New cornerbacks. New linebackers. A thin defensive line.
Virginia Tech’s defense turned in a masterful performance on Monday night, pummeling Florida State’s offense en route to a 24-3 victory in Tallahassee. Monday night’s win may go a long way in positioning the Hokies for an ACC Coastal run, while Clemson might lock up the Atlantic Division by the end of October.
Here are my biggest observations from Virginia Tech’s win over the ‘Noles
Foster elevates his game
Nobody would have blamed defensive coordinator Bud Foster if his defense looked a little shaky on Monday night. He was breaking in eight new starters against a team full of athletes that he had little film on to work with. Foster had to piece together Willie Taggart’s film from Oregon and South Florida while taking into account Florida State’s film from last season.
The result was perhaps one of Foster’s best productions. He orchestrated a three-point effort, allowing just 94 yards rushing against one of the most talented backfields in the country. Outside of Cam Akers’ 85-yard scamper in the fourth quarter, Florida State ran for just 10 yards on 27 attempts.
Turnovers were a key part of the Hokies’ success. Florida State quarterback Deondre Francois threw three interceptions and the ‘Noles fumbled the ball twice, helping the Hokies win the field position battle.
Florida State actually finished with more offensive yardage than Virginia Tech, but the ‘Noles bungled every single red zone opportunity. Florida State’s red zone trips ended in these results — missed field goal, field goal, fumble. The ‘Noles went for it on fourth down on Virginia Tech’s 21-yard-line in second quarter, and they blew that too.
Foster deserves all the credit in the world, as do his players. Trevon Hill, who sat for much of the first quarter, totaled two sacks and three tackles for loss. Divine Deablo, Reggie Floyd and Rayshard Ashby each registered two tackles for loss. Caleb Farley, playing in his first collegiate game, intercepted two passes.
Virginia Tech’s defense won’t be this dominant all season. But after this performance, it’s hard to believe they won’t be one of the nation’s best units in 2018. For now, here’s another crazy stat from last night’s game.
Of Florida State’s 63 offensive plays tonight, 35 went for 0 or negative yards (55.5%).
That is the highest percentage of negative plays for the Seminoles since Nov, 25, 2006 against Florida. pic.twitter.com/qKWcOfgFlK
The lack of a consistent and explosive running game has plagued Justin Fuente’s Hokies in each of his first two seasons. But on Monday night, Tech’s backs got the job done.
Deshawn McClease led the way with 77 yards on just 13 carries, while Steven Peoples and Terius Wheatley chipped in 44 and 22 yards, respectively. Wheatley’s 22 yards came on just two carries. Virginia Tech’s running backs averaged just over five yards per carry vs. Florida State, a number which towers over the Hokies’ 2017 game-by-game outputs.
Yes, Josh Jackson did nothing in the ground game. But maybe he doesn’t need to. If Virginia Tech can control the line of scrimmage like they did last night on a consistent basis, it opens things up tremendously for this offense. Still, an increased presence from Jackson would be helpful, which leads me to my next point.
Jackson must improve if Hokies are to win ACC
Josh Jackson held his own last night. He weathered consistent rain and a tenacious Florida State defensive line to finish 16-of-26 for 207 yards passing and two touchdowns.
As good as that stat line looks, Jackson still has areas he needs to improve on. He should have thrown an interception earlier that was missed by two Florida State defenders. He didn’t move very well either and was sacked three times.
Jackson had a good performance vs. Florida State, but if the Hokies are to take the next step and seriously contend for the ACC Championship, Jackson needs to be better. He needs to make more plays with his arm and find ways to be productive on the ground.
It’s time to handle business
Virginia Tech’s next three games should be over before they begin. The Hokies host William and Mary and East Carolina over the next two weeks before traveling to my part of the state for another clash with Old Dominion. Neither of these three games should be painful. William and Mary is an FCS program and both East Carolina and Old Dominion endured embarrassing losses to start the season.
The Hokies need to run over these next three opponents. It’s time to build confidence before Tech hits the next part of their schedule, which includes a tough road game at Duke and a (likely) primetime showdown with Notre Dame inside Lane Stadium.
