Sunday is Fan Appreciation Day, which marks the end of the first week and a bit of full Fall practice sessions. September 3, 2016 will start a new era. We haven’t had a new coach in, well, forever maybe. There is nothing like the promise of a new season, but nothing like the scary nature of a new season with new coaching staff.
As we have seen the team is largely intact from last season. The big churn was the defensive line, but that wasn’t too bad given the fact that most of the anticipated starters for this season have had some significant playing time in 2015. In fact the new personnel with a much bigger presence in the middle might be a tad better than last year’s front four.
The major information hole, and the question on the tip of every sports writer’s tongue is the offense. We know something of what we can expect to see, Jawhar did a magnificent job of pulling the teeth on some of Justin Fuente’s offensive gems. However; there is the question of who is actually going to drive the new car. Currently we have the two leading candidates being transfer Junior Jerod Evans and returning redshirt Senior Brenden Motley. The issue only got slightly less cloudy with the regrettable premature departure of Dwayne Lawson and replacement on the roster with Chase Mummau (The Roster updates are here at Hokie Sports.)
There are people in both Motley and Evans camps, but at the moment the popularity curve is headed in the Evans direction. We will see how the performance curve changes things. The swelling grapes on the vine are talking about Motley’s improved passing accuracy. There is the reality that he also is better suited as far as his option QB talents for Fuente’s base offense than he was for the last several seasons’ um... schemes. There is the distinct possibility that both will get some significant playing time in the first game. We probably won’t see the actual number 1 starter until the Racetrack kickoff.
The Offensive line isn’t deep, but the starters are all experienced, and several are looking like they’ll attract some attention from the next level. This is the first unit that will really need the redshirts to step up and make a quality contribution. The Fuente offense isn’t heavy into drive blocking gut plays hammering away for a scant few yards here and there, so their better performance at influence blocking will be to their advantage.
The Receivers are still basically one deep, and some new faces are going to have to make an impact as the season wears on and the hits accumulate. Fuente doesn’t seem to have used the Tight End position very much in his offensive scheme so I look to Bucky to be the NCAA’s largest Slot Receiver. If he gets justice his route packages are in challenging heavy traffic for 3 second patterns under the zone where the QB can get him the ball up, and he can use his body to create his own space. Ford and Phillips could become flat out stars if this all works.
If we have to look at any real weaknesses at the starting level, we are still faced with the Linebacker corps and their size and experience limits. It will be interesting to see how the Edmunds/Motuapuaka combination works out. This team needs to get a handle on stopping running and scrambling quarterbacks. That will be a seriously critical key in most of the games this season.
Ultimately this will all fall into new hands this season. The schedule is not just tough, it’s near brutal. It’s near brutal, not because the ACC Coastal is so good. The Coastal is so evenly matched, now, that it is difficult to predict any wins with any confidence. The Coastal just hasn’t been the lead division in the conference for the last four or five years. The Hokies certainly haven’t been a dominant team; not since the 2011 season, anyway. It’s all new and the excitement is beginning to build. The talk around Blacksburg this week is kickoff is less than a month away, and Game Days are just around the corner.
There is an odd lull in Summer going on, it’s rainy and in the mid 70’s instead of the usual mid 80’s. There are students filtering back to apartments, shopping for furniture and other things to get the year started. It’s time to check the dining fly and the portable grill. The cooler needs a good scrubbing, and the grill tools need to be replaced.
Fan Appreciation Day will remind the early birds that school is important but Virginia Tech Hokie Football is what puts the energy in Fall.
This is a direct request to the regulars, both staff and folks who post in comments regularly. You know who you are. It’s time to pipe up and step up.
The season is going to be a challenge and we need to be realistic. I want a win – loss count from each commenter in three categories: Best Case, Probable Case, and Worst Case scenarios. Then tell us what you think the greatest challenge will be for the team.
2016 Win – Loss: (including the bowl if any)
Best Case: 9-4
Probable Case: 8-5
Worst Case: 4-8
The biggest challenge will be executing the new offense and overcoming the old mindset of a defense heavy game plan with a low scoring predictably blow average offense.
Kickoff is coming!