Well, Hokie Nation and Gobbler Country readers it’s finally the formal end of the 2016 Football Season. We are going to close out the final few days of this very last week of football with a few summaries of how we here at GC felt the season went. Each writer has had a crack at a list of questions and the freedom to freelance a bit over the answers, and perhaps a few more categories were considered for special mention.
The results are an admittedly small sample, and we really would welcome your contributions in the comment section. Please tell us how you feel about the following and see if you agree with what we arrived at:
Over All MVP: Jerod Evans (4 votes)
Offensive MVP: 3 votes for Evans. I am a firm believer in the fact that the athlete bandwagon stinks. If Evans is the MVP someone else needs to be the OMVP.
Defensive MVP: Woody Baron wins with three votes. The others are worthy mentions.
Special Teams: #25 Magic (Guess there is still no love for the kickers)
Best Comeback: Trevon Hill with 2 votes and 2 partials with one abstention
Best Win: Arkansas is leading with 4 votes. Notre Dame has 2 (Does anyone remember Miami?)
Worst loss: Georgia Tech won that one too, 5 to 1
Best Twitter Account: Isaiah Ford's Mother's account
Biggest Surprise: Some combination of 10 wins/ACC Coastal Championship
Instead of just leaving the boring totals up, each writer gets a chance to explain his votes. It’s good to see why each of the staff voted the way that they did. I really wish we saw more of that in the polls.
MVP Offense: Justin Fuente. I believe Evans had a hand in it, but let's not get overly carried away. Without Fuente, there is no Evans or offensive turnaround.
MVP Defense: Woody Baron. In a year where Ken Ekanem didn't come on/was hurt until late, and Nigel was hurt, Baron was the senior that stepped up and became a 1st team all ACC performer.
Special Teams Ace: #25. Whoever that was, it seemed to make the headlines each week. Notably with the return by Stroman, the block by Tim Settle the week after, Divine Deablo with a forced fumble, but that spirit stuck with the team all year.
Comeback player of the year: (No selection)
Best Win of the Year: Arkansas. I was there. It was heartbreaking then utterly spectacular.
Worst Loss of the Year: Georgia Tech. I was there. It was just utterly disappointing. Home game lost while showing little to no fight with the ACC Coastal there for the taking that weekend.
Best Twitter Account: Billy Ray Mitchell. He's just always funny.
Biggest Surprise of 2016: Utter uselessness of the RB running game. Fuente prides himself on running the ball as well as passing. To the extent we had to rely on Evans to do that is awful.
Senior of the Year: Sam Rogers. Because of course when you throw a Fullback to Fullback pass for a TD, I have to give you this award. On top of that, dominating senior day by running roughshod over UVA? Awesome.
Biggest Concern for next year: Getting the running game moving. I trust CJF with quarterbacks. I don't trust Vance Vice yet with the offensive line or Zohn with running backs, and we need the running backs and OL to come along and support whichever quarterback is out there with a stout running game. That didn't happen last year and that HAS TO happen this coming up season.
MVP Offense: Jerod Evans - There were a ton of question marks heading into the 2016 season, but none bigger than Jerod Evans. Evans answered the bell in a tremendous fashion, having one of the best seasons in Virginia Tech history. Many in the media, including Mel Kiper, were left scratching their heads after he declared for the draft, but that doesn’t devalue his incredible season. Ford, Phillips, and Hodges all had huge years, but it all starts with good QB play, and Evans was impressive.
MVP Defense: Andrew Motuapuaka - In 2015, I thought “Moto” was a little fish playing in a big pond. In 2016, Motuapuaka really blossomed into a good linebacker. It has been a real treat watching the improvement from week to week. There were perhaps some bigger playmakers, but Moto came to play each and every week.
Special Teams Ace: Greg Stroman - Stroman has given me plenty of cringe inducing moments over the past two years, but it seemed to come together for him in 2016. The Special Teams highlight of 2016 was his 87 yard punt return against East Carolina. The fact he was wearing the #25, made it even more special. Runner up for me was Tim Settle, but returning punts in practice didn’t count.
Comeback Player of the year: Trevon Hill -Coming off a serious injury, there were a ton of questions surrounding Hill. He answered all of them in 2016. He only started 2 games for the Hokies, but recorded 6 tackles for loss, and registered 2 ½ sacks. Look for bigger and better things in 2017, and a bigger role on the defense.