Virginia Tech embarks on their 2018 campaign on Monday night, heading to Tallahassee to take on Florida State for the first time since 2012. The Hokies have reason for optimism heading into 2018 but have even more reasons to be pessimistic.
Here’s how I see each game playing out this season, as well as where I think Virginia Tech will finish in the ACC and who some of Tech’s key players will be.
at Florida State, Sept. 3 at 8 p.m.
For the second straight season, Virginia Tech begins their 12-game slate with a key matchup. The Hokies dispatched West Virginia in a thrilling 31-24 victory. But this season, Tech has to travel and play in hostile territory against the 19th-best team in the country.
Florida State is an intriguing team. Willie Taggart must get the Seminoles back on track after an embarrassing 6-6 finish in 2017. He’s got two competent quarterbacks and years’ worth of elite-level recruits.
Virginia Tech will be starting eight new players on the defensive side of the ball, which could lead to Bud Foster’s defense being exploited by a creative offensive coach. Foster has no film to work off of that shows Taggart with this group of players. All he can do is piece together Taggart’s film from Oregon and USF with Florida State’s film from the last few seasons.
It’ll be an electric atmosphere. The Florida State fanbase is buzzing about Taggart’s arrival and the ‘Noles are motivated to put last season behind them. I think Virginia Tech’s defense is too young to keep Florida State’s offense in check, and the Hokies’ offense isn’t experience enough to cover for them vs. elite talent. It’ll be a close game all night long, but I think Tech ultimately loses this one.
Prediction: Florida State 31, Virginia Tech 27
William and Mary, Sept. 8 at 2 p.m.
After a lengthy trip to Tallahassee, Virginia Tech has to turn around five days later and play FCS William and Mary. The Tribe are entering their last season under Jimmye Laycock, who is retiring this winter.
Even if the Hokies lose to Florida State, turning around and beating William and Mary shouldn’t be difficult. Virginia Tech might not look all that great in this game, but there isn’t a reason to worry.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 38, William and Mary 10
East Carolina, Sept 15. at 12:20 p.m.
Virginia Tech fell down early vs. the Pirates in Greenville last season, only to leave with a 64-17 blowout win. East Carolina was one of the worst teams in FBS last season and though the Pirates should be better this season, they aren’t good enough to beat Tech inside Lane Stadium. Head coach Scottie Montgomery needs to make this game semi-competitive, or else the calls for his job will get even louder.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 41, East Carolina 13
at Old Dominion, Sept. 22 at 3:30 p.m.
The Monarchs are still in the process of turning themselves into an FBS program. Old Dominion made the jump in 2013 and head coach Bobby Wilder is still bringing in higher level players. The Monarchs are headed in the right direction, but success hasn’t happened overnight.
Quarterback Steven Williams didn’t put up good numbers last season in Lane Stadium, but the youngster showed promise. Now a sophomore, Williams should be better prepared to handle Virginia Tech’s defense. It still won’t be enough, however, and Virginia Tech will run over Old Dominion as the Hokies begin to find their stride.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 42, Old Dominion 14
at Duke, Sept. 29
Despite poor attendance and enthusiasm, playing at Duke is tough for some reason. Virginia Tech fans show up in droves every year at Wallace Wade Stadium but consider the result of the last few games played between these two teams at Duke.
2016: 24-21 win
2014: 17-16 win
2011: 14-10 win
Even last year’s 24-3 win over Duke at Lane Stadium was a soggy slugfest. Duke plays tough and no matter how bad they are, they’re tough to beat.
Duke quarterback Daniel Jones should rebound after a shaky 2017, when he completed less than 57 percent of his passes and threw just 14 touchdowns, compared to 11 interceptions. Jones is a talented quarterback who is mobile enough to give the Hokies’ defense fits. Still, Duke doesn’t have enough to get the job done.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Duke 20
Notre Dame, Oct. 6
Virginia Tech will see Notre Dame for the second time in three seasons to kick off October. If Virginia Tech enters this matchup with one or fewer losses on their record, this game would go a long way in pushing them into College Football Playoff Discussion.
