Which newcomers could make an impact in Blacksburg next year?
The first year of the Justin Fuente era at Virginia Tech was a rousing success. But now the Hokies have to replace several of the stars that carried much of the weight this past fall.
It starts at quarterback where Jerod Evans unexpectedly decided to forgo his final season in Blacksburg in pursuit of NFL riches. There are also some receiver slots open with Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges off to the next level as well. And up front on defense, Woddy Baron was a force that will be missed.
But with a strong recruiting class signed this past week along with a few promising redshirt freshmen chomping at the bit, Virginia Tech has some quality new options.
Here are five players that have never played at Lane Stadium that could make a mark for the Hokies in 2017.
(In alphabetical order)
Jerrod Hewitt, DT, Redshirt Freshman
Hewiit was a relatively unheralded recruit coming out of Venice, Fla., who had just a few other FBS offers. But ever since enrolling in January of 2016, the 6-foot-1, 299-pounder has impressed. He could be a valuable third tackle behind Tim Settle and Ricky Walker.
Devon Hunter, S, Freshman
With Chuck Clark out of eligibility, there is a huge opening at safety. Hunter was ranked as the nation’s third best safety in the 247Sports Composite Rankings and has all the tools to be an impact player right from the start.
Josh Jackson, QB, Redshirt Freshman
Jackson will have competition as true freshman Hendon Hooker and junior college recruit A.J. Bush are already on campus and ready to battle this spring. But Jackson gave Evans a run for his money before last season and has to be considered the odds-on favorite to be the starting quarterback when the Hokies play West Virginia to open the 2017 season.
Dalton Keene, TE, Freshman
There will be opportunities for pass catchers and the Littleton, Colo., product has enrolled and will participate in spring drills. He is a talented athlete that projects as a hybrid tight end/wide receiver prospect despite playing mostly running back and linebacker in high school.
Khalil Ladler, CB, Redshirt Freshman
The cornerback depth chart is pretty loaded, but Ladler is too skilled to keep on the bench. Virginia Tech’s highest-rated high school prospect in the Class of 2016 has added needed weight and now is physically ready to match up against ACC receivers.
— 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.
(Top photo courtesy of www.HokieSports.com)