Virginia Tech Hokies
Head Coach: Justin Fuente
2018 Record: 6-7, 4-4 Conference
Bowl: 31-35 Loss to Cincinnati at Military Bowl
Over/under 8 wins (O -150; U +120)
To Make 4 Team Playoff: +25000
The Virginia Tech Hokies are coming off a losing 6-7 season which saw it just narrowly extend its 26-year streak of making Bowl appearances. The team dealt with a slew of dismissals, injuries, and it was the worst it had been defensively under coordinator Bud Foster under head coach Justin Fuente. It lost six games by double-digit and four by 20-points or more. The roster was young and should grow this year, but last year was a tumble that will not come without its consequence in addressing the woes of 2018.
Josh Jackson’s broken leg put an abrupt end to the offensive plans in 2018. Backup Ryan Willis did a fair job as a backup, including posting the fourth-best ACC quarterback rating. Jackson transferred to Maryland, but Willis is a solid QB to continue the job. He has a strong group of pass-catchers returning to help him boost his already strong performance. In fact, receiver and tight end should be Virginia Tech’s strong points on offense.
Eric Kumah and Chris Cunningham both transferred, but Damon Hazelton made the second-team All-ACC even with nagging injuries down the stretch of the season. Tre Turner was tremendous. He had 326 yards and three TDs in the final five games of the year, as a freshman. Between that pair, and Hezekiah Grimsley, Phil Patterson and tight ends Dalton Keene and James Mitchell, the Hokies have a plethora of receivers for Willis’ above-average arm to work with.
The Hokies will need its ground game to be better, but Deshawn McClease and Jalen Houston both should be up to the task. The OL must come together to block for this pairing, though. The group is young overall, with both its tackles entering their respective sophomore seasons. But Fuente is very high on Christian Darrisaw and Silas Dzansi. Brock Hoffman transfers from Coastal Carolina and will be eligible in 2019 at center, but he was denied immediate eligibility. The Hokies averaged nearly 30 points per game last season, and it is hoping to tune that up closer to the 35.0 it averaged under Fuente in Year One.
Virginia allowed 31.0 points per game last year and 438.7 yards per game. It had just 24 sacks and seven interceptions, which were the lowest of the last 23 seasons under Bud Foster. The overall turnover last season accounted for most of it, but Virginia Tech now has some experience on that once-young roster. It started nine freshmen or sophomores in the Military Bowl, but it also gave up 52 points and 13.9 yards-per-play against Pittsburgh last season. This group is best in the middle, where Rayshard Ashby had 105 tackles last year, and Dax Hollifield is back at linebacker. Safeties Reggie Floyd and Divine Deablo both should be solid in the secondary.
The DL was not very good last season, and it lost its best performer in Ricky Walker. Houshun Gaines returns and he had 4.5 sacks last year. He suffered an ACL injury in November, but Emmanuel Belmar and TyJuan Garbutt stepped up. Jarrod Hewitt will take on much of the leadership void left by Walker, but he needs to produce more, too. JUCO addition DaShawn Crawford will be immediately impactful as a tackle.
The secondary will be better with Jeremy Webb debuting, as a strong cornerback who battled an Achilles’ injury last season. He will join CBs Caleb Farley and Bryce Watts.
Oscar Bradburn averaged 42.6 yards per punt last year. The Hokies never really found a return specialist of its own though. The placekicking gig is up for grabs, too. Brian Johnson hit 12 of 18 last year, but he was just 3 of 9 from 40-yards or further.
Fuente should count his team fortunate to make a Bowl last year. Virginia Tech should be good enough that it is a given this year, but nothing is really a given in college football, is it? The schedule is manageable and the offense has sufficient playmakers. The ACC Coastal is also the softer half of the conference. Things should be better for the Hokies, but temper expectations because the lingering effect of last year’s disappointments cannot be discounted either.
Prediction: 8 wins