No college football team returns more sacks from last season than Virginia Tech. The Hokies had 41, and 13 players who accounted for 40 of them are back.
On the flip side, three of the 11 teams that averaged more sacks per game in 2011 than Tech appear on the Hokies’ schedule, which could translate to quite the challenge for their rebuilt offensive line.
Before detailing the numbers, a shoutout to Twitter, Phil Steele and keyboard comrades David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News (@djoneshoop) and Sean Bielawski of CBSSports.com (@SeanBielawski).
Jones tweeted Saturday that while reading Steele’s preseason college football preview magazine he noticed that Tech has recorded at least 30 sacks in each of the last 11 seasons. That’s the nation’s longest such active streak.
After perusing the Hokies’ stats, I tweeted that the 14 players responsible for all 41 of last year’s sacks are back. Bielawski, decades younger than I and not burdened by bi-focals, quickly corrected me: Isaiah Hamlette had one of those 41 and no longer is with the team.
Still, I wondered if Tech’s 40 returning sacks are a national high. Sure enough, they are.
Texas A&M (51), Cincinnati (45), Oregon (45) Michigan State (44), Pittsburgh (43) and Illinois (41) had more than 40 last season, but none return as many as the Hokies.
One team that approaches Tech is Florida State. The Seminoles had 40 sacks in 2011, and players responsible for 37 are back, led by defensive ends Brandon Jenkins (eight), Bjoern Werner (seven) and Cornellius Carradine (5.5).
Count that among the many reasons the Nov. 8 Thursday nighter between the Hokies and ‘Noles at Lane Stadium could be epic. That pass-rushing duel becomes more intriguing given the state of the respective offensive lines.
Tech’s returns only one starter, center Andrew Miller. Florida State’s has four back, but that injury-riddled group yielded an ACC-high 41 sacks last year.
The other fierce pass-rushing teams from last season on the Hokies’ 2012 docket are the Big East’s Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. The Bearcats (3.5 per game) and Panthers (3.3) were Nos. 2 and 3 nationally in average sacks, but both lost players who accounted for a most of those numbers.
Led by end Aaron Donald (11), Pitt returns 16.5 sacks. Cincinnati returns 20.5 after losing end Derek Wolfe and his 9.5 sacks to the NFL – the Denver Broncos drafted him in the second round.
Here’s perhaps the most enticing number of all for Tech faithful: Pitt allowed an astonishing 64 sacks last season, 17 more than any other Bowl Subdivision team.
Safe to say new head coach Paul Chryst, formerly Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator, and his staff aim to solve that problem.
Also safe to bet that Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster will dial up a few blitzes that afternoon in Heinz Field.
A couple of quick notes on Tech’s streak of 11 seasons with at least 30 sacks: The high in that run was 47 in 2007, the low 30 in 2001 and ’06. The most by an individual during the run was Darryl Tapp’s 10 in 2005.
The last season in which the Hokies had less than 30 sacks was 2000 – they had 29. But that was before the NCAA began recognizing bowl stats in year-end totals. Tech had six sacks in its Gator Bowl rout of Clemson.
Here are the year-by-year sack totals, and individual leaders, for the Hokies:
Season Sacks Leader Number
2011 41 James Gayle 7.0
2010 34 Steven Friday 8.5
2009 36 Nekos Brown 6.5
2008 35 Jason Worilds 8.0
2007 47 Chris Ellis 8.5
2006 30 Chris Ellis 4.5
2005 37 Darryl Tapp 10.0
2004 34 Darryl Tapp 8.5
2003 32 Cols Colas 6.5
2002 39 Cols Colas & 9.0
2001 30 Ben Taylor & 4.5
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