith. "At times, [James Madison] was calling out things, and calling out different blitzes or slides or formations and they thought they knew what was going on but we always usually kind of try to mix that up pretty well and counter that. When we thought they were actually giving calls for plays we actually were running, we definitely made the adjustment for that. But for the most part, they didn’t really know what was going on.”
Regardless of whether the Dukes knew what was coming or not, the Hokies' offense sputtered Saturday, especially in the red zone. Through two weeks, Virginia Tech ranks 95th nationally in passing offense and just 42nd in rushing offense. Against James Madison, the Hokies left 22 points on the field from failed drives inside the red zone.
During Tuesday's practice, Stinespring served as the scout defense's coordinator to help better prepare his offense for Saturday's game against East Carolina. Stinespring thought it brought more intensity to the practice session, which he hopes will make his offense sharper for this weekend.
"I need to do a better job of coaching," said Stinespring. "We’re in position to be more successful than we are, and you don’t need to point at this guy, that guy, this position. I need to do a better job of coaching. ... It’s my responsibility to make sure we play better and we can and we will.”
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