Virginia Tech Hokies
Head Coach: Justin Fuente
2015 Record: 7-6
2015 Bowl: 55-52 Win over Tulsa at Independence Bowl
2016 Returning Starters: 8 Offense, 5 Defense
Odds to win 2017 Championship Game: +40000
Odds to win 2016 ACC Championship: +2000
Regular Season over/under: over 7 (+105), under 7 (-135)
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Justin Fuente comes to Virginia Tech with a 26-23 record in his four years of NCAA coaching. The Hokies are hoping his no-huddle spread offense is able to get the most out of a WR corp that returns two star receivers and a pro prospect at TE in Bucky Hodges. But first Fuente will have to decide on which QB is going to hurl them the football.
Last season Virginia Tech started Michael Brewer early in the season but replaced him with Brenden Motley the final six games. The Hokies won 4 of those 6 contests, though Motley was unremarkable. JUCO transfer Jerod Evans will be in the mix to start, and in spring Evans and Motley more or less split downs. The OL returns four starters, so whomever the QB is, he will likely have adequate protection in front of him.
Travon McMillan rushed for 1,043 yards last season and returns at tailback. Hodges caught 40 passes last season, including six TDs. He functioned as a TE as well as different receiving roles in other sets, and is capable of doing it all. WRs Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips were both big last season, and there is young depth behind them.
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Fuentes was wise enough to retain DC Bud Foster, and there were few reasons to nitpick his results. The Hokies held opponents to 26.3 points per game last season (No. 59) while allowing 369.8 yards per game (No. 44). There is a host of talent at DT, where Nigel Williams and Woody Baron will step into starting roles that were vacated by Luther Maddy and Corey Marshall. Ricky Walker and Tim Settle both are nice young prospects who will be developed too.
At DE, Ken Ekanem returns but there is no second starter. Seth Dooley missed spring practice after sustaining a shoulder injury, but Vinny Mihota may be in play. The loss of Houston Gaines to a drug arrest over the offseason is a blow, and he is indefinitely suspended from the team.
At LB the Hokies have plenty of talent as usual, and the secondary is coming together to be a good unit. Andrew Moutuapuaka enters his junior season as a returning starter and Tremaine Edmunds will start at LB as well. CB Adonis Alexander was also arrested on drug charges, so Brandon Facyson will have to come back sooner from a leg injury that has held him out.
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James Shibest was brought in from Memphis to coordinate special teams, so they should be pretty good to say the least. Joey Slye is a good place kicker, and Greg Stroman can make game-changing returns. Expect the Hokies to make up some games with their special teams play this season.
Virginia Tech will open the season Sept. 3 at home against Liberty and faces Tennessee in Week 2 in Bistol, TN. ACC play begins in Week 3 against Boston College, with East Carolina to follow in Week 4.
Fuente is perhaps asking a lot with the lack of talent at his QB position. Getting Motley or Evans up to pace with the no huddle offense will be his biggest challenge, and it is likely one that the Hokies cannot overcome. Not this season.
That said, the defensive unit is strong and should be improved from last year where it was already reasonably effective.
The Hokies could be something of a surprise, and the Coastal Division is wide open if UNC falters. It could be a notable disappointment if the QB play holds back Hodges and the talented wide outs on this roster.
Prediction: 7 wins
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