Originally written on Pitt Blather  |  Last updated 11/14/14
How does a defensive coordinator try to provide extra motivation to his front seven for an opponent? He lies outrageously. Linebacker Jack Tyler was going on about how defensive coordinator Bud Foster said Pittsburgh’s offensive line was better than Alabama’s when Washington Post beat writer Mark Giannotto, having seen the Panthers surrender seven sacks to UVa a couple weeks ago, called shenanigans. “Well, that’s a little motivation on his part to make us go a little harder,” Tyler said, changing his tune slightly. “But I mean, they have 330-pound guards. That’s unheard of even at the pro level. And they can move. So it might be the biggest defensive front and we’re really going to have to bring our big-boy pads and go to work.” [Emphasis added.] I guess the only tape he let them see was of the Duke and New Mexico games. The Hokie defense has — as is typical — the strength of the team. Obligatory reference to Bud Foster and  lunchpail defense will be skipped. What is impressive is how the secondary has stayed on track even without cornerback Antone Exum — who has been recovering from offseason ACL surgery. Exum was cleared to return to action last week against UNC, but didn’t. He is still unknown for this Saturday. “Basically, I just needed more time to fine-tune some things,” he said. “I wasn’t at the level I wanted to be at and go out and perform. I could have been solid, but I want to be able to perform at a very high level. I don’t want to go out there again until I can perform at that best-corner-in-the-country level.” Freshman Brandon Facyson started in Exum’s place. Exum, who was in a regular practice jersey Tuesday and didn’t appear to be wearing a knee brace, said he felt “really good.” He and the coaches will see how he looks on film later this week and they, along with his family and trainers, will decide what the best course of action is. Exum didn’t elaborate on what exactly he needs to see from himself to feel comfortable returning to the field. “That’s for me,” he said. “There are just some things that I need to sharpen up. I can do it, but it’s just doing it consistently. Doing it 85, 90 percent of the time when I’m out there.” I’m doubtful that he plays. It makes more sense to wait one more game. VT has a bye after the Pitt game. It gives him two extra weeks to prepare. The Hokies have no other major injuries. Just guys who have the usual dings and aches after playing six straight games. Guys in blue Tuesday were center David Wang (shoulder) and fullback Sam Rogers (ankle). Receiver Willie Byrn was in a regular jersey, although he still has a little bit of a hitch in his step from the MCL sprain he suffered at Georgia Tech. Shane was confident Rogers would be able to play this week. He said he looked out his window Monday morning at 7 a.m. and saw Rogers running sprints on an empty practice field. – Wang’s injury, which offensive line coach Jeff Grimes doesn’t think will keep him out vs. Pitt, led the Hokies to shuffle around their lineup a little Tuesday. Caleb Farris took first-team reps at center, while Mark Shuman got in at left guard. Shuman, a junior, made his season debut against North Caroline after missing the first five weeks following knee surgery. Redshirt freshman Alston Smith also got some snaps. In addition to Wang, right guard Andrew Miller is still nicked up from the ankle injury he suffered weeks ago. The one thing about VT’s offense is that they still don’t have much of a running game. And by that, it has been non-existent the last two weeks. Against Georgia Tech and UNC, VT totaled a whopping 103 yards on the ground. That’s less than what they had against Alabama (153). It’s hard to argue with success, but that is really strange. “I think it’s a little of this and a little of that,” [Shane] Beamer said after watching Saturday’s film. ”Blocking wasn’t so good at times. Running wasn’t so good at times. You’ve got I think to give the other team credit. They’ve got good players. So it’s not like you can just go put your finger on one thing and say, ‘That’s it.’ I think it’s just a combination of things that we as a group have got to get better.” The running back coach is Frank Beamer’s son, Shane. As a casual observer, I can’t help but go superficial and wonder if it’s a little Jay Paterno Syndrome. If you want to see a breakdown of how the Virginia Tech offense is operating these days, take the time to go through this post from the best VT blog out there, The Key Play. Virginia Tech’s leading wide receiver is a walk-on who finally earned a scholarship this year. So that’s a nice story. Go figure, the Hokies are Pitt’s first “familiar foe” this year. Beyond the old Big East ties, they are the first team Pitt plays that they faced last year. Only Syracuse and Notre Dame are repeat foes from last year.
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