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July 11, 2013Sign-up for HokieHaven.com Wireless Text Alerts sent right to your cell phone!
After a 7-6 campaign that marked Virginia Tech's least successful season in over 20 years, the pressure is on the Hokies to pick the program back up and restore it to where it was before last season.
Virginia Tech hired three new assistant coaches in January as a step towards getting back, but it will be on the players to control what happens on the field.
In preparation for what will be an important 2013 campaign, we cast our votes for the 13 most important players to a successful season. This includes all aspects of the game, both offensively and defensively, but also special teams, like kicking and return.
Players received 13 points for each first place vote, 12 points for each second place vote, etc. In a case of a tie, the players voted on by more staff members won the tie-breaker. If both players had been voted on by the same number of staff members, the next tie-breaker is which player had the highest vote by a staff member.
We continue our countdown at No. 3 with center Andrew Miller.
Jason Stamm, publisher
There's a new offensive coordinator, a new outlook on offense and what Virginia Tech hopes is a rejuvenated Logan Thomas at quarterback.
But whether it's running the ball or throwing it, the offensive line is where it begins. The line has to get Thomas more protection and keep him from taking a pounding, plus help pave more room to jump start the ground game.
And it all begins with Miller, the captain of that line.
Miller is the grizzled (literally, with his beard) veteran whose job is to make the right calls at center. He'll be counted on to bring the group together as well.
The senior to be fractured his left leg in the seventh game of the season, against Duke and was out the rest of the season. Since graduated lineman Michael Via filled in, but wasn't up to the same level of Miller.
Since offensive line coach Jeff Grimes arrived in January, he's been adamant on what he's looking for: tough, hard-working linemen with a high-motor. Miller returned this spring and throughout spring practice, he was one Grimes was the most impressed with.
Miller will need to keep up that level this season and if he can stay healthy, he should make a big difference for the offense.
Doug Bowman, senior writer
Every good offensive line needs an anchor, and for Grimes, Miller is that anchor in 2013. When he went down with an ankle injury in 2012, it began a long shuffle and mix-and-match that continued through the rest of the season.
It doesn't really matter whether Miller plays guard or center, he's still going to be the toughest and grittiest lineman out there. And that is exactly the kind of leadership the Hokies need up front right now.
Assuming he avoids any more serious injuries, I expect Miller to be an All-ACC caliber lineman this season.
Mike Stancik, staff writer
When a new offensive line coach (Grimes) comes on campus and says he wants to develop the "toughest line in the ACC", he needs an upperclassman to lean on. That player has to create a smooth transition and establish a new mindset amongst the younger players. Luckily for Grimes, Miller is the perfect guy for the job.
The hard-nosed senior has started 21 games (33 played) for the Hokies in his time in Blacksburg. He's the unquestionable leader of an offensive line that underachieved in 2012, and must lead the way if the ground attack is to succeed.
As the center, Miller is the one who will be making the majority of the line calls and quick adjustments at the line. He's also extremely important regarding his shotgun snaps, which will likely be the majority of the time. Being the point of attack in short-yardage running situations also adds to the vital importance of Miller.
The third most crucial player on our list might not have the same individual pressure of his performance as the top two, but he has the most pressure in terms of leading an entire group and establishing a new culture.