Posted by ESPN.com's Heather Dinich
Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring recently reflected on the Hokies' late-season success in 2008, and looked ahead to what they might be capable of in 2009.
"Stiney" is an easy-going guy who lets the criticism roll off his back and can often be found on the sideline after a game wrapped up in a hug from one of his kids -- win or lose. He also gets wrapped up in answering questions, which is why I decided to split this interview into two parts. The second part will look at Alabama, the offensive line and the Hokies' potential in 2009. But first, they've gotta get through spring ball:
What's your take on the priority for the offense this spring?
BS: The first priority for us this spring is to make sure our mindset is, are we approaching this thing like we're just going to be a year older next fall or are we going to be a year older and a year better? I think that's the key. Older is one aspect of it, but with the success we had towards the end of the year, do we feel like we arrived? Because we haven't. We improved, but we haven't arrived. We're not as good as we can be, and that's the ultimate goal, to chase after how good you can be.
I like the way we're conducting ourselves in the weight room right now. Greg Boone for instance set a record for tight ends in the squat. The guy's a senior. What's his mindset going in in this offseason? He's a leader down there right now, and the way he's approaching the weight room, I think our players understand that. Secondly, without any question whatsoever it's to make sure how settled are we at quarterback. For the first time in some time we're settled with who the starting quarterback is, that's terrific, you like that settled aspect of it. Now we're approaching a different set of waters that we've not been accustomed to, and that's who is your backup quarterback? Who's the next guy in line? We haven't had that issue in quite some time, from Bryan Randall, right on through. Now it's imperative who's our second quarterback, who's the next guy that's going to take snaps for us. I think that's important.
Do you think you'll be able to do more this year because the guys are a bit more experienced?
BS: That's what we're hoping. If you go back and look, and you say, 'OK, what did they not do?' We were a spread offense, we were a two-back offense, we were a gun spread offense. We were certainly not completely limited. How much did you do during the course of the game? I think you had to force you to be precise in the beginning of the week with what you were going to do, but it wasn't like we were just one formation, one play, one run, one back.
We could be in a run play-action game, we could be in a spread, some option, we could be in a three, four-receiver game, but it's how well we do those things. How we execute, how much better we perform it, we can build on that part of it. There are certainly things our receivers need to make. As we go through our cut ups that's what we're primarily doing now. We've had some schools come in and visit, it's that time of year where you have some people come and see you or you're going to see them. In between, the gist of what you're doing right now is going back and looking at what you did do well and what you didn't do well, where we can improve individually, as a unit, as an offense, from one year to the next.
We were pleased with the way we played down the stretch. It wasn't consistent throughout the year. When we went out to Nebraska, 40 percent of that team that went out to Nebraska had yet to play in a game or travel. You go out there, you feel like the way you played out there, you made some advancements, and then all of a sudden you're not as far along as you hoped. You're a bit inconsistent and there's some erratic play for the next couple of weeks, and then you found your rhythm and got better when it really counted. That's a building block. I think our players understood if they concentrated and focused to make sure they were doing everything they could within their ability at that point in time we performed and we performed well down the stretch. We've just got to carry that over.
I know fans are super excited to see Ryan Williams. What's the coaching staff's take on him and how you guys might plan to use him this year?
BS: We're excited about Ryan, too. That was probably one of the most discussed factors going into the season last year, to play or not to play Ryan. Had we known, if we had that crystal ball and seen that Kenny Lewis was going to go down in the third or fourth game, it may have changed the whole complexion of it. The reason we were going to play him as a true freshman was because of his ability. He has an explosive ability we certainly relish in our offense or anyone's offense. We feel like he's got an opportunity to be a very productive player and can create problems for a defense. That's what you like to have on your side of the ball. We're excited. We feel like he's a year older and a year more comfortable within the offense. Last year, he probably would have been limited in his scope of what we would be able to do with him. Well, when you go back and look at it, we already were. I think we had to concentrate on one aspect of the game, bringing one group along instead of the entire offense along. Kenny was such a valuable guy.
Kenny Lewis, when he went down, was not just a player himself, but I think Kenny at that point in time was a leader for us offensively. And then when he went down, who's the next guy that can take over? Tyrod (Taylor) was the guy everybody certainly looked towards, but he's surrounded by a bunch of youthful guys all around him. Darren (Evans) stepped up. We're just trying to get Ryan in a position where he's comfortable out there ... don't feel like we have to hold back. Because when you look at holding back in September, starting with Alabama, you have to be at or close to your best as you can possibly be right off the get-go.
You're not going to be able to lead into it. You're going to get better as you often do throughout the year, but you've got to be close to your best right off the get-go. You know the schedule. You know what's standing out there and so do we. By that regard, we've got to be as far along as we can be so we can play the game with everything you're able to play with.