Hokies’ Wilson earns high marks

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As if running back David Wilson’s performance in Virginia Tech’s 66-13 season-opening win Saturday over Appalachian State wasn’t impressive enough, Hokies coach Frank Beamer said Monday that Wilson was credited with 15 broken tackles during the staff’s grading of the film.

“Coach Hite feels like that’s a record around here,” Beamer said, referring to Billy Hite, who was Tech’s running backs coach from 1980 to 2010, before moving into an administrative role.

In his debut as Tech’s top tailback, Wilson had 16 carries for 162 yards and three touchdowns.

The film grading also revealed positive results for the offensive line. All five starters graded at least 80 percent, which line coach Curt Newsome considers a winning performance. The high graders were new center Andrew Miller and senior right tackle Blake DeChristopher. Each graded 91 percent. Miller had a team-best five knockdown blocks.

On the negative side, the coaches attributed four of quarterback Logan Thomas’ 10 incomplete passes to dropped balls.

Just like Appalachian State coach Jerry Moore, East Carolina’s Ruffin McNeill, in his second year with the Pirates, decided to switch from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 in the offseason.

The Pirates last season ranked last nationally in yards allowed per game (478.8) and second-to-last in points allowed per game (44). They lost their opener 56-37 to South Carolina, but gave up only 351 yards to one of the better teams in the Southeastern Conference.

Of the eight touchdowns East Carolina allowed, one came on a fumble return and one on a punt return. Four others came after the Gamecocks got the ball in promising field position - at or inside the East Carolina 41-yard line - after turnovers by East Carolina’s offense (three fumbles and one interception).

“We put our defense in tough situations,” McNeill said. “The score was not indicative, I think, of how we played. I was pleased with our [defensive] progress. We’re not there yet by any means. There’s no magical potion or Harry Potter wand I can wave to get them there quicker.”

The 3-4 makes sense for the Pirates, because their league, Conference USA, is known for passing-focused offenses.

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