On Nov. 4, Virginia Tech was 7-1 and holding onto dreams of both an ACC title and a spot in the College Football Playoff. But the big loss to Miami was followed by a tough setback against Georgia Tech. The Hokies ended the season with two wins, but both were of the ugly variety.
But a second straight 9-3 season isn’t something to be dismissed, especially after suffering heavy personnel losses on the offensive side of the ball following last year. There was a lot of good this fall and here are some awards that highlight Virginia Tech’s 2017 season.
Offensive MVP: Cam Phillips, WR
After the departure of Bucky Hodges and Isaiah Ford from the 2016 ACC Coastal Championship team, Phillips (above, right) was the only pass catcher returning with meaningful experience. And he did not disappoint, earning first-team All-ACC honors by recording 71 receptions for 964 yards and seven touchdowns. Perhaps even more importantly, he was a leader for the younger members of the receiving corps. Phillips will miss the Camping World Bowl against Oklahoma State on Dec. 28 after undergoing sports hernia surgery. He will finish his career as Virginia Tech's all-time leader in receptions (236) and receiving yards (3,027).
Defensive MVP: Tremaine Edmunds, LB
The junior from Danville, Virginia, closed the season in fine fashion with two sacks and three tackles for a loss in the 10-0 win over Virginia. Edmunds' solid season — and especially strong second half — led to a third-place finish in the Butkus Award voting, which was won by Roquan Smith of Georgia.
Best Freshman: Josh Jackson, QB
Wide receiver Sean Savoy had a nice first season for the Hokies, but it was the guy throwing him the ball that deserves the award as best freshman (redshirt). He wasn’t perfect and his numbers sagged in conference play, but head coach Justin Fuente is happy to have Jackson as his quarterback for the foreseeable future.
Best Play of the Season: Reggie Floyd Tackle of Pittsburgh’s Jester Weah
With Pittsburgh down 20-14 and facing a 4th-and-4 at their own 25-yard line with a minute left, Panthers quarterback Kenny Pickett hit Weah for a first down. The Pittsburgh wideout broke a tackle and charged down the sideline towards the end zone. Floyd, a safety, chased Weah down and tackled him at 1-yard line. Floyd’s effort went from a meaningless tackle to a game-saving play when the Hokies stuffed the Panthers on four plays — with the final try coming as time expired — to come away victorious.
Best Performance by a Player in 2017: Tim Settle/Ricky Walker vs. Boston College
Cam Phillips set a school record with 14 catches against East Carolina and Tremaine Edmunds led a dominant Hokies' defensive performance in Charlottesville. But the play of the two interior defensive linemen against Boston College was noteworthy. Boston College running backs AJ Dillon and Jon Hilliman were held to just 57 yards on 23 carries because Settle and Walker were clogging everything up. Walker had six tackles that day with two and a half resulting in lost yardage while Settle had five stops with two coming behind the line of scrimmage.
Best Game (Team Performance): Win at Boston College
At the time, it didn’t seem like that big of a deal. The Eagles fell to 2-4 with the loss and 0-3 in the league. But the next week, Boston College beat Louisville and closed the season on a 5-1 run, winning most of those games in impressive fashion. As mentioned, the interior of the defensive line dominated and Josh Jackson had perhaps his best game of the year, throwing for 322 yards in a 23-10 win that wasn’t even that close.
Defining Moment: Goal-Line Stand vs. Pittsburgh
The Hokies were coming off two straight losses and were having trouble with a mediocre Pittsburgh team at home. When Pitt made the huge fourth-down conversion and Jester Weah took the ball to the 1-yard line in the closing moments, it looked like Virginia Tech was in a spiral it couldn’t escape. But the resiliency of this Hokie squad showed through as the defense flexed its muscles on the next four plays.
Biggest Surprise: Sean Savoy, WR
The freshman from Washington, D.C., had a few big-time offers before signing with Virginia Tech, but his production was unexpected. Savoy was the team’s No. 2 receiving option after Cam Phillips and also scored two touchdowns running the ball.
Biggest Disappointment: The Month of November
Everything was there for the taking when the Hokies entered the regular season’s final month. But the loss to Miami ended their ACC Championship Game and College Football Playoff chances and the defeat to Georgia Tech eliminated any New Year’s Six bowl possibilities. Gutting out wins in the final two games got Virginia Tech a spot in the Camping World Bowl, but the Hokies struggled in both contests.
Senior That Will be Missed the Most: Greg Stroman, CB/PR
Stroman was among the conference leaders in interceptions, passes defended, and passes broken up. His cover skills alone make him someone that will be difficult to replace. But Stroman is also one of the best punt returners in America, making him extremely valuable in two phases of the game.
Player to Watch in 2017: Devon Hunter, S
Hunter was the No. 42 overall prospect in the class of 2017 according to the 247Sports Composite rankings and much was expected of him entering camp last August. But while the freshman from Chesapeake, Virginia, saw action in nine games this year, the only item in his stat line is one assisted tackle. After a full year in the system, Hunter should make an impact next season.
Biggest Offseason Question Mark: Offensive Line
Guard Wyatt Teller, center Eric Gallo, and tackles Parker Osterloh and Kyle Chung will all be playing their final game in the Camping World Bowl. The biggest loss will be Teller, an All-ACC performer this year. The Hokies will be aided by the return of tackle Yosuah Nijman, who missed the last half of the year with a leg injury. But with that much turnover, new contributors and chemistry must develop this spring.
— 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.