If you read ESPN’s sports punditry (I shall remain calm… ohmmmm….) in a rather dismissive pile on regarding the Hokies, all ultimately led by Phil Steele’s total dissing of Virginia Tech in his preseason gig. We do not even appear in the equation of the Bleacher Report looking at the potential Top 25 Coaches’ Poll. Of course they are more interested in the top 5 because it’s going to fundamentally be the same five teams that it has been for the bulk of the current “ersatz playoff” fandangle. Never let it be said that the sports pundit class wasn’t enthralled of group think. The “blessed” make pronouncements and their acolytes form their Greek Chorus. The sound is painful – have you ever heard a Greek tragedy performed in Greek, in metre, and complete with the ancient Greek concept of music? Well the analogy is accurate.
Either way, the first set of polls will be officially out soon enough; there is always the next set of “official” polls telling us who the pundits tell us we should believe to be the best. Of course having no real conference system and actual real playoffs makes the Pundit Polls so much more important. What’s funny is you see the FCS Division 1 polls posted and the list of teams, but they are meaningless because all FCS teams play for a slot in their, very real, playoffs.
The gripe against the Hokies, in a nutshell, is that we lost too many people on the Defense and there is no one for JJ to pass to. One wonders how Hous Gaines, Vinny Mihota, Ricky Walker, and Travon Hill actually feel about the fact that the loss of one player to the draft means the difference between winning and stinking. I’d like to check with all of the four and five star athletes who can play all four Cornerback and Safety positions competently feel about being told that they are going to be shelled and fail miserably this season. The Linebackers might be a little light on experience, but there are four standout athletes who are champing at the bit to put their hard learned lessons to work on the field.
As to JJ’s targets, do these people remember Sean Savoy? Did they notice the final games where the sticky fingered (and huge) Eric Kumah began to shine? Were they paying attention when Hezekiah Grimsley showed up with clutch catches and every back on the field this season proved to be a capable receiver? We haven’t even gotten to Chris Cunningham who can block, catch, and run with the ball after the reception. The same goes for the no longer freshman Dalton Keene, who started 12 of 13 games last season.
They didn’t even mention that our offensive line is one of the largest and most athletic that we’ve had in a decade or more. They whiffed at the running backs on the ground. Yes, Fuente is a pass first offensive mind, but he’s got plans for a running game to balance the attack and the updated line can make a huge difference.
It’s like we are going to walk into a meat grinder at the kickoff of the FSU game. Not one of these pundits is even noting that FSU was horrid last season, has a new coach, and an unknown Quarterback situation. Yes, yes… Miami is a giant (aren’t they always?), Notre Dame cannot be beaten (huh?), and even if Tech pulls off a miracle – Clemson is godlike. Pardon me while I sit for a minute and count to 10 to even out the word flow to a family website level. Piffle.
Those games are all going to be challenges. If those challenges are so surely going the way of the opponent, for what earthly reason would Justin Fuente and Bud Foster waste their collective time on fielding a team that can win those contests?
All right, I am considered a “sports commentator/pundit” though my influence is tiny and limited to our peculiar little corner of SB Nation, but still, I absolutely refuse to jump on the groupthink bandwagon. This team is not quite “there” enough to be in that vaunted “Top 5” confab. That is absolute truth. What is not “truth” is that this team is not capable of sustaining a finish in the “Top 25” whichever poll that happens to be. It is college football, and anything can happen. It also more often than not will happen, too. The magic is how the program adjusts to it.
They are slightly correct about one thing, however. Tech’s depth at certain positions is not quite there yet. Those are the hazards of being at the midway transition point of the Fuente Era. That’s going to be on the coaching staff and Coach Hilgart’s conditioning program.
Dismissing the Virginia Tech Hokies even before the first foot meets the first ball on Labor Day weekend is a bit much to take, however. This is, and should be a “No Expectations” season if only because the team is so young; but that does not mean that it’s all over before it starts. If you haven’t noticed, Justin Fuente is a coach that seems to get each of his players to leave every ounce of effort on the field, each time the game is played. So, knowing that, let us allow them to play football before consigning them to mediocrity.