Well, now that the College Football National Championship is over, I suppose it’s time to reflect on the season. I haven’t done that much writing, as I’ve explained before, because every time I try to sit down and pen something about this team, the next week, it seems to get tossed on its head. What do we want to call the theme of this season? Is this a team that never stops fighting? Eh, you can argue that- Notre Dame, Clemson, and Arkansas prove you in that regard. But then you have Syracuse and Georgia Tech where they never even started or got off the mat. Is this a team that can score a lot of points? Well, theoretically, sure. We ranked a pretty respectable…33rd. What defined us? Outside of Jérod Evans doing pretty ridiculous- definitely record-setting- things, with Isaiah, Bucky, and Cam flanking him, it’s not like we could run the ball all that well. We had turnover issues that cropped up now and then like a bad case of the flu. We were inconsistent. We were maddening. We…won 10 games and surprised the hell out of a lot of people.
I want everyone to think of what a strange confluence of circumstances- external and internal- led to this season. Because honestly, this is going to be an even more different team next year. Fuente’s almost starting at Year I, Part II. The 2016 Season will go down in Tech history books as maybe not the most successful, or the most existentially exciting or even the most rewarding. But it was definitely one of the most…intriguing.
As a team? The Hokies did something they hadn’t done in a half-decade, and that was win 10 games and challenge for the ACC title. That’s incredible on its own considering the mediocrity we’d fallen into in that time. On top of that, it was accomplished with a new QB, a new offensive system, and, oh, a guy that was replacing the winningest coach in program history. Who was an alum. And had deep ties to the alumni base for the longest time. And basically made the program in what it was. And did things a certain way, one that was basically class and classwork first, then football. Frank was good at it all. But, unfortunately, by this time, the emphasis was on ‘was’. Change had to come once he retired. Instead of just dumping everyone, the new guy hired in-house- keeping the defensive coordinator, the defensive line coach, and the most important area coordinator. He kept some of the tradition- the Lunch Pail Defense, the DBU, the class, the attitude, even bringing back the #25 to continue the same spirit. But he brought in new energy, and the offensive innovation we were badly searching for the past few years. He found, recruited, and put in place a hand-picked quarterback in Jérod Evans. And while Evans was only here a year, it’s still a year that will be in the Tech record books for a while. It’s hard, though, not to imagine what could be next year if he and Ford and Hodges were sticking around to terrorize the ACC. It’s something simultaneously worth celebrating and lamenting at the same time. Ford goes down as the best wide receiver in Virginia Tech history, with Bucky sitting in an odd spot not far behind. Both had their moments, but the whole of their careers will end with their best years when they brought Tech back from stagnation. The defense had its share of injuries and malfunctions, but Woody Baron had a great season at defensive tackle, Tremaine Edmunds looks like the best linebacker we’ve had since Jack Tyler and could potentially get even better, and the secondary only loses Chuck Clark. It was a solid unit, and could get even better- the defensive linemen we lose are going to be replaced by those that have experience over these 14 games. The biggest question is and will be the offensive line and the running backs, which were rather disappointing this year, especially in conjunction with each other. That’s something that will definitely need to improve if this team is going to go anywhere next year. So what exactly will it be that we get out of them this coming season? It’s a long way away and hard to say, but it needs to be more in order to support one of Josh Jackson, Ryan Willis, AJ Bush, or Hendon Hooker.
As a site, we got to take a BIG step forward in providing you guys actual game-day coverage live from the press box (for home games, at least), up to and including the Belk Bowl in Charlotte. We saw some great games (Arkansas, UVA), at least one clunker (GT), and many that spanned in between. We appreciate and thank Whit Babcock, Pete Moris, and all the support staff up in the ‘box for all that they do and the access we were given. They all deserve more credit than they get from that standpoint. We’re a group of passionate hobbyists, realistically, and to be up there and covering the team like we do was one of the neatest things I’ve done in my life. For that I’m personally grateful.
This was always going to be an odd year. No one knew quite how odd or how successful for sure. If everything broke right, the team had plenty of potential firepower to do some great things. If everything went poorly, then we’d be looking at an especially long rebuild for Coach Fuente- if he’d be given that chance over multiple years. Now, next year is going to require patience. It’s more likely to be the rebuilding year that this one was supposed to be. Instead, what we ended up with was almost more confusing- a stammering, stuttering, fumbling, foibling success. Nothing was perfect- nothing ever can be- but even with all the imperfections, these Hokies are always going to hold a special place in my memory. This was the year that Tech found itself in spite of everything. We can be the good team we once were. Now it’s a matter of having the patience next year to pick up and do it again.
Have a great offseason everyone.