The college football season can’t come soon enough. With every season comes new faces and possibilities. Who will be the teams to watch out for this season? This will be the seventh of many posts covering the top 25 teams in the country and will cover no. 19 Virginia Tech Hokies.
Justin Fuente has done wonders in his first two seasons in Blacksburg. He has a 19-8 record for the Hokies and they went 9-4 last season. They lost a lot of talent to the NFL, but have a team that can still compete in the ACC Coastal Division.
The offense was the weaker side of the ball for the Hokies, as they finished 69th in points per game. Their passing and rushing offenses were about equally effective, ranking 57th and 54th in the country respectively. They lost four starters from last year’s team, but should be able to do solidly this season.
Josh Jackson is going to be the quarterback once again, even though there were some concerns about his academic eligibility earlier in the summer. He had a good freshman season, throwing for 2,991 yards, 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Jackson also had 324 rushing yards and six scores on the ground. He’ll be expected to improve in his second year under center.
Cam Phillips is now in the NFL, but Jackson will still have a few solid receivers to throw to. Sean Savoy is small in stature at 5-foot-9 and 190 pounds, but picks up yardage catching passes and on the ground. Wide receiver Eric Kumah and tight end Dalton Keene both got their feet wet last season in terms of production, but will be asked to do more, with Phillips gone.
The offensive line didn’t do the greatest job last season, as Jackson was constantly under pressure. Wyatt Teller was selected in the NFL Draft, but they have the veterans to improve in their pass and run blocking for 2018.
Running backs Deshawn McClease and Jalen Holston will provide a good combo in the backfield after the graduation of Travon McMillan. McClease has had injury issues over his career, but when healthy can be productive. For runners with over 40 attempts last season, he had the best yards per carry at 4.9. Holston rushed for 226 yards and three scores last year as a freshman.
The offensive line needs to put up more of a fight. If they keep Jackson clean, this offense will surprise some people this season.
The Hokies have a lot of NFL players that were on last year’s defense. These players were: Tremaine Edmunds, Terrell Edmunds, Adonis Alexander, Brandon Facyson, Tim Settle, Greg Stroman and Andrew Motuapuaka. That’s a lot to replace. It is unlikely they rank fourth in scoring, 15th against the run and 33rd against the pass again, so defensive coordinator Bud Foster has his work cut out for him.
The defensive line has the most experience with three returning starters back. Defensive end Trevon Hill and defensive tackle Ricky Walker are the two players that have produced the most with 22 tackles for loss and 10 sacks between the two of them last season.
There is not really much experience returning at linebacker. Rayshard Ashby and Dylan Rivers will be asked to do a lot during their first seasons in the starting lineup.
Mook Reynolds and Reggie Floyd both were impactful last season from the secondary. Reynolds had 70 total tackles with nine coming for a loss. Floyd had 72 total tackles and three interceptions. Their secondary was left a little thin by Adonis Alexander, who decided to enter the NFL Supplemental Draft after being deemed ineligible for the season academically.
Foster is one of the best in the business, so some credit needs to be given to the defense, but they will not be anywhere close to as good as they were last season.
Outside the ACC, Virginia Tech plays William & Mary (home), East Carolina (home) Old Dominion (away) and Notre Dame (home). Notre Dame will be a tough game, even at home, but they should be able to win the other games pretty easily.
Their toughest games in conference are against Florida State (away), Georgia Tech (home) and Miami (home). They avoid Clemson in the crossover with the Atlantic Division, which is a huge plus.
While the team won’t be as good as last year, the schedule will allow them to win eight to 10 games.
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