For the last few years, defense has carried Virginia Tech.

Now it's time for the offense to return the favor.

It's hard to remember a Tech attack with so much firepower. Frank Moseley never had anything like this. Neither did Jerry Claiborne. Or Jimmy Sharpe. For sure Bill Dooley never did. Even the Don Strock teams under Charlie Coffey lacked the running backs that the 2010 Hokies possess.

Let us count the blessings:

The Hokies are so loaded that they're contemplating a redshirt for the state's top player in 2008, tailback David Wilson.

How good can this attack be? Better than Michael Vick's 1999 offense that finished the regular season ranked ninth in total offense at 451.82 yards per game?

"I'm very guarded about using terms like 'loaded' and 'great,'" offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring says. "I think those terms should be set aside after you've achieved something."

Also, this excitement should be tempered by a sobering fact: Despite good talent on paper, the Hokies offense struggled to gain yards from 2006 until the last five games of 2009.

The numbers are brutal. From 2006-08, Tech had an average total offense ranking of 101. Keep in mind there are only 120 FBS (Division I-A) teams.

Last year Tech finished No. 50. But in the last five games of 2009, Tech averaged 436 yards per game. Over the course of a season, that figure would've been good for No. 15 in the country.

Some might argue those numbers came against a slate of slouch defensive teams, but that's not really true. Three of them came against teams among the top half nationally in total defense. The breakdown:

For the record, Georgia Tech was No. 54, Duke No. 61 and Marshall No. 66.

In their first eight games the Hokies faced three top 10 defenses (No. 2 Alabama, No. 6 North Carolina and No. 7 Nebraska) and five Top 30 defenses (Boston College finished No. 26, Miami No. 29).

Frank Beamer has to feel vindicated by this strong finish, since he stuck with Stinespring when a vocal chunk of the Hokie Nation clamored for a change. It got so bad that someone created a website and Twitter feed advocating Stinespring's dismissal.

Was the criticism justified? You can talk to fans of just about every team, and unless they won the national championship, they're going to pound their fists in frustration over their team's play calling. I have a friend who is a Florida Gator fan, and he ripped coordinator Steve Addazio all season. The Gators finished sixth in the nation in total offense and fifth in the final BCS standings.

But there's no denying it; from the time quarterbacks coach Kevin Rogers left after the 2005 season to join the Minnesota Vikings up until about the middle of last season, the Hokies' offense -- for whatever reason -- was a liability.

It wasn't like Tech didn't have any talent on those teams, either. Players like Eddie Royal, Brandon Frye, David Clowney, Justin Harper, Josh Morgan and Duane Brown were all NFL draftees. So fans were left to wonder if it the scheme was to blame. That's a topic for football gurus to argue. But to a layman's eye, it's fair to say the offense lacked an identity. It tried a little bit of this, a little bit of that, never to consistent effect.

When things went wrong, the offense's troubles were almost always blamed on a lack of execution. Oftentimes, it was just one or two players who failed in their assignment. Was it simple human error? Were the Hokies spending too much time during the week emphasizing defense and special teams instead of offense? Did the offense not have enough repetitions to perfect all of its plays? Were there too many plays in the playbook?

The point is, Tech's problems might have been far more complex than simply the play-calling.

But as the 2009 season progressed the offense gained an identity as a tough, smash-mouth running team that could throw the ball effectively enough to keep teams honest.

It culminated in a balanced 438-yard effort against Tennessee in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The Volunteers had two defenders (Eric Berry and Dan Williams) taken in the first round of the NFL draft. And their defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin, was an NFL coaching veteran, one of the shrewdest defensive minds in the game. But the Hokies gained 229 yards rushing and 209 passing.

The signature drive of the season came in the third quarter. On an eight-play, 74-yard scoring march, Stinespring called tailback Ryan Williams' number seven consecutive times. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor finished the drive with a quarterback sneak, another smart call. It put the Hokies up 24-14. Tech won the game 37-14. Soon after, UT head coach Lane Kiffin Knoxville left for Southern California.

The way the offense finished the 2009 season, a coach would be foolish to shake things up. And Frank Beamer's no fool.

What he is, is loyal. If you criticize Stinespring, then you criticize Frank Beamer. Georgia Tech's Paul Johnson can win the ACC title and still fire his defensive coordinator, but Beamer doesn't roll like that.

Everybody in Blacksburg knows offense must come through now. It can't rely on a defense that must replace nine key contributors. At least early in the season, a No. 50-ranked attack won't be good enough to beat a high-powered team like Boise State.

Stinespring knows this. This summer, Rogers returned to Blacksburg. He and the Tech staff holed up in day-long meetings for three days in late May, brainstorming. Stinespring called it the best three-day session his staff ever spent.

Can the Tech offense continue its renaissance? Stinespring, Tyrod, Williams and Co. have some momentum going, and it's going to interesting to see how they take it to the next level in 2010.

WHAT HAS US EXCITED:  The offense showed vast improvement in the last five games of 2009 - and looks ready to continue that success in 2010.

WHAT WORRIES US:  With so much talent, will the Hokies try to do too much and get bitten by the "lack of execution" bug again?