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2014 Fierce 40 Previews: #25 Virginia Tech

by DJ Boyer on Jul. 22, 2014

#25 Virginia Tech Hokies

 

2013 Recap:

Virginia Tech has slipped a bit in the last five years. The team enjoyed an 8-5 campaign, which to many schools would be a respectable season, but this pales in comparison to where this team and program was 10 years ago. Virginia Tech just couldn’t put enough points on the board as they ranked last in the ACC and 99th in the country in scoring.

 

Coaching:

Frank Beamer has been at Virginia Tech for 27 years and his reign is longer than any other coach at one school at the NCAA level. Beamer is still getting it done and has given no indications that he will step down any time soon, despite the team being a notch below where it used to be.

 

Offense

Quarterbacks/Running Backs:

Virginia Tech may be opening with a two-quarterback system to replace the drafted Logan Thomas. Sophomore Brenden Motley and junior Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer will be right in there together. The big recruit for Virginia Tech in this class was Chris Durkin out of Ohio who may be redshirted or even used this season if we see some of the quarterbacks ahead of him on the depth chart struggle.

Speaking of struggling, that is exactly what the running game did last season. Virginia Tech as a team averaged a measly 3.2 YPC and had less than 1,600 yards as a team. It used to be that every year what you could count on was a strong Virginia Tech running game and watching them block at least 1 kick a game, but Virginia Tech was deficient in both areas a season ago. Trey Edmunds returns at running back and the positive here is that he scored 10 touchdowns on the ground and added another pair through the air. Marshawn Williams is a big back freshman with breakaway speed that looks to add a bit of explosion to the backfield. Where Virginia Tech struggled was on 3rd down where they were last in the ACC in 3rd down conversions.

Best Draft Prospect: N/A

 

Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:

The receivers have some experience, so Virginia Tech just needs to hope that the passing game is somewhat consistent. The top three pass catchers from last season are back and all had over 600 yards and caught at least 40 passes. Demitri Knowles looks to be the best pro prospect at this time as we have him rated as a 6th rounder for 2016. Willie Byrn and Joshua Stanford are the other two receivers and all worked exclusively on blocking during the offseason in an effort to try and boost the running game along the edge of the line. Carlis Parker is also available to help and the converted quarterback has to be watched as he will line up and run out of the backfield or even as a quarterback on some trick plays. This is not a unit that is going to wow you but it's going to be hard to find deficiencies as this is a solid core.

Tight end Ryan Malleck is back after missing last season due to injury so we will see the tight end spot involved a bit more in the passing game as Malleck is a nice red zone threat.

Best Draft Prospect: Demitri Knowles WR 6th Round 2016.

 

Offensive Line:

This is the area where Virginia Tech may have even more questions than at quarterback. Bruce Benedict was a true draft prospect and best player on the line but the knee injury he suffered in the spring will cause him to miss this season and it may have ended his career before it got off the ground at the NFL level. Jonathan McLaughlin stepped in at left tackle as a freshman last season and he took some of his lumps, but he pulled through and showed constant progression and improvement. McLaughlin shows amazing footwork and he can get into space when asked, another thing that should aid the running game when needed. Caleb Farris has been shifted to center and also looks like a player that could see life in the NFL in the future. David Wong has been moved around the line and his versatility will be needed but his confidence seems to be shaken after being benched by the coaching staff. Wong looks like he is the top reserve at four of the five positions along the line, so he should still see considerable action. This is a group where questions exist at nearly every position and Virginia Tech has to have solid line play in order to contend in the ACC.

Best Draft Prospect: Jonathan McLaughlin OT 4th Round 2017.

