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[Associated Press | File 2012
Virginia Tech’s Jack Tyler tackles Florida State RB James Wilder Jr. Tyler’s dad, Tim, was a defensive tackle for East Carolina.Virginia Tech linebacker Jack Tyler (58) tackles Florida State running back James Wilder Jr.. Tyler says the new coaches have spiced up practice.]
Tuesday, July 23, 2013
GREENSBORO, N.C. — Everybody’s excited now. That’s how this works. Season approaches, teams get excited. Every last one of them, from the title contenders to the bottom feeders.
But when Virginia Tech linebacker Jack Tyler talks about his excitement, he isn’t talking so much about visions of the Georgia Dome on Aug. 31, when the Hokies will take the field about Alabama. He isn’t contemplating bowl possibilities or division races.
He’s talking about April drills. About July weight-lifting sessions. About the activities nobody dreams of when they sign up to play this game, the necessary evils of the sport.
The Hokies, at least in Tyler’s case, have found the cure for boredom. And it had nothing to do with anything on his side of the ball.
It had everything to do with the changes on offense.
“I think we needed the culture shock,” Tyler said of the Hokies bringing in new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler and offensive line coach Jeff Grimes this offseason. “I think we needed to get some more energy and excitement back in the program. It wasn’t really getting stale, but when you hear the same thing over and over from the same coaches, it does get a little stale.”
Suddenly, it isn’t. A third-and-2 play in a spring scrimmage? The offense just might throw a pass. Loeffler hasn’t been here long enough to develop any tendencies, even against a defense it faces every day.
What’s that old Chris Rock line about relationships? If it’s not new, it’s through. Tyler’s relationship — and ostensibly, that of many of his teammates — with the daily grind needed some spice, and got it.
“Practice gets amped up because you really don’t know what’s going to happen next,” Tyler said. “And then when you’re playing with excitement and high energy [on defense], everybody plays like that.”
The first jolt for Tyler came early in spring drills, on a play where he came just a little too close to hitting quarterback Logan Thomas. Tyler ducked under Thomas’ arm like he’d been taught — there was no actual contact — but Loeffler gave him an earful for endangering the prized signal-caller.
Not even Bud Foster does that to Tyler anymore. A fifth-year senior and former walk-on, Tyler has become so respected and trusted by the veteran defensive coordinator that their relationship has evolved into something resembling a father and son. Foster will correct Tyler, but there’s no need for shouting.
Loeffler didn’t care. He shouted.
Tyler loved it.
“You almost need that little bit of yelling still, and Loeffler gave that to me. It was nice,” Tyler said with a grin. “I love him. I really enjoy having him. I think Virginia Tech’s way better off with him.”
You might be wondering why it matters that a defensive player likes an offensive coach. Simple: At Tech, defenders set the tone for everything. And if Tyler, the unquestioned leader of a veteran unit, gives the new guy his seal of approval, the others fall in line.
A self-described “football buff” who aspires to be a coach someday, Tyler talks as freely and eloquently about offense as he does defense. He’s noticed one difference more than any other regarding Loeffler’s attack.
“The tempo,” Tyler said. “I think you need that in college football. You need to be able to speed things up, slow things down. I just think you need to be diverse. I won’t say that we weren’t diverse before, but everybody knew that on third-and-1 we were gonna run the ball. Everybody knew that in second-and-12 we were going to run the ball. Everybody knew what was going to happen next.”
True, but an increased tempo was supposed to be part of last year’s revamped offense, too. What’s the difference this time?
“We ACTUALLY added tempo,” Tyler said. “It’s funny, not even just our practices but our whole offseason training. When you guys see some of our offensive linemen, you’re not even going to recognize them. They’re all lean and fast and cut down on their weight, just because that’s what we’re going to need to do to be successful.
“We’re going to need guys running to the ball, and with the zone scheme, you’re going to have to have more athletic linemen. Just that change, the energy and the excitement in our offseason training has kind of changed the way our offseason is run.”
And added freshness to a program that desperately needed it.
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