Virginia Tech will look much different than a year ago, on the sidelines and on the field. But with mediocre play comes change and that’s why Frank Beamer is gone. In comes new coach Justin Fuente from Memphis, who brought most of his assistants along. Fans don’t expect the Hokies to challenge in the ACC right away, but they have enough pieces to surpass last year’s seven-win mark.
Fuente’s first order of business will be finding a quarterback, something he’s been pretty good at throughout his career. After the spring, Brendon Motley and junior college transfer Jerod Evans were still fighting for the spot. Many expect Evans to win in the new up-tempo scheme, but Motley has the experience after getting time last year.
The good news is that the Hokies have some playmakers on the offensive side to help whoever the quarterback is. Wide receivers Isaiah Ford (75 receptions, 1,164 yards, 11 TDs) and Cam Phillips (49 receptions, 582 yards) are back to go with one of the better tight ends in the country in Bucky Hodges (40 receptions, 530 yards, 6 TDs). The same can be said for the running backs where Travon McMillian (1,042 yards, 7 TDs) looks to build on 2015, and other options like Shai McKenzie and Sam Rogers hope to see more time.
The line has struggled in recent years, but with Four starters back, things look a little better for Fuente this season. The biggest thing for this group will be adjusting to the faster offense. With their experience, that shouldn’t be too big of an issue.
As usual, the Hokies will look a little better on the defensive side, once again led by Bud Foster. They lost a lot of talent, but Ken Ekanem is still there to wreak havoc on the end. However, he is the lone starter returning on the line and that could be an issue. Last year wasn’t great for Tech as a defense and Ekanem is the guy that can improve that.
It doesn’t help the Virginia Tech defense that two expected starters in Adonis Alexander and Houshun Gaines were suspended indefinitely at the end of April after the spring Game. Either way, the defense looked like the better unit in the spring and it wasn’t surprising. Depth is lacking at most positions, and linebacker is in a similar spot to the line, but the secondary at least has familiar faces in corner Terrell Edmunds and safety Chuck Clark that give some leadership.
The best part of Virginia Tech’s Schedule is that they get Syracuse and Boston College out of the Atlantic division. However, the Hokies also have to travel to Tennessee and Notre Dame in non-Conference play, and both should be slated up as losses. Bettering last season’s record will fall to Games at UNC, Duke and Pittsburgh. The Hokies battled in every Game last year, but didn’t have enough to pull out wins against top competition.
Getting a starting quarterback will be their first task, but if they can learn the offense quick enough, this could be a dangerous group. The defense can’t take a step back, though. If all goes well, eight wins is on the plate for Fuente in his first season.
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2016 Virginia Tech Hokies Football Schedule
Sept. 3 vs. Liberty
Sept. 10 vs. Tennessee (Bristol Motor Speedway)
Sept. 17 vs. Boston College
Sept. 24 vs. East Carolina
Oct. 8 at North Carolina
Oct. 15 at Syracuse
Oct. 20 vs. Miami (FL)
Oct. 27 at Pittsburgh
Nov. 5 at Duke
Nov. 12 vs. Georgia Tech
Nov. 19 at Notre Dame
Nov. 26 vs. Virginia