Best Win of the Year: Notre Dame - It’s not the typical Notre Dame. Notre Dame was in a death spiral. I have heard all the Hokie bashers try to lessen the win, but to me, going to South Bend and getting the “W” still means something. The Hokies had road struggles all season, and to pull this out was amazing. This was the first meeting ever between the two schools, and there can only be one first time. I can’t wait to see the Golden Domers in Blacksburg next season.
Worst Loss of the Year: Syracuse - Even after the Tennessee loss, the Hokies stock was getting hot. After entering the top 25 for the first time this season, they had the world by a string. First year coach, Dino Babers, had other thoughts as Syracuse upset the Hokies in relatively easy fashion. Syracuse had the intensity, trick plays, and a better game plan. The Hokies looked lost, listless, and eventually left New York with another L.
Best player twitter account: Isaiah Ford’s Mom - I wish Isaiah Ford nothing but success in the N.F.L., but his mom’s twitter account might me missed even more. She traveled to all games, home and away, and provided an interesting glimpse into parenting a Division I superstar. Her tweets always had me laughing, and or thinking.
Biggest Surprise of 2016: 10 wins - I had us going 8-5, with a bowl win. The games I picked us to win, we lost, and the Hokies surprised me against Miami, and North Carolina. What an incredible first season for Coach Fuente, and I can’t wait until 2017.
Most Valuable Player-Offense: QB, Jerod Evans. His ability in the passing game was certainly respectable, but what really earned him the award, in my mind, was his ability to keep plays and drives alive with his legs. The running back unit struggled this year, and if Evans had not been able to gain yards on the ground the Hokies would likely have had a very different year.
Most Valuable Player-Defense: Rover, Terrell Edmunds. Edmunds played with a passion and fervor that made him seem bigger than his actual stature. Sometimes the passion was a bit much, and he needs to be careful with his helmet hits, but I feel that Edmunds had several key contributions during critical defensive moments which directly led to VPI victories.
Special Teams Ace: Punter, Mitchell Ludwig. That's right! I said it! Ludwig started out with a tenuous grasp on punting, but as the year progressed his punting did too. I will argue that Ludwig's performance during the Belk Bowl was as great a contribution as any player on the team. His performance during the ACC Championship game was also impressive. Against Arkansas he had five kicks inside the Razorback 20, three of which were at or inside the ten. Against Clemson he had three at or inside the 20. The field position game can often be transparent, but I firmly believe if Ludwig had not performed as he did, in those match ups, the Hokies would not have been anywhere near as competitive during the Championship, nor have been able to mount the program's largest comeback ever.
Comeback Player of the year: The Virginia Tech Defense. After a firmly lackluster 2015 effort the Fighting Gobbler defense returned with fury, and was instrumental in the Hokies journey to the Coastal crown.
Best Win of the year: Arkansas. After the Tennessee and Syracuse losses there were legitimate questions about whether or not the Hokies could answer in the face of adversity. Although the Belk Bowl was not the first time we saw VT demonstrate the temerity to find victory when the situation was less than ideal, it was the largest demonstration of such courage. The largest comeback in program history, which returned VPI to the ten-win club, for me, is the greatest victory of the season.
Worst loss of the year: Georgia Tech. By far, in my opinion, this was the worst defeat. Not only did the Hokies struggle against a tenuous Yellow Jacket defense, the loss, during the last three games of the regular season, could not have come at a worse time. Furthermore, UNC's loss had just handed the Coastal to VT with a buffer, and the Hokies immediately cashed it in, dropping VPI from No. 14 Coaches / No. 18 AP to unranked.
Best player twitter account: No selection
Biggest surprise of 2016: Winning the Coastal division. None here at Gobbler Country, and very few elsewhere, thought the Hokies would win the Coastal, but VPI delivered.
MVP Offense: Cam Phillips and Isaiah Ford – Phillips was consistent, often clutch, and caught balls that no one thought anyone could catch. Ford’s numbers were a bit better with over a 1,000 yards, and Phillips just short, and 12 TD’s between them. I chose the both of them because they played off of each other, when one was covered one was free. When the defenses shut the hot receiver down, the other one got free. It was an ideal balance between X and Y receivers that is hard to beat. One only need look at the Boykin/Coale combination to understand how dangerous two quality receivers can be.
Note: It would have been Jerod Evans, but he showed an inconsistency that persisted through the season, even though he recovered from his issues in the Notre Dame game, and the opening fumble and inactivity in the Belk Bowl, he just never remained a consistently good Quarterback. Our blowouts made him look better than he ultimately was. I also have little or no respect for a kid who bails after one decent year to head to the $$$$ when he’s not worth $, yet.
