The Virginia Tech Hokies opened the season with a huge 31-24 victory over West Virginia on Sunday night. This win was big for many reasons, specifically, beginning the season 1-0 with such a young team.
The Hokies have flaws, many of which were on full display Sunday. Depth is precarious at several positions. The defensive line was gassed by the end of the first half. Defensive tackles Tim Settle and Ricky Walker were terrific. Unfortunately, there’s very little accomplished depth behind them and defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s playcalling revealed that. Foster was not nearly as aggressive in the second half as he normally is.
Offensively, it was an uneven performance that got much better as the game progressed. Head coach Justin Fuente has to be thrilled with the performance of freshman quarterback Joshua Jackson.
Here are five takeaways from Tech’s triumph over WVU.
Josh Jackson is the real deal
Look, the redshirt freshman passer will have his ups and downs this year. He had them against the Mountaineers. However, he improved throughout the game and showed he can use his legs to make plays, too. There were questions about how much the Hokies would use Jackson in the running game. Not because he wasn’t capable – a look at his high school film shows his abilities – but more about his frame. He isn’t as sturdy as Jerod Evans. Jackson is a good athlete who does a tremendous job at avoiding big shots. He won’t run as much as Evans and he shouldn’t need to. Deshawn McClease, Steven Peoples and Travon McMillian should help him out in the running more this season.
As a passer, Jackson had some big-time moments. His throw to Cam Phillips to set up VT’s first score was a terrific pass. He found the perfect spot between the coverage to pick up a big gain. And, right before the half, he threw a bullet to C.J. Carroll on third down to set up another score. He was under duress, moved right and made a beautiful throw.
Fuente was certainly impressed with his young quarterback.
Considering the spotlight, this was a major performance. Jackson will use the next few games to continue getting comfortable with his weapons as the Hokies involve more young players in the passing game.
Jackson has a tremendous future in front of him.
McClease is going to be a major factor
After watching the redshirt sophomore on Sunday night you understand why the coaches loved this kid and wanted him on the field. He has some special qualities in his game. Sure, he’s small at 5’9”, 190 pounds, but he runs with excellent pad level and isn’t afraid to mix things up between the tackles. His touchdown run was a thing of sheer beauty.
VT RB Deshawn McClease showing some nice balance and burst. pic.twitter.com/E7MDLdU2Id— Michael Kist (@MichaelJKist) September 4, 2017
The coaching staff is going to have to find a delicate balance with McClease. Give him 10-12 touches per game, including the passing game. He will make plays. He can hit the home run, too. He will be exciting to watch this fall.
Sean Savoy took advantage of his opportunities
There was a lot of optimism surrounding the young receivers this fall. Caleb Farley’s injury stung because of his expected impact. However, it opened the door for other young players. Freshman Sean Savoy took full advantage against WVU.
Savoy caught four balls for 42 yards, some for big first downs. Those numbers were second on the team behind Phillips. He also carried the ball three times for nine yards. Jackson seems to have a strong rapport with him already. Savoy lined up both on the outside and in the slot proving to coaches he has a strong grasp of the offense.
Barring injury, expect Savoy to continue receiving plenty of opportunities.
James Clark is going to have a big year as the return guy
We heard all summer how fast James Clark was. The graduate transfer from Ohio State returned three kicks for a total of 93 yards. On two of those kicks, he almost broke free for a score. On one, WVU’s kicker used the sideline to get him out of bounds. That was after Clark had crossed into West Virginia territory. It’s only a matter of time before Clark brings one to the house.
The Hokies weren’t sure how much Clark would help in the passing game. Several players are ahead of him on the depth chart wide receiver, but Fuente wanted Clark’s speed on the field and inserting him as the return man is a genius move. It can also provide a major boon for the offense.
Look for the coaches to also continue to try to involve him more on the offensive side. Clark can be a special weapon for the Hokies in 2017.
Terrell Edmunds had a tough night
The Hokies’ junior defensive back is one of the best safeties in the country. Against West Virginia, though, Terrell Edmunds had a tough night. He wasn’t horrible by any stretch. But he was beaten on numerous throws downfield, including WVU’s first touchdown. In true Edmunds’ fashion, he was around the ball a lot. He also showed his physicality in the running game.
Later in the game, of course, he went down with an injury. It looked like cramps at first, but it was later proved to be a hamstring injury. Edmunds was unable to finish the game. His status for this week’s game against Delaware is currently not known. It would be smart for the Hokies to be cautious with Edmunds. Along with his brother and Tim Settle, they may be the most important players on that side of the ball.
It wasn’t his best night, but there’s no need to worry about Terrell Edmunds. WVU has outstanding receivers and it provided a good test for Tech’s secondary in the season opener.
Now, it’s back to Lane Stadium to host the Delaware Blue Hens, best known for producing NFL quarterbacks Rich Gannon and Joe Flacco.