Optimism and Virginia Tech football have not gone hand in hand the past few years. In the last four seasons, the Hokies have finished with a losing record three times, and the program has not won a bowl game since beating Arkansas in the 2016 Belk Bowl.
But a new day is dawning in Blacksburg, and with it comes some sunshine. The main impetus for Hokie fans' consternation is no longer a part of the program, allowing a new era to begin. Despite some key personnel losses, Virginia Tech fans should be looking forward to 2022. Here are three reasons why the coming year could be a lot of fun.
1. Brent Pry
Pry's best asset is that he's not Justin Fuente, which is very important to Hokie fans right now. But who he is is much more important than who he is not. Pry showed that at the end of the recruiting cycle when not only was he able to hold on to the previous commits, he also added some key pieces to close out a very good class that finished 34th in the 247Sports Composite team rankings.
The former Penn State defensive coordinator has begun cultivating relationships everywhere, from the Virginia high school coaches to his players and with the supporters of Virginia Tech. While securing top talent is vital, getting those on campus to buy in is equally important. Pry has come to Blacksburg with a plan and a vision that will pay dividends going forward.
2. Experience on defense
In Amaré Barno, Tae Daley, and Jermaine Waller, the Hokies will have to replace three of their primary defensive playmakers. But the team's top four tacklers return along with two key cogs on the defensive line. Linebackers Alan Tisdale and Dax Hollifield have combined to play 80 games in their careers and combined for 176 tackles last season. End TyJuan Garbutt is back for a fifth season and is coming off his best year as a Hokie. In all, five of the top six in tackles for lost yardage will be back.
And this should be perfect for Pry, who got the Virginia Tech job based on his success as the defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Penn State. Along with coordinator Chris Marve and associate head coach J.C. Price, the Hokies should be able to engineer a game plan to improve a defense that has finished in the bottom half of the league in total defense three out of the last four years.
3. New blood on offense
While experience is present on the defense, the other side of the ball will feature a lot of players with little game action at Virginia Tech. But considering the Hokies were 12th in the ACC in total offense and 13th in scoring offense, change could be just the recipe. And it always starts at quarterback. Braxton Burmeister is gone, and his departure may benefit both parties. Connor Blumrick was No. 2 on the depth chart last year, but he is more accomplished running than throwing. In are two transfers, including Grant Wells, who was the starter at Marshall the past two seasons.
The entire offense will have to be overhauled, but there are some exciting options at the skill positions. Malachi Thomas showed considerable promise in 2021 when he totaled 324 rushing yards in consecutive games against Syracuse, Georgia Tech, and Boston College. The staff has high hopes for second-year receivers Da'Wain Lofton, Jaylen Jones, Dallan Wright, and Christian Moss as well as Temple transfer Jadan Blue, who had 95 catches for 1,067 yards in 2019.
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– Written by Jon Kinne, who has been part of the Athlon Contributor Network for three years, covering the ACC and Notre Dame. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.