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Virginia Tech Football Will Win The Coastal Division

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In the third part of our Coastal preview, we make the case for Virginia Tech

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The football season of 2015 can be summed up in one word: change.  Frank Beamer finished out his long, and storied career with the Hokies.  The Hokies continued their bowl streak with a 55-52 shootout win over Tulsa in the Independence Bowl.  Justin Fuente was announced as Beamer's successor, and longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster stayed put.  After back to back 7-6 seasons, the Hokies were no longer relevant nationally.  The power teams of the 2000's seemed like a distant memory, and recruiting was in a tailspin.  Athletic director, Whit Babcock, made the decision to hire offensive guru Fuente from Memphis.  On paper, it seems like a match made in heaven.  Even during the decline, Foster has continued to produce defenses that are ranked nationally.  If the Hokies can put match Foster's success on the offensive side of the ball, look out A.C.C..

The Hokies are in a QB transition year.  After getting hurt in the opening game last season, Michael Brewer missed 6 games in 2015.  Brenden Motley played tough in relief, but the offense failed to consistently score big points.  The QB battle heading into fall shakes out like this: JUCO tranfer Jerod Evans is likely to be the starter.  He had an amazing 38-3 TD/INT ratio last season, and looked a bit more polished in spring practice.  Evans will be backed up by Motley, and Dwayne Lawson.  Lawson is the real wild card here.  Virginia Tech decided to forgo his redshirt last season, but don't be surprised if he gets "shirted" in 2016.  The other QB to keep an eye on is Joshua Jackson, who is green, but has amazing physical tools.

The Hokies running back situation is a bit crowded.  Travon McMillian rushed for over 1,000 yards for the Hokies in 2015.  Look for Shai McKenzie to rebound from an ACL injury that sidelined him last year.  Also in the mix will be Marshawn Williams will also get plenty of touches in Fuente's offense.  It will be interesting to see how Fuente will use fan favorite Sam Rogers in the new scheme.  Rogers was clutch last year, having some huge plays including a long TD grab against Ohio State.

The receiver corps is thin, but talented.  All A.C.C. standout Isaiah Ford broke records last season with 1,164 yards. Paired with Cam Phillips, and TE Bucky Hodges, whoever takes the snaps will have plenty of weapons on the outside for Tech.

Defensively, the Hokies may be the deepest on the defensive line.  Woody Baron, Nigel Williams, and Ken Ekanem have big shoes to fill.  The Hokies only had 26 sacks last year, but look for this group to rebound.  Losing Dadi Nicolas and Luther Maddy hurts, but Ricky Walker and Tim Settle will be making highlights happen this season for Bud Foster and company.   In order for Virginia Tech to improve, they have to do better than last season against the rush.  They allowed 181 yards per game.  In the Coastal division, where North Carolina and Pitt love to run, this needs immediate attention.

The schedule for the Hokies is brutal this season.  They open with Liberty, but then travel to Bristol and face the Tennessee Volunteers.  Most preseason polls have the Vols as a top 10 team.  They host East Carolina, who has had Tech's number the past 2 seasons, but face reigning champion North Carolina on the road.  Beginning on October 20, the Hokies face Miami, Pittsburgh, and Duke in succession.  This stretch will likely determine the Hokies' fate.  Virginia Tech also travels to South Bend, Indiana to face Notre Dame for the first time in program history.  I have the Hokies at 7-5 with losses to Tennessee, North Carolina, Miami, Notre Dame, and either Pittsburgh or Duke.  It's probably not want you want to hear, but the Hokies are at least a year away.