Quarterback Josh Jackson's continued development will be key to the Hokies' outlook for next season
The past two months haven’t been filled with good news for the Virginia Tech football team. November featured four rather uninspiring performances which led into the Camping World Bowl loss to Oklahoma State. Then, defensive tackle Tim Settle and both Edmunds brothers (linebacker Tremaine, defensive back Terrell) declared for the NFL draft — although it appears that defensive back Adonis Alexander will return — creating some voids on the defensive side of the ball heading into the spring.
But the Hokies followed up their 10-win 2016 with a nine-win campaign in head coach Justin Fuente’s second season. As a result, there is some basis for optimism in 2018 and here are three reasons why Tech fans should look forward to next year.
1. The potential of the younger players
Quarterback Josh Jackson was up and down this fall, but he was just a redshirt freshman. Should he not develop as expected, Fuente has a couple of exciting options in freshman Hendon Hooker and recent signee Quincy Patterson. Sean Savoy (above, right) will become the team’s top pass-catching option as a sophomore after a productive first year and will hopefully be aided by Caleb Farley, who was injured last August before ever playing a game. On defense, there are a lot of holes to fill but Jaylen Griffin, Rico Kearney, Devon Hunter, and other members of the solid 2017 recruiting class are looking to make an impact going forward.
2. Bud Foster is still the defensive coordinator
The three — and possibly four — early departures, combined with the exits of seniors Andrew Motuapuaka, Brandon Facyson, and Greg Stroman, will present some challenges for Foster. But it’s not like he hasn’t been through this before. And it’s not like the Hokies don’t return some talented defenders. Ricky Walker comes back on the interior of the defensive line and he will be joined up front by emerging end Trevon Hill and the hopefully healthy Vinny Mihota. Defensive backs Mook Reynolds and Reggie Floyd (and presumably Alexander) have plenty of experience and they will be supplemented by athletic underclassmen. With these parts in place, Foster should be able to once again construct a formidable defense.
3. Running game potential
While Fuente is known for his work with quarterbacks, his success at Memphis came when the Tigers developed a viable running game. That is an area where the Hokies could see improvement in 2018. Sophomore DeShawn McClease ran for 124 yards against Oklahoma State in the bowl game and ended the season as Virginia Tech’s leading rusher. He will enter fall atop the depth chart he also will have support from rising sophomore Jalen Holston and the experienced Steven Peoples. The offensive line will have to be reconstructed, but the return of left tackle Yosuah Nijman from injury will help.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.