Notre Dame fired on all cylinders in Week 1, knocking off Michigan. The Fighting Irish were good last season and despite losing a few players to the NFL, it looks like they’re good once again. Still, Notre Dame won’t run the table and as the season wears on, they will fade as they usually do. But will Virginia Tech fade at the same time?
Fresh off a fistfight with Duke, Tech will be a little worn down. If this game were in South Bend, I’d predict an easy Irish win. Instead, I think this one goes to the wire. In the end, Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush is a little too much to handle.
Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Virginia Tech 21
at North Carolina, Oct. 13
North Carolina stinks. The Tar Heels are dealing with off-the-field issues and head coach Larry Fedora is on the hot seat.
Carolina has talent but for some reason, they don’t put it together. They’ll be motivated to avenge last season’s 59-7 drubbing in Lane Stadium. But they won’t, and Virginia Tech will rebound from their loss to the Fighting Irish.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 34, North Carolina 10
Georgia Tech, Oct. 25 (Thurs.) at 7:30 p.m.
This game could very well be the turning point in Virginia Tech’s season. The Hokies have lost to Georgia Tech in each of the last two seasons and three times in the last four seasons. Georgia Tech has the Hokies’ number, specifically Justin Fuente’s.
Fuente made some questionable decisions last season in Atlanta that may have cost Virginia Tech a win. Georgia Tech’s annoying style of play and ability to maintain possession played too big of a factor and Fuente needs to be careful this time around. Don’t get too outside your normal gameplan.
TaQuon Marshall is an excellent quarterback in Georgia Tech’s offense and the Yellow Jackets have an outside chance to win the Coastal Division. But I think this is the year the Hokies get over the hump against Paul Johnson.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 28, Georgia Tech 16
Boston College, Nov. 3
AJ Dillon is good, but the rest of Boston College’s team doesn’t instill fear. Bud Foster has had little trouble with former coworker Scot Loeffler and things won’t change this time around.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 27, Boston College 14
at Pittsburgh, Nov. 10
Kenny Pickett gives Pittsburgh a tough option who can get the job done with his arm and legs. He showed some gusto vs. the Hokies in last season’s affair and he could mess with the Hokies’ defense back in Pittsburgh.
The Panthers have historically been a thorn in the Hokies’ side but at this point in the season, I think Virginia Tech will have passed Pittsburgh by a mile. Still, playing in Heinz Field is always weird and this game won’t be easy.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 26, Pittsburgh 24
Miami, Nov. 17
The showdown of the year. Miami blasted the Hokies in 2017 and coming into 2018, the ‘Canes were the media’s darling team to challenge Clemson for the ACC Championship.
Well, Miami can hold off on the playoff aspirations for now. LSU ran over the Hurricanes 33-17 and exposed Malik Rosier as a limited passer. Nick Brosette ran right through Miami’s vaunted defense, which swallowed the Hokies last season.
Miami has won this matchup three out of the last four seasons, but their run as Coastal champs is coming to an end. Virginia Tech will top Miami in the cold November air in Blacksburg and set themselves up for an ACC Championship appearance.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 38, Miami 21
Virginia, Nov. 23 (Fri.)
I’m not picking Virginia until either A) they final win a game vs. the Hokies or B) they start an elite mobile quarterback.
Well, Virginia hasn’t beaten the Hokies yet and Bryce Perkins doesn’t fit the definition of elite. Virginia Tech will dominate.
Prediction: Virginia Tech 42, Virginia 13
Season Prediction: 10-2 (7-1 ACC)
I’ll willfully admit I never expected to predict Virginia Tech to win this many games. And honestly, I should have predicted Virginia Tech to drop one of the games that they shouldn’t. But the Hokies are positioned well with this schedule. Once the Florida State opener is out of the way, Virginia Tech gets an easy stretch of games before having to face off with Notre Dame.
