Preview 2017: Virginia Tech Hokies
Previewing and looking ahead at the Virginia Tech Hokies season – and what you need to know.
What You Need To Know About The Virginia Tech Offense
The offense that was so terrific throughout last year has to undergo an overhaul in the passing game, starting with replacing Jerod Evans, who for some reason thought he was ready for the NFL early, but went undrafted.
Evans picked a bad year to be special in the ACC, not getting much love in a conference with Lamar Jackson, Deshaun Watson and Mitchell Trubisky, but he was good enough to lead the Hokies to within a few defensive stops of a championship. Now there’s a fight to replace him, with several nice options, but with no clear-cut No. 1.
Also gone early are all-star targets Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges – who combined for over 1,700 yards and 14 scores – but Cam Phillips is a terrific receiver to rework the attack around.
The running backs weren’t used enough, but Travon McMillian leads a nice group that should do more to take the pressure off the quarterback – more on that in a moment – behind a fantastic line. The right side needs to be replaced, but Wyatt Teller and the left side should be great.
Biggest Key To The Virginia Tech Offense
The giveaways have to slow down, or stop. The Hokies did their best to keep giving the ball up, killing themselves with five turnovers in the loss to Tennessee, four in the loss to Georgia Tech, and two or more in nine games.
The defense was good enough to pick up the slack more often than not, but the fumbling problems were a disaster at times. However, this is nothing new – Virginia Tech has fewer than 20 turnovers in a season just once since 2011.
What You Need To Know About The Virginia Tech Defense
The defense that finished 18th in the nation and was so special against the pass should be every bit as good, if not better as long as the line isn’t bad.
Three starters are gone from a defensive front that helped generate 32 sacks and a whopping 113 tackles for loss. On the plus side, there’s size ready to literally fill in the gaps – now the front four needs more experience. The top two pass rushers are done, but the Hokie D is able to manufacture pressure from several spots – the production will still be there.
That’s where the linebacking corps comes in. Tremaine Edmunds is an all-star caliber playmaker on the outside, joining leading tackler Andrew Motuapuaka and a slew of good-hitting defensive backs to be great against the run again. In all, eight of the top ten tacklers are back.
The secondary is loaded with fringe NFL talent. The corner rotation of Brandon Facyson, Adonis Alexander and Greg Stroman should be special, while Terrell Edmunds leads a solid group of safeties.
Biggest Key To The Virginia Tech Defense
Can the run defense be a bit more of a rock? The overall stats turned out to be great because of all the sacks and tackles for loss, but there were times when the Hokie front seven got gouged. When it was fantastic – like it was against Miami and Arkansas – the team was able to win without a problem. However, there was a stretch late in the middle of the season when the run D was giving up five yards per crack in three tight wins and a loss to Georgia Tech.
In the nine wins, Tech gave up 11 touchdown runs, and allowed 11 scores in the four losses. The run D struggled in 2015, too, but if it can get back to the level it was at before that, look out.
Virginia Tech Will Be Far Better If …
The running game doesn’t forget about the backs. It was way too easy and convenient to rely on Evans to do everything for the attack, including leading the team with 846 rushing yards and 12 scores. But that meant the running backs got ignored way too often.
Travon McMillian only got 22 carries over the last four games, while Evans was a steady double-digit carry runner, including taking off 21 times against Clemson and 22 in the bowl win over Arkansas.
The line is good, the backs have talent, and now it has to be okay to start spreading the work around a little more – even if the quarterback is as good as Evans.
Best Virginia Tech Offensive Player
OG Wyatt Teller, Sr. – Yeah, it’s hardly fun when the left guard is probably the team’s best offensive player, but Teller is growing into an all-star talent and an interesting pro prospect. The two-year starter isn’t huge and is built more like a tackle at 6-5 and 308 pounds, but he’s a crusher. As long as he can harness his aggressive nature and turn it all from penalties into power, he’ll be the anchor for a great front five.
2. WR Cam Phillips, Sr.
3. OT Yosuah Nijman, Jr.
4. C Eric Gallo, Sr.
5. RB Travon McMillian, Jr.
Best Virginia Tech Defensive Player
LB Tremaine Edmunds, Jr. – Andrew Motuapuaka is the team’s leading returning tackler, but Edmunds wasn’t far behind with 106 stops with 4.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss – it seemed like he was always in the backfield.
Out of central casting, the 6-5, 236-pounder is built like a hybrid pass rusher, with defensive back quickness in the body of an NFL linebacker. Steady, he produced seemingly every game fro his outside spot, and now he’ll be turned loose even more.
2. LB Andrew Motuapuaka, Sr.
3. CB Brandon Facyson, Sr.
4. CB Adonis Alexander, Jr.
5. S Terrell Edmunds, Jr.
Key Player To A Successful Season
QB Josh Jackson, RFr. – This could’ve been such a special season if Jerod Evans had stuck around for another year, but the offense has to keep on rolling without the undrafted free agent/Philadelphia Eagle. Now – maybe – it’s up to 6-1, 211-pound Jackson to go from being a top-shelf dual-threat option to the main man who can pick up the slack after the Hokies lost the team’s leading rusher and playmaker.
Nebraska & JUCO transfer A.J. Bush is a 6-4, 219-pound bomber who’ll get every shot to win the gig, and freshman Hendon Hooker might be too talented to not be considered. Even former Kansas starter Ryan Willis is in the hunt for the gig in an open casting call that’ll go on through the summer. But it’s Jackson who has the inside track to be Justin Fuente’s quarterback.
The Virginia Tech Season Will Be A Success If …
Win the Coastal again. It’s not going to be a breeze with all the personnel turnover and with so many strong teams in the division, but the schedule isn’t all that bad and the team has enough returning talent to be in the mix.
Having to face Clemson from the Atlantic stinks, but there’s no Florida State or Louisville to deal with. Win at home, and everything should be just fine with a shot at taking down the division with a win over …
Key Game To The Virginia Tech Season
Nov. 4 at Miami – The Hokies get most of the tough ACC games at home – Clemson, North Carolina, Pitt – but after a nice run of ACC home games playing three in four in Lane Stadium, then they have to go to work.
It starts at Miami with Georgia Tech the following week, with a win over the Canes a likely must to have any real hope of taking down the Coastal. Lose, and then beating that Yellow Jacket option offense late in the season is a must before dealing with Pitt. The Hokies beat Miami 37-18 last year.
2016 Virginia Tech Fun Stats
– Field Goals: Virginia Tech 20-of-28 – Opponents 11-of-16
– 3rd Down Conversions: Virginia Tech 90-of-212 (42%) – Opponents 56-of-204 (27%)
– Fumbles: Virginia Tech 32 (lost 18) – Opponents 21 (lost 9)