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UVa. out to test No. 6 Va. Tech
Cavaliers deep on offensive line and in backfield
BLACKSBURG, Va. — No. 6 Virginia Tech’s defense is preparing for a physical game Saturday at No. 24 Virginia.
The Cavaliers are experienced and strong up front, and they have a couple of game-changing backs to complement an efficient passing attack led by sophomore quarterback Michael Rocco.
“I think that obviously their offensive line and their backs, to me, are the strength of their football team offensively,” Tech defensive line coach Charley Wiles said. “I would think they would want to hammer us.”
The 5-foot-8, 185-pound Jones is the Cavaliers’ leading rusher with 870 yards and five touchdowns. The junior is the team’s second-leading receiver with 41 catches for 416 yards and three touchdowns.
Parks, a 5-foot-8, 195-pound redshirt freshman, has 644 rushing yards and a school freshman record eight touchdowns. He also has nine catches for 84 yards and a touchdown.
“They like to hide behind their blockers sometimes, act like they want to chop and then get out [in space],” Hokies linebacker Tariq Edwards said.
It will be Edwards‘ job on most downs to cover Virginia’s tailbacks out of the backfield. Jones is an especially scary matchup. He caught nine passes for 62 yards and a touchdown in the Cavaliers’ 14-13 win at Florida State last Saturday.
“He catches a lot of balls out of the backfield, and they like to isolate him on linebackers and whoever,” Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “I think that’s one area we’ve improved ourselves with Tariq Edwards.
“Obviously, we’ll do some things in some passing situations where we’ve got to be aware of [Jones], because he’s a dynamic player.”
Jones and Parks are big threats in the run game, as well. The two have paced a rushing attack that has gained 1,954 yards through 11 games this season. UVa. rushed for only 1,672 yards in 12 games last year.
Much of the credit for the Cavaliers’ rushing success this year goes to their seasoned offensive line.
UVa. has started the same five offensive linemen in all 11 games, and that continuity has led to success. The Cavaliers rank third in the ACC with a 177.6 rushing average, and they have allowed a conference-low 11 sacks.
“They’re nasty, to be completely honest with you, in a good way, if you were coaching them,” Wiles said. “They play to the whistle. We know what we’re getting ready to get into, and we’ve got to be physical as well.”
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