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Virginia Tech Hokies 2016 Team Awards


Despite losing to Clemson 42-35 in the ACC Championship Game, 2016 was a very successful year forVirginia Tech. Forget the 9-4 record, which in and of itself is pretty good. New head coach Justin Fuente came in and changed the culture of the program while still embracing the past. Doing those two things in concert was not easy and should be celebrated.

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Offensive MVP: Jerod Evans, QB

Changing the culture at Virginia Tech really meant changing the offense and that started when Fuente convinced Evans to come to Blacksburg. A perfect fit in the new Hokie system, the junior college transfer from Dallas threw for 3,303 yards and 27 touchdowns while running for 759 yards and 10 more scores. As a result, a Virginia Tech team that ranked 74th in total offense in 2015 stands at No. 42 going into the bowl games.

Defensive MVP: Tremaine Edmunds, LB

Woody Baron had a big year at defensive tackle, leading the team with 17.5 tackles for lost yardage. But from beginning to end, Edmunds made plays. He finished second on the team in tackles with 99 and his 17 tackles for lost yardage were right behind Baron. He also tied with Baron for second with 4.5 sacks and had a big game against Clemson on Saturday with 12 total tackles. Only a sophomore, his days of terrorizing ACC opponents are just beginning.

Best Freshman: Trevon Hill, DE

The redshirt freshman from Virginia Beach got into the rotation on the defensive line and made an impact. He had 33 tackles, with five of those resulting in 18 lost yards. He also had a sack and a half. With Ken Ekanem out of eligibility after the Belk Bowl, Hill’s role will expand next season.

Best Play of the Season: Woody Baron Fumble Recovery Against North Carolina

After North Carolina got the ball to start the second half down 13-3, Tar Heels quarterback Mitch Trubisky fumbled and Baron picked up the ball and ran to the UNC 22-yard line. On the next play, Evans hit Sam Rogers for a score and a 17-point lead. The win over North Carolina was the biggest Coastal Division victory of the year and Baron’s fumble recovery put the game away.

Best Performance By a Player in 2016: Woody Baron vs. Miami

The Hurricanes are thrilled that they will never have to face Baron again. The senior from Nashville dominated the line of scrimmage that Thursday night, totaling four and a half tackles for lost yardage and two and a half sacks. Several other Tech defenders had big numbers that night and much of that was result of Baron’s constant pressure.

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Best Game (Team Performance): 34-3 Win at North Carolina

Played in the midst of Hurricane Matthew, it was not a pretty game. Statistically, Jerod Evans had his poorest passing performance of the year. But Virginia Tech ran the ball well enough and the defense forced four turnovers to give the Hokies their most important victory of the season.

Defining Moment: Fighting Clemson to the Bitter End

This Virginia Tech team had some dud performances. The Syracuse game following the win in Chapel Hill was a stinker. So was the Georgia Tech loss and the start of the Notre Dame game. But the Hokies never stopped battling. They rallied to win at Notre Dame and for a while it looked like they would do the same against Clemson. Down 21 points late in the third quarter, the Hokies could have packed it in. But led by its determined quarterback, Virginia Tech had the ball deep in Clemson territory at the end with a chance to tie it up. That comeback – and the one in South Bend – showed the character of this team.

Biggest Surprise: Vinny Mihota, DE

The success of Virginia Tech has been based on everyone improving what they did last year. No one has come from completely out of nowhere, but Mihota made a significant jump as a redshirt sophomore. In 2015, the Fredericksburg, Va., product had just 12 tackles. But this fall, Mihota started all 13 games, had 43 tackles, seven for lost yardage, and two sacks. Despite problems with both shoulders, he deflected a couple of Deshaun Watson passes in key spots in the ACC title game.

Biggest Disappointment: Ball Security

When Virginia Tech struggled, giveaways were a big factor. Five fumbles led to a loss in the “Battle at Bristol” to Tennessee after jumping out to an early 14-0 lead. The Hokies lost the turnover battle to Syracuse. And they were minus-three in turnover margin in the Georgia Tech game. Even against Clemson, Jerod Evans’ two interceptions were big. The Hokies were adapting to a completely new offense this season, but without the turnovers Justin Fuente’s team would likely be an in even better bowl situation.

Senior That Will Be Missed the Most Next Season: Ken Ekanem, DE

There is no question that Virginia Tech will have trouble replacing defensive tackle Woody Baron inside, but the pass rush provided by Ekanem will be tough to replicate. A seasoned veteran, Ekanem knew the intricacies of the defensive end position and was someone that could get after the quarterback. Trevon Hill should improve and slide into a starting role at this position. But for a team that was average at rushing the passer, losing your top sack specialist is not ideal.

Player to Watch in 2017: Tim Settle, DT

A highly coveted prospect out of Manassas, Va., Settle contributed to the Hokies this season after redshirting in 2015. With Woody Baron moving on, Settle will be counted on as a major contributor along the defensive line next fall. In his third year in Bud Foster’s system, Settle should be ready to emerge as a consistent force in 2017.

Biggest Offseason Question Mark: Running Game

The Hokies did average 185 rushing yards per game on the ground, but quarterback Jerod Evans was responsible for a big chunk of that yardage. Travon McMillian, after rushing for 1,043 yards in 2015, slipped to just 637 yards. With Virginia Tech having to replace multiple-year starters Augie Conte and Jonathan McLaughlin along the offensive line, a clear priority this offseason is finding ways to get more production out of the running backs in 2017.

— 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.

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