 

 

Defense

Defensive Line:

Virginia Tech gives you a lot of different looks on defense. They have been a 3-4 front in the past but in most seasons they have primarily used the 4-3 front and that is what we will see Virginia Tech use most of the time for 2014. Luther Maddy is a skilled defensive tackle who is All-ACC and 3rd team All-America in our preseason All-America teams. Good thing the Hokies have Maddy because he is the only returning starter from last season. Junior Corey Marshall will be paired with Maddy inside and he is vastly undersized but his quickness looks like it will cause problems for many teams. Even if other teams have to change their blocking scheme to handle him off the ball, it should open up gaps for others to make plays allowing Marshall to still have a huge impact without making the play himself. Dadi Nicholas started a handful of games last year at defensive end and saw a lot of time so he will have no issues breaking into the starting lineup. Ken Ekanem and Dewayne Alford will be starting at the other spot either in a platoon situation or one over the other. Regardless this is a deep group, but there is just little star power aside from Maddy who we currently have graded as a 3rd round prospect for the upcoming draft.

Best Draft Prospect: Luther Maddy DT 3rd Round 2015.

 

Linebackers:

This is a whole new group of starters but a unit that features plenty of players with skill and experience from last season. Deon Clarke and Chase Williams saw action in nearly every game last season. Clarke will more than likely be playing in the middle with Williams outside although the two are interchangeable. With the different formations Virginia Tech likes to employ, you will see their respective positions switch from time to time. Dahman McKinnon is another player who may start and he saw extended action in a handful of games last season. Josh Trimble will more than likely man the other outside linebacker spot. Trimble is a gifted pass rusher but seems to be behind some of the other players I mentioned when it comes to overall skill set. This is a very deep group and it will be interesting to see who emerges as the leader of the group this season. Chase Williams looks to be the leader of the linebackers now but he is a fifth year senior so expect the torch to be passed to one of the youngsters.

Best Draft Prospect: Deon Clarke LB UFA 2016.

 

Secondary:

We will have to see the impact of having Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson at the cornerback spots. Both were huge last season as true freshman, combining for 11 interceptions and earning All-ACC selections on our preseason squad. Fuller looks like a 1st round pick but will not be available to enter the draft until 2016 since he is a true freshman. Fuller of course comes from the Fuller family that has seen his three older brothers all go on to the NFL with Kyle going in the first round to Chicago in this past draft. Facyson is not just the recipient of teams avoiding Fuller, but he himself is a solid prospect currently carrying a 2nd round grade. This forms the best starting cornerback tandem in the country and the Hokies get at least two more seasons to have them together.

Better yet is that both safeties from last season return meaning the secondary is filled with returning starters. Kyshoen Jarrett and Detrick Bonner are returning seniors that combined for 119 tackles and 4 interceptions, so there is plenty of experience at the back of the defense.

Best Draft Prospect: Kendall Fuller CB 1st Round 2017 (2016 if declaring early).

 

Special Teams:

A.J. Hughes is a draft prospect for 2016 and should be the top punter in the ACC. Michael Santamaria is the freshman kicker that comes highly touted, and if he lives up to the hype this will be a special group. Demitri Knowles and Kyshoen Jarrett will be the return men and both have big play ability. Virginia Tech has set the bar when it comes to blocking kicks, both punts and field goals, and we will surely see a few coming back the other way being returned by the Hokies this season.

Best Draft Prospect: Demitri Knowles WR 6th Round 2016.

 

Schedule:

Starting off the season with William & Mary is a stark contrast to opening with Alabama like they did last year. While they lost 35-10, Virginia Tech played well in that game and it was a lot closer than the score would indicate, to which they went on to win their next 6 contests. Week 2 is the big test this year as the Hokies go to Columbus to face Ohio State. October looks to be the toughest part of the ACC schedule with back-to-back games with North Carolina and Pittsburgh followed by a home date with the Hurricanes from Miami. Virginia Tech gets to skip Clemson once again, so it's a tough but not impossible schedule. Virginia Tech should be in the thick of the Coastal Division for the ACC.

 

Draft Outlook:

The future looks bright with Fuller and Facyson, but others like Jonathan McLaughlin and Luther Maddy show that the program hasn’t slipped too far, even if not at the height they enjoyed from the mid 90’s through around 2010.

 

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