He’s colorful, he’s smart, he’s fiery and most of all he’s one of the most successful defensive coordinators of our generation. But as August 31 quickly approaches and the Virginia Tech Hokies prepare to face the two-time defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide in the Georgia Dome to kickoff the 2013 college football season, can Bud Foster pull off what would be probably his greatest accomplishment yet and mastermind a defensive effort to contain the mighty Tide?
To start off, notice I said “contain” rather than “stop”. Let’s be honest, this year there probably is no such thing as stopping the Alabama offense. The offensive explosiveness that AJ McCarron, Amari Cooper, T.J. Yeldon and company will provide on a weekly basis will be matched by few throughout the country. As seen in their drubbing of Notre Dame back in January, once they get in a rhythm, it’s all downhill for an opposing defense. And, in that game, the Irish had what was considered the best defense in the nation.
But to beat the Tide, you need to get their offense out of that rhythm which in turn creates a comfort zone. This is what Foster will look to do, and with nine returning starters, he has the tools to do it.
As with everything on this side of the ball, it starts up front. The Hokies could potentially have one of the best defensive lines in the country. Led by explosive senior DE James Gayle Jr., keeping Yeldon in check and putting McCarron on the turf consistently is priority number one. Throughout the last seven games of last season–five of these being against bowl-eligible squads– this unit gave up just 80.4 rushing yards per game and registered 27 sacks. That performance needs to carry over into this game. It won’t be an easy task against what will undoubtedly be a Berlin Wall of an offensive line for ‘Bama, but even the Berlin Wall was torn down and so can the Tide’s up-front offensive unit by the likes of Gayle and DT Derrick Hopkins.
However, that’s not a guarantee. If the VT front-four ends up getting pushed around, it’ll be up to the seven men behind them to pick up the slack, and this is where Foster can start to play.
With careful, creative blitz scheming with his linebackers and senior CBs Antone Exum (assuming he’s ready to return from the ACL tear) and Kyle Fuller containing the outside–which they are more than capable of handling–Nick Saban’s offense could find it a tad difficult to get that ball in the end zone at times.
Given the rough 7-6 season that Virginia Tech endured coupled with the recent success of Alabama, many people are under the assumption that this game could indeed turn into a repeat of our most recent BCS National Championship Game. And in a way, they have every right to think that on paper.
But, if there’s anything I’ve learned watching Bud Foster create defenses throughout the years it’s that he really doesn’t care what anything says “on paper.” Make no mistake about it, since this past season ended, he has been vigorously constructing everything in his power to combat the Crimson Tide on Aug. 31 and the pieces are there for him to do so.
And, I’m sure that he’s had that metal lunch pail by his side as he’s been scheming.