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Virginia Tech football: North Carolina kids playing major roles for the Hokies

Many of Virginia Tech’s top players hail from the Tar Heel state.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 12 Rhode Island at Virginia Tech
Virginia Tech QB Hendon Hooker with head coach Justin Fuente

Halfway through the 2019 season, the Virginia Tech Hokies sit at 4-2, including a disappointing 1-2 mark in the ACC. However, the Hokies have won two consecutive games since the debut of redshirt sophomore Hendon Hooker as the starting quarterback. In two starts, Hooker has completed 26 of 47 passes for 465 yards, six touchdowns and, most importantly, no interceptions. Hooker has also rushed for 119 yards and another score in those two games.

Hooker, of course, is from Greensboro, North Carolina, one of many current Hokies from the Tar Heel State. Remember, the hashtag ‘#NC2VT’ that was extremely popular around the program in the last couple of years? Hooker was one of those who got that trend started. Redshirt junior Divine Deablo of Winston-Salem, was one of the first higher-rated players in North Carolina to choose to depart his home state for Blacksburg among those on the roster now. And, if not for injuries, Deablo would easily be an All-ACC player.

Another standout is sophomore wide receiver Tre Turner. Turner was terrific as a true freshman last season, including a breakout performance in the win over Virginia. Turner is a phenomenal talent who has gotten off to a bit of a slow start this fall due in part to the changes at quarterback and a recent injury. He has missed the last two games but is almost certainly expected to play this weekend. Another positive for the Hokies is this will be the first time all season the team will have Turner and Damon Hazelton at full strength together and it could not come at a better time. Turner is also from Greensboro.

Two of Tech’s top defenders are sophomore Dax Hollifield and redshirt freshman Alan Tisdale. Hollifield was one of the top gets in the class of 2018 for the Hokies and has been a mainstay in the lineup since arriving on campus. He is splitting time at the ‘backer spot with Tisdale this season. The former four-star Hollifield picked the Hokies over Clemson, Stanford and UNC. He is from Shelby, North Carolina.

Tisdale, a 6’3”, 220-pounder from Greensboro, has emerged as one of the breakout players on this young team. His speed is evident when he is on the field and as he gains experience he could end up being one of the better linebackers in recent school history. He has special qualities. Ideally, Hollifield would play mike with Tisdale at ‘backer, but the presence of Rayshard Ashby makes that difficult.

The Hokies’ top corner is redshirt sophomore Caleb Farley. Farley, who two years ago was set to make an impact as a true freshman wide receiver, moved over to defensive back out of necessity. While a torn ACL wiped out his 2017 season, Farley became an immediate starter at cornerback in 2018. He had his ups and downs, yet displayed massive potential. This year, Farley is quietly having a terrific season, solidifying one cornerback spot.

One of the top players in the class of 2019, four-star defensive back J.R. Walker from Clayton, looks like he will be redshirting this fall. I would expect him to move right into the lineup next year

The Hokies have numerous other kids from North Carolina, such as tight end Drake DeIuliis, Elijah Bowick, Nadir Thompson and Brock Hoffman. But there is no doubt, a plethora of Virginia Tech’s top performers came from North Carolina.

Since head coach Justin Fuente took over, he has made the Carolina’s more of a priority than the waning years of the Beamer regime. And it is paying off. UNC’s lack of success under former Larry Fedora certainly played a part in North Carolina’s struggles, but with Mack Brown back in Chapel Hill, the Hokies will have their hands full continuing that trend.

With the Tar Heels coming to Lane Stadium on Saturday, this group would love nothing more than to keep its success over UNC alive, especially considering the Heels are one game above the Hokies in the ACC standings. It won’t be easy, but this talented group of North Carolinians will certainly be up to the challenge.