MVP Defense: Woody Baron - Woody stepped up. He took on the leadership role within the defensive linemen. He learned the game and executed on every play. His presence was nearly always felt, and his defensive totals prove it. He had 56 tackles 37 of which were solos, 18.5 TFL’s for -69 yards, and 5.5 sacks for 29. He also scooped up 2 fumbles, one of which was critical in the Belk Bowl. I am not sure that he’ll garner much draft attention but he certainly deserves a better look and kinder judgement from the pro scouts. Woody Baron has turned out to be a flat out excellent football player.
Special Teams: Mitchell Ludwig, with a close second to Joey Slye. Ludwig seemed to be the guy who finally figured out what the “coffin corner” meant in old school football. He wasn’t Mr. Power Leg, but he was deadly when punting from mid field and managed to dump the opponents deep into their own territory with no return at a regular clip. Sometimes football is a field position game, and Ludwig with just a tad more leg is going to be a real defensive weapon. The issue that kept Slye out of the top or at least a solid tie with Ludwig, was the fact that he is still struggling with accuracy outside of the 30 yard line. He needs a kicking coach – he is a touchback machine though, and that limits what the other team can do with the ball on a kickoff non-return.
Comeback Player of the Year: There is a bunch weaving around for this one. Travon McMillian had several comebacks this season. Ken Ekanem had a good run and a disappearing act and another good run and Travon Hill stepped up when he was needed. No real picks here, though from me.
Best Win of the Year: We’d all like to say UVA, wouldn’t we? But I felt the greatest satisfaction from the Notre Dame game. Not only did we come back, but we beat Notre Dame at the Golden Dome. Yes, they were struggling this season, but still it’s ND and it’s still South Bend in the cold and swirling snow. There was just something about that game that changed a bunch of things in this team’s make up for the season.
Worst Loss of the Year: Georgia Tech. Evans was horrible. The team was flat. The game plan was not up to snuff. The defense couldn’t stop anything. It was a total team bummer and laid an egg on national TV in our own house. It was just bad, and inexcusable. We were a much better team. Syracuse was nearly as bad and mitigated only by the fact that it was away in the Carrier Dome, but that was about it.
Best Twitter Account: Twitter? Twitter? Oh? That indecipherable code talk with @ and # and stuff where people say three or four words surrounded by tags and account names! Sorry dunno ‘bout that stuff.
Biggest Surprise of 2016: Press box and Sideline passes to Home Games. That was special for Gobbler Country and in particular me, who finally got a high grade camera back in my bag, and a season of dream shot memories published. Oh? Football… Hokies… yes.. That had to be Fuente’s success at getting back to 10 wins in a season we all thought we’d be happy getting a touch over .500.
IMHO This season’s Over All MVP: Sam “Swiss Army Knife” Rogers – There just isn’t a question in my mind. Sam Rogers was the leader of the 2016 Hokies football team. He was the prime signatory on the Fuente bandwagon honor roll. Sam played everything short of doing defensive work for Bud Foster. He was a special player for the entire time that he has been a Hokie; but this season he stepped so far up he reached the top without a hint of ego or bombast. He was the same Sam Rogers who buckled up and played football as a walk on his freshman year. You have to admire that… you just do.
MVP Offense: Jerod Evans, QB. Isaiah Ford and Bucky Hodges were great. More often than not, they saved Evans from many of his inaccurate throws. However, the JUCO transfer's first (and only) year in Blacksburg couldn't have gone much better. In many games he was the only running game the Hokies had. And he was ultra-competitive and a terrific leader. The team fed off that. To boot, he broke several school records.
MVP Defense: Tremaine Edmunds, LB. Woody Baron gave the sophomore LB a run for his money, but from start to finish, Edmunds was the VT's best and most consistent defender. He was strong against the run and showed an ability to play solid in coverage. The next step for Edmunds is sending him after the passer more often; overall, a very good year for Tremaine Edmonds.
Special Teams Ace: Jersey #25. It was hard to pinpoint one player as the MVP of special teams, instead I'll make it easier and say whoever wore Frank Beamer's honorary number 25 on any given week is the winner. Whether it was Greg Stroman, Tim Settle or Divine Deablo, something big seemed to happen on special teams each week by the player wearing this number. It even worked for Woody Baron on defense and Sam Rogers on offense. Tremendous idea by Justin Fuente and I suspect it will continue.
