News Highlights: 3 reasons for optimism about the Hokies in 2021
For the second time in three years, Virginia Tech finished with a record of less than .500 and since beating Duke just before Halloween of 2017, at which point the Hokies were 7-1 in the season and No. 13 in America, the Blacksburg guys have gone 21-21. The transfer portal always seems to have a former Hokie looking for a new home and after not playing in a bowl game for the first time since 1992, the head coach is starting the 2021 season in a very hot seat.
And you say there are things to be optimistic about?
Well, there are. Here are three reasons why Virginia Tech football will be worth watching next fall.
1. Appropriate talent
Everyone has been waiting for Tre Turner to really explode. In three years he has been very consistent with about 30 catches for more than 500 meters per season. But he is capable of so much more. Tight end James Mitchell is also a player who could see his numbers improve and decline Raheem Blackshear is a receiving threat that should see a resurgence of odds now that Khalil Herbert is gone. Additionally, Tayvion Robinson led the team in both receptions and yards in 2020, while Jaden Payoute, who impressed coaches in the preseason camp before injuring his leg, should be ready to leave.
No, the Hokies don’t have an Alabama-esque talent that is widely distributed. But there is more than enough for a solid passing attack… provided Tech gets skilled quarterback play. Without Herbert running and taking Christian Darrisaw to the left and opening the gaps, the running game will take a hit. The best playmakers to attack next fall are the pass catchers, and head coach Justin Fuente has to figure out a way to give them the ball.
2. Solid defensive front screens
Linebacker Rayshard Ashby and lineman Justus Reed are leaving, but there are yet to be some strong pieces for the Hokies up front. Dax Hollifield will likely move to Ashby’s spot in the middle and maybe that will be what he needs to become the player Hokie fans envisioned when he signed in 2018. As a senior, this will be his defense. Alan Tisdale, who had 59 tackles in eight games, is another second-level defender who will return.
At the front, the return of Amare Barno makes the line of defense a formidable unit. The junior college’s transfer led the ACC in tackles for lost distance with 16 and its 6.5 sacks accounted for eighth place in the conference. The front will also be bolstered by the return of TyJuan Garbutt, who performed last season before returning late in the season. He started 11 games in 2019. In addition, Emmanuel Belmar is returning for a fifth season after playing just four games last year. His experience provides quality depth along the line of attack.
3. The return of Jermaine Waller
Waller entered the 2020 season as a second-team All-ACC roster at cornerback of Athlon Sports. But a 2019 ankle injury slowed his progress in the camp, and then he hurt his arm in the Wake Forest game. In total, Waller played only two games in his youth season.
In 2019 Waller came fifth in the conference in defended passes and had three interceptions. He also proved to be more than just a deck angle, as he registered 46 tackles. When Caleb Farley pulled out and Waller couldn’t really contribute, the Tech Secondary went south quickly, finishing 13th in the ACC against the pass.
Farley is heading to the NFL, as is Safety Divine Deablo’s three-year start. But leading tackler Chamarri Conner is back, along with corner kick Dorian Strong, who made the 247Sports True Freshman All-American team in 2020. A healthy Waller gives this unity even more hope.
– Written by Jon Kinne, who has been a part of the Athlon Contribution Network for three years, about the ACC and Notre Dame. follow him Twitter @JonRKinne.
(Photo courtesy of @HokiesFB)
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