New coach Justin Fuente has some big shoes to fill in replacing Frank Beamer on the Virginia Tech sideline. Defense has always been a staple for the Hokies, but the offense must make strides for Virginia Tech to be a serious ACC contender. The good news for the Hokies? Fuente has a good track record of success on that side of the ball, and junior college recruit Jerod Evans could provide a spark under center. The ACC Coastal is unpredictable, but if Virginia Tech can fill a couple of voids on both sides of the ball, contending for the division title isn't out of the question.
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Previewing Virginia Tech’s Offense
It’s a new day on offense in Blacksburg, as new coach Justin Fuente brings his up-tempo, spread offense with him from Memphis. It’ll take Fuente time to build the personnel to fit his preferred style of play, but the Hokies have some pretty impressive pieces in place.
Travon McMillian ran for 1,000 yards last season in his first year as a tailback, getting the lion’s share of carries beginning only in mid-October. Do-everything fullback Sam Rogers can fill many roles in the offense. Tech’s top three pass catchers are as good as anyone in the ACC, with receivers Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips and tight end Bucky Hodges all returning. Ford’s poised to break all of the school’s receiving records, and the 6'7", 245-pound Hodges opted to come back to school instead of declaring for the NFL.
A veteran offensive line has four players returning who have started a combined 89 games in their careers, led by powerful guards Wyatt Teller and Augie Conte, two legitimate All-ACC candidates.
The big question is quarterback, where Jerod Evans, the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat junior college quarterback, is battling fifth-year senior Brenden Motley for the job. Fuente and his staff originally recruited Evans to be Paxton Lynch’s successor at Memphis, considering him a perfect fit for the spread.
Previewing Virginia Tech’s Defense
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The defense hit its roughest patch in Bud Foster’s 20 years as a coordinator last season, with injuries, youth and attrition contributing to a down year. The Hokies allowed 26.3 points, 369.8 total yards and 180.7 rushing yards per game, all highs in the Foster era. Their 26 sacks and 10 interceptions were the team’s lowest since Foster assumed defensive coordinator duties in 1995.
Foster hopes that establishing continuity on defense, re-focusing on fundamentals and incorporating fresh ideas from new assistant coaches will right the ship. End Ken Ekanem (14 sacks the last two years) and tackle Woody Baron highlight a deep defensive line.
The linebackers are a question mark, with Foster hoping that Andrew Motuapuaka makes a leap in his second year as a starter and that 6'5" sophomore Tremaine Edmunds can slide into the backer role.
The aim of the secondary is to put players at one position and let them develop instead of constantly shuffling things around. Free safety Chuck Clark and cornerback Brandon Facyson are mainstays, but rover Terrell Edmunds, cornerbacks Adonis Alexander and Greg Stroman and nickel back Mook Reynolds are trying to settle into their positions. There’s talent on this side of the ball, and Foster has a two-decade track record of putting standout units on the field. It might just need time to jell.
Previewing Virginia Tech’s Specialists
Beamer Ball is over, although its spirit remains under new special teams coordinator James Shibest, who ran some of the best units in the country at Memphis. Kicker Joey Slye was 23-of-27 on field goals inside 50 yards last year. Stroman’s a gamebreaker on punt returns.
For the first time in three decades, a new coach will patrol the sideline in Blacksburg. Fuente succeeds the venerable Frank Beamer, a future College Football Hall of Famer who retired after winning 238 games in 29 seasons with Virginia Tech. There’s no question the Hokies needed a jolt, however. Tech was 29–23 overall the last four years and a .500 team in ACC play, so a return to prominence might not be instantaneous.
But in Fuente, Virginia Tech hopes it found a path to the future that doesn’t forget its past. The 39-year-old brings with him from Memphis a spread offense that’ll catch the Hokies up with the rest of the college football world. In keeping long-time Beamer aide Foster on defense, the Hokies eventually hope to have the best of both worlds.