Comeback Player of the Year: Trevon Hill, DE. Ok, Hill didn't play as a true freshman in 2015, although he was scheduled for a pass-rushing role. A torn ACL dashed those hopes. In 2016, Hill returned from the injury to play in all 14 games and showed why DE is in good hands after Ken Ekanem’s graduation. Hill started two games late in the season and was constantly in the opposition's backfield. Big things are on the horizon for Hill and his return to full health has Bud Foster extremely happy.
Best Win: Arkansas. This was the best win for a variety of reasons. It was a bowl game; it was against an SEC opponent and came when the eyes of the country were on the Hokies. And the way this team battled back, made it even better. And it also got them to 10 wins in Fuente's debut season.
Worst Loss: Georgia Tech. The Syracuse loss was bad. Especially considering what Tech did to UNC right before this one. But those things happen. The loss to GT, at home nonetheless, was an embarrassment. It was a big recruiting weekend with a chance to clinch the Coastal and the Hokies didn't show up on either side of the ball. This was a bad performance by everyone and it was a humiliating defeat especially considering Tech's defense usually does well against GT's triple option.
Best Twitter account: Isaiah Ford's mother. This woman is awesome and a great representative of Virginia Tech. And we are sure going to miss Isaiah.
Biggest surprise: Lack of running game. Travon McMillian was terrific in 2015. However, in 2016 he'd show bursts of outstanding play and then he'd disappear. This isn't fully on McMillian. Coaches were running a different scheme and the RB had different responsibilities. Whether it was missing holes, or pass protection, it was clear Fuente wasn't always pleased with McMillian. The offensive line also had its fair share of issues. Hopefully this is an area that will dramatically improve next fall, but it will be tough with the loss of Evans.
MVP Offense: Jerod Evans. This is an easy one. Evans was at times a one man show for the running game, and he (usually) was able to distribute the ball to open receivers downfield. With receivers like Ford, Hodges, and Phillips, Evans gave the offense plenty of chances for explosive plays downfield. He was a great presence in the locker room, fulfilling Fuente's required intangibles criteria he wanted from a QB. He accounted for over 69% of the team's total yardage and had 41 total TDs.
MVP Defense: Woody Baron. Bud Foster's scheme is predicated on getting penetration, and when you look at how the DL played over the course of the season, Baron was the most consistent in that aspect. He may not have gotten all the tackles or interceptions, the popular stats for picking a DPOY. But I don't think any player negatively affected the offense on more plays than Baron.
Special Teams Ace: #25. This is Just a litany of big plays all around for anyone who was wearing that number. Settle, Stroman, and even CJ Carrol. Can we get a new lease on whatever voodoo Fuente used on that jersey?
Comeback Player of the Year: I don't know if anyone's play dipped significantly last year to award a comeback, but Ken Ekanem would be my nomination. After recording 10.5 quarterback takedowns in 2014, he had just 4.5 in 2015. This season that number jumped up back to 7.5, as he was effective rushing the passer and generally very good at setting the edge in the run game.
Best Win: Arkansas. The biggest comeback win in program history, never mind the fact it was in a bowl game against an SEC opponent. It was just brilliant resolve by this team, specifically on the defensive side. Best part about it was in the halftime interview with Bielema, as he said his team wasn't going to allow another huge second half comeback to happen; sorry-not-sorry.
Worst Loss: Georgia Tech. There are some games you must win, and some games you just can't lose. That was more on the “can't lose” side. Sold out crowd at lane with a chance to clinch the division and the Hokies dropped the ball. I even had one of my accounting professors ranting about it Monday morning.
Best Twitter Account: Not a clue (withhold)
Biggest Surprise: 10 wins and the Coastal division. The Hokies were picked to finish fourth by the ACC media, but surpassed that expectation handily. Also I don't think anyone would have expected Jerod Evans to play as well as he did and be a complete difference maker for the offense.
I would have to add one more category and winner, even if I am loathed to keep mentioning the same player, but there is one that we left off, and that was The Biggest Disappointment. I really think that Jerod Evans declaring for the draft really wafted a stinker across everyone’s noses. At some point we’ll have to get over the gloom and frustration of his premature departure; and that might be draft day. I will refrain from commenting on which result we expect, for now. That’s another article.
Each of us is going to do a season wrap, and of course we’ll be reporting on the Senior Bowl and the Underwear Olympics (aka The NFL Recruiting Combine). March is closer than you think. So the Roster Reviews will start up in earnest after National Signing Day. It was a great season, full of surprises, and as we said the biggest one was that we are back to 10 wins. There are lots of changes coming and Gobbler Country will be there to cover them.
As Always! GO HOKIES!!!!