ACC Nation Football Preview
Editor’s note – It’s kickoff week and no better time to take another look at all the teams in the ACC Nation Football Preview. Will Ojanen takes a look at a team that many expect to take the Coastal, the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Year one under Justin Fuente was an undeniable success. The Hokies won the ACC Coastal and nearly beat eventual national champion Clemson in the ACC Championship Game.
A win in their bowl game secured the Hokies first 10 win season since 2011. But what’s in store for year two? (Download the 2017 Virginia Tech Hokie Football Media Guide)
ACC Nation Football Preview – Where Will The Points Come From?
The left side of the offensive line is solid. Senior Wyatt Teller and junior Yosuah Nijman are set at guard and tackle, and senior Eric Gallo is set at center. But the right side will be brand new in 2017. Look for junior Braxton Pfaff to be the favorite to start at right guard and for Parker Osterloh to be the favorite at right tackle.
The Hokies lost a lot of rushing yards from last season with the departure of quarterback Jerod Evans and fullback Sam Rogers. Their top running back, Travon McMillian does return. The junior rushed for 671 yards and seven touchdowns last season, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. After that, there is not much experience at running back. The next most carries among running backs had 16 carries last year. There will be a competition between Steven Peoples, D.J. Reid, and Deshawn McClease for carries when McMillian is not on the field.
Quarterback will be a bit of an unknown going in to the season. Redshirt freshman, Josh Jackson is the likely favorite to start. He is a dual threat quarterback who is a good fit for this offense. His backup will be junior A.J. Bush, who played at the JUCO level last year.
While the Hokies lost some key weapons on offense, senior Cam Phillips is still around and figures to be the go to pass catcher. Phillips caught 76 passes for 983 yards last season. No one else returning caught more than 18 passes last year. C.J. Carroll, Eric Kumah, and Henri Murphy are the only other receivers on the roster with any game experience. At tight end, Chris Cunningham caught six passes as a backup and will definitely see an increased role in the offense this season.
ACC Nation Football Preview – One Question But Lot’s Of Answers
Defensively, the biggest question will be the line. There is not much starting experience up front, aside from defensive end Vinny Mahota. There are some good players back including defensive tackle Tim Settle, who could be in for a breakout season and junior Ricky Walker, but there are depth concerns here.
In recent years, linebacker has been one of the weakest spots on the Virginia Tech defense, but that won’t be the case this year. In this 4-2-5 defensive scheme, the linebackers are asked to do a lot, but Andrew Motuapaka and Tremaine Edmunds were definitely up to the task last season. The duo were 1-2 in tackles last year and Motuapaka was among the team leaders in interceptions. Edmunds was tied for the team lead in tackles for loss with 18.5, including 4.5 sacks.
The secondary is one of the best in the ACC. The Hokies allowed just 18 passing touchdowns last season and the 16 interceptions were second most in the ACC. Four of the five starters return, led by senior Brandon Facyson, who has been a very good player throughout his career. Junior Mook Reynolds finished fifth on the team in tackles with 64 and had 9.5 tackle for loss, along with six pass breakups, so he literally can do everything for the defense. Terrell Edmunds at safety is one of the best in the conference and flies under the radar a little bit because of who else is in the conference at that position.
ACC Nation Football Preview – Can They Deliver?
Special teams is a little bit iffy. Kicker Joey Slye was automatic from inside 40 yards on field goals (19-20), but was 1-7 from beyond 40 yards. There will be a new punter this year in Australian freshman Oscar Bradburn. The return game will be strong as Greg Stroman will handle both. Stroman is a better punt returner than a kick returner. He had an 87 yard punt return for touchdown last season.
ACC Nation Football Preview – Is A Repeat In The Cards?
While there are some questions in some key parts on the Hokies, namely quarterback, the right side of the offensive line, and depth on the defensive line, the talent and coaching is there for them to have a shot at repeating as Coastal division champs this year.
The Hokies kick off their season against West Virginia at FedEx Field in Landover, MD, Sunday, September 3. The game will be televised on ABC beginning at 7:30p E. (The 2017 Virginia Tech Hokie Football Schedule)
ACC Nation Football Preview
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