We are three weeks from the first kickoff of the 2018 NCAA Football season, and already the winners and also-rans have been determined. So, why play?? Someone has loaded all of the parameters into the computers and guess boxes to plan out who will win on each week and by what scores. It’s amusing to see early bowl projections that seemingly pop out roughly five minutes into the first half of the first game.
Well, that’s all nonsense. Football isn’t about falling into line with resigned expectations. Football is about preparing to defeat an opponent, on the field, on Game Day. So as we prep the final stages for the covering the season; it is important to advise the readers to three very fundamental rules in our football analysis.
- It is healthy to enter any season with exactly zero expectations. This is not a negative thing, nor is it a hedge. Most seasons are new efforts at the college level. Most personnel and playbook matches are new and untested. Therefore, neither ‘the big hope’ nor ‘big dreary’ will be projected for the season. Each game will be taken as a single task, and the evaluations are for hindsight, after the execution of the event. Summaries will be labeled as opinion, where appropriate, and reflect the performance level on the field.
- The coaches and players are responsible for what happens on and off the field. We live by the golden rule when it comes to evaluating games and performances. Before writing anything, always ask yourself a question. ”How would I feel if someone said that about my kid (wife, sister, etc.)?” Performances can be evaluated across the range from excellent to poor without pejoratives, insults, and invective. This is still a game, and these are still student athletes. Football is a team sport, and respecting that reality is refraining from casting blame for negative events in the direction of one particular player or coach. Our goal is to be fair, accurate, and objective. (as objective as a partisan Hokies can be, at any rate)
- Have fun. This is a wonderful opportunity to take and show pictures, give Hokies a flavor and feeling of the excitement of Game Day, and just have a plain old good time. There are the usual ups and downs of the emotional rollercoaster, sure. Some old Hokies still remember this team barely bumping along the bottom of the 1-A division without much administration support, and certainly not doing much winning. It puts a huge perspective on things without removing the desire to see a winning team run off the field upon each game’s conclusion.
Now that my rules are out there for all to see, let’s take a look at what the Hokies will be facing from a really objective standpoint, without the outside buzz getting in in the ears.
The 2018 Virginia Tech offense is in reasonably good shape. Second year starter Josh Jackson has been named fairly early in the practice schedule, and the level of surprise about that is somewhere along the lines of the famous “Casablanca” line about gambling going on at Rick’s. The over thinking part of it all is the kvetching from the sports media about targets and inexperience in the wide receiver corps. Say what you will about him, Jackson is seen as an experienced player who gives the team the best chance of producing points on offense.
This season, expect that Virginia Tech will have little problems catching the ball. Do not expect a traditional depth chart on the receiver end, however. It will be reasonable to see fair amount of platooning and situational package assignments. The coaching staff will attempt to put the Hokie offense in the best position to move the ball. The receiver corps is actually quite deep with; Eric Kumah, Sean Savoy, Hezekiah Grimsley, C.J. Carroll, Phil Patterson, and new comer Damon Hazelton all looking like they are seriously ready for the new season. Folks, that is deep and talented; the question for the receivers will be “who takes it to the next level?”
The running back position is still not solidified (if you are a believer in “feature backs”), but Jalen Holston, Deshawn McClease, Colman Fox, and Steven Peoples are all really solid performers who can both run and catch. Again, who goes to the next level?
That goes for the offensive line, as well. There are solid experienced returners mixed with new players all beg the question about taking the entire line up to the next level of performance. Can we control the line of scrimmage, protect the passer, and run the ball. It’s fundamental football that must be done at a consistently high level. So, does this offense, as a unit, step up to the next level - where it has the talent to belong?
The big worry over the off season was the defense. I like the verb ‘was’ in this case. The secondary is a touch light on experience, but we do put some quality players on the field with solid appearances. Reggie Floyd, Divine Deablo, Kahlil Ladler, Devon Hunter, Caleb Farley, and Jovonn Quillen have been garnering praise with Floyd and Deablo leading the pack. These are not athletes of trivial talent levels.
The Linebacker position is probably the biggest unknown, but the talent is there to fill in the voids that have been left by departures of 2017. We are going to see how Dylan Rivers, Rayshard Ashby, and Dax Hollifield handle the assignments. We are hearing other good things about the depth chart. It’s still “freshman” deep, so Coach Foster will need to spend extra time with his squad.
Yes, we lost a few big guys on the front line. Ricky Walker, Vinny Mihota, Trevon Hill, and Houshun Gaines are all named number ones. It looks like there isn’t much fall off in the number twos, however. Xavier Burke, Jarrod Hewitt, Emmanuel Belmar, Zion Debose, TyJuan Garbutt, and Nathan Proctor are all showing really good performance levels. The defensive line has the chops to control the line of scrimmage and penetrate into the backfield. If it routinely does that, along with get good containment and pressure on the quarterbacks they’ll be fine.
Besides, we have one of the best punters in college football. Oscar Bradburn may end up being our most devastating defensive weapon this season.
In short, this team has talent, coaching, more experience than people think, and a chance to win every time it takes the field this season. Hokie Nation is waiting, and Gobbler Country is going to be there to share the season. Besides our game Twitter and Thread coverage, we will be on the sideline getting pictures. A View from the Sidelines will get some more interest pictures, and maybe even some guest photographers jumping in. We’ll be going live on Facebook after every game, and who knows if Jay might do some of that great art work that he does.