Virginia Tech will take on the defending national champion Ohio State Buckeyes in six days. If the Hokies want to duplicate their win from a year ago they must perform well on both sides of the ball. Lets take a deeper look into how the offense matches up against the Buckeyes defense.
VT Offensive Line:
Starters: LT Jonathan McLaughlin(JR), LG Wyatt Teller(R-SO), C Eric Gallo(SO), RG Augie Conte(R-JR), RT Wade Hansen(R-SR)
The biggest question mark of the offseason had to deal with the big men up front. A unit that ranked 99th in the country in sacks allowed and gave up a total of 34 on the year. That stat doesn't even account for the number of hits that quarterback Michael Brewer encountered just after releasing the ball.
Gallo and Hansen are the most unproven of the group. Gallo has only played sparingly and was still learning the playbook over the summer. Hansen possesses a work ethic that is unmatched, but he also is a converted defensive lineman from the division III level. He must show he can handle the athleticism and speed of rushers in the ACC. McLaughlin is a converted right tackle, but has the experience and ability to succeed on the left side. The guard position is a strong point with the return of Tellers and Conte.
OSU Defensive Line:
Starters: DE Sam Hubbard(R-FR), DT Adolphus Washington(SR), DT Tommy Schutt(SR), DE Tyquan Lewis(R-SO)
Missing from that list of starters is consensus All-American Joey Bosa. The Hokies offensive line gets a break due to Bosa being suspended for team violations. Strangely enough, the defensive line was arguably the biggest position concern for Urban Meyer and his staff over the summer. Hubbard, Schutt, and Lewis are all unknown players who made limited contributions to last year's team. Washington received preseason All-America honors for 2015 and is considered one of the best linemen in college football.
The Hokie offensive line should be able to provide Brewer with enough time to execute the offense and make the necessary throws.
Edge: VA Tech
VT Running Backs:
Starter: JC Coleman(SR) and Trey Edmunds(R-JR)
Coleman will come into the season looking to pickup where he left off at the end of last year. Over the last four games, the senior tailback racked up 448 yards and MVP honors of the Military Bowl against Cincinnati. Edmunds needs to rebound after a disappointing sophomore campaign and play like he did as a freshman when he scored 10 touchdowns. The junior is a big and powerful running back standing at 6-foot-2 and well over 200 pounds. The duo could develop into a solid thunder and lightning combination before the year is over
Starters: WLB Joshua Perry(SR), MLB Raekwon McMillan(SO), SLB Darron Lee(R-SO)
A unit that is ranked 2nd best in that nation by Phil Steele is loaded with talent. Perry led the team with 124 tackles last season and has been rumored to be experimenting at defensive end to help fill the void left by the suspended Bosa. Lee is a preseason All-American selection and won the defensive MVP honors in the Sugar Bowl against Alabama. He was second on the team last year with 7.5 sacks. With all that being said McMillan may be the most talented of the three. The former five star recruit had 6.5 tackles for loss playing part time, and expectations are sky high as he takes over a starting role.
The Hokies will need to run the ball, control time of possession and not get into a back and fourth scoring match. Virginia Tech ran for 125 yard last year in Columbus.
Edge: Ohio State
VT Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
Starters: X Isaiah Ford(SO), Z Cam Phillips(SO), TE Ryan Malleck(R-SR), Bucky Hodges(R-SO)
Beamer may have the most talent on offense he has had in a long time. Ford led the team with 56 receptions and has the ability to make big plays with yards after the catch. Phillips played well as a freshman and will be need to contribute more as a sophomore. Malleck and Hodges are one of the best tight end combinations in the nation. Hodges is on multiple NFL teams radar after a productive 2014. He stands at 6-foot-6 and 249 pounds with speed and athleticism that are uncharacteristic of a big man.
Starters: CB Eli Apple(R-So), S Tyvis Powell (R-JR), S Vonn Bell(JR), CB Gareon Conley(R-SO)
The safety position will need to help out the young unproven corners. Powell is a savvy veteran, who has started the last 20 games, and earned defensive MVP honors in the national championship game. Bell also played well last season and was named honorable mention all-Big Ten Conference. Apple has the talent to be the next great secondary player to come out of Columbus, and will now be counted on to cover the opposing teams best receiver each week. Conley played sparingly as a freshman and is competing to play alongside Apple.
Brewer has the arm strength and talent to shred this Buckeyes secondary. Hodges offers a mismatch at tight end and will humiliate Powell and Bell if they try to cover him one on one.
Edge: Virginia Tech
Its no secret that offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler is entering the season on the hot seat. This is year three for him and is no doubt the most important. I am sure Loeffler would love to open the year playing Furman instead of Ohio State, but what a great opportunity to show your offenses improvement.
In last years matchup the Hokies turned the ball over three times. If the line can limit pressure, establish a run game, and Brewer plays like the talented QB he is supposed to be, look for Virginia Tech to surprise a lot of people down in Blacksburg.