After that, they get a slate of easier ACC opponents before squaring up with Miami to decide the Coastal Division. Of their three premiere matchups, Fuente and Foster are too good to lose all of them.
If Virginia Tech finishes 10-2, they’ll win the Coastal and get waxed by Clemson in the ACC Championship. The Tigers are too good and by that point, Trevor Lawrence might have cemented himself as Clemson’s starting quarterback. But if Tech gets to that point, this season would be an unqualified success.
Virginia Tech football released an unofficial depth chart on Wednesday, pleasing everyone from writers to fans. The flow of information is weak these days and any time a depth chart is released to the public, it’s big news.
For the most part, there were few surprises. Zachariah Hoyt is listed as the Hokies’ starting center, while Kyle Chung is at left guard. Tyree Rodgers is the No. 2 free safety, despite spending the first couple years of his Virginia Tech career as a cornerback. Brian Johnson is the starting field goal kicker, while Jordan Stout is slated to handle kickoffs.
But there was one glaring surprise on the defensive side of the ball. Khalil Ladler, a redshirt sophomore, is listed as the starting whip/nickelback, while Devon Hunter, the presumptive starter, is listed as a co-backup with freshman DJ Crossen.
Don’t get me wrong — Ladler is a talented player worthy of significant playing time. Ladler filled in admirably towards the end of last season, once Divine Deablo, Terrell Edmunds and Mook Reynolds were no longer available. Ladler, who enrolled at Tech as a cornerback, played both safety spots last season and the defensive coaching staff has trust in him to play just about anywhere.
But Hunter, the former five-star prospect who was supposed to replace Reynolds at the whip position, lost the job to Ladler? And not only did he lose the job, but he’s tied with a freshman cornerback moving to the whip position?
Perhaps this a slight overreaction, but something isn’t right. Hunter has lost a starting battle in each of the last two seasons, despite being practically handed the whip job this offseason. When is Hunter going to make a real impact?
When a program like Virginia Tech signs a five-star recruit, that prospect needs to pan out. It’s understandable for it to take a season, but Hunter has now had a full year in the program and still isn’t in a position to contribute in a significant fashion. Hunter will play special teams, but five-star recruits have to be something more than that.
Time will tell if Hunter figures things out. The Hokies are in good hands with Ladler at whip, Reggie Floyd at rover and Divine Deablo at free safety, but Hunter was supposed to take this group to the next level. Virginia Tech needs Hunter to step up soon, because the clock is ticking.
Monday Mail is back! So is college football, technically. Eight teams have started their 2018 season already, even though the season really begins this weekend. I’ll have my season prediction for Virginia Tech coming out this week, so look for that.
Until then, be sure to read the rest of this.
Who will have the most sacks this season for the Hokies D?
The odds-on favorite is probably Ricky Walker, who should build on his 4.5-sack performance in 2017. The problem is that Walker is now a marked man, and he’ll be the highlight of offensive gameplans in 2018.
Trevon Hill and Houshun Gaines will benefit. Hill is entering his third season as a starter and actually totaled 5.5 sacks last season. He’s an explosive pass rusher off the edge and with most of the line’s attention focused on Walker, Hill is positioned for success.
Gaines’ presence helps too. He finished 2017 with three sacks in limited playing time and gives Virginia Tech more of a pass rush than the Hokies had with Vinny Mihota at defensive end. With Gaines and Hill on the edge, both should find success getting to opposing quarterbacks this season. My money is on Hill to lead Tech in sacks, and he’ll take a long, hard look at the NFL after he does.
Speaking of Hill, our next series of questions relate to this…
In the past, Virginia Tech has kept players away from the media for a multitude of reasons. Wyatt Teller was kept from the media during his senior season but he was never suspended. Adonis Alexander was kept from the media for a very long time, and he was declared academically ineligible and suspended multiple times during his Virginia Tech career.
Hill could be in trouble, or it could be because of his criticism of Andy Bitter’s coverage of Mook Reynolds’ dismissal this offseason. We’ll find out on Sept. 3 if Hill is in Tech’s good graces or if he’s in big trouble.
What can we except from the offense against FSUs defense and how well do you think our corners will be able to defend against FSUs WR
Virginia Tech’s offense has some talent, but so does Florida State’s defense. Brian Burns and Demarcus Christmas are Florida State’s most experienced defensive linemen. Burns had 4.5 sacks last season and 13.5 tackles for loss and is FSU’s headliner up front.
Two of Florida State’s linebackers have experience, albeit limited. Adonis Thomas is entering his final season of eligibility. The former Alabama linebacker turned JUCO product played in just four games in 2017 for the Seminoles. Junior Dontavious Jackson played in eight games last season and made 17 tackles, but lacks experience too. Freshman Jaiden Woodbey was one of the top college prospects in the Class of 2018 and is expected start at nickelback for Florida State.
In the secondary, Florida State is hoping Stanford Samuels III is able to play and if he is, he brings 10 games of experience with three tackles for loss and two interceptions worth of experience. AJ Westbrook is another experienced safety with 24 games under his belt as a Seminole. Levonta Taylor is about as good as it gets at cornerback, and Kyle Meyers is entering his third year in the program.
Virginia Tech’s offensive line should be able to hold their own vs. Florida State’s defensive front. Florida State has some experience at linebacker but none of them are proven options and as lone as Josh Jackson exercises extreme caution when throwing towards Taylor, Tech’s receivers should be able to find holes. Florida State might recruit like a juggernaut, but they’ve got holes they can’t fill.
Here’s who Noles247 predicts Florida State’s receiving depth chart heading into this season.
Starting outside receivers: Tamorrion Terry, Keith Gavin
Starting slot receiver: Nyqwan Murray
Murray led Florida State in receiving yards (604) last season and should be even more productive in his senior season. Murray is still recovering from a torn ACL but is expected to be a full go vs. the Hokies.
Outside of Murray, Florida State is bereft of experience at receiver. Terry is a redshirt freshman who signed with the ‘Noles in the Class of 2017. Terry wasn’t a highly-regarded recruit by Florida State standards, carrying just a three-star rating.
Gavin is a junior with 27 career catches, but that’s it. Gavin’s receptions all came last season and he still doesn’t have a touchdown reception in his career. Virginia Tech’s receiving corps isn’t all that experienced, but Florida State’s is even greener.
Florida State’s receivers are talented, but so are Tech’s defensive backs. They’re both young and both will make mistakes. It should be an entertaining battle between these two groups.
Any off-the-grid candidates from outside the 40-man roster that the O’s should call up in September? And who goes to make room? #Birdland
I’ll give one pitcher and one hitter that fit the description. Left-handed pitcher Josh Rogers has pitched well all season at the AAA level and has been even better in Norfolk since being acquired in the Zach Britton trade. Rogers has started five games for Norfolk, totaling a 2.08 ERA and a 1.088 WHIP. He’s pitched plenty of innings in the minor leagues throughout his career and since the Orioles starting rotation is a disaster, Rogers should get a chance this September.
Rogers isn’t on the 40-man roster, so space needs to be made. Twenty-eight-year-old reliever Sean Gilmartin doesn’t provide much value for the Orioles and really doesn’t need to be in the organization.
Despite poor numbers this season for Norfolk, DJ Stewart needs to get a look at the major league level. Stewart hasn’t really earned a promotion, hitting just .234 and slugging .391. However, given the Orioles plethora of future options in the outfield, Stewart needs to prove that he belongs. Yusniel Diaz, Austin Hays and Ryan McKenna will all reach the majors within the next two seasons and Cedric Mullins is already there. It’s time for Stewart to earn his spot or get pushed to the back of the line.
As much as I’d love to boot Chris Davis from the 40-man roster, that’s not realistic. How about Craig Gentry, who’s a 34-year-old outfielder that’s been average or worse at the plate since 2013. Gentry is a solid fourth outfielder that can play all three spots and run the bases, but he provides little to zero value to a team in the middle of a full rebuild.
Here’s a timely question. Virginia Tech added their first commitment of the 2020 class on Friday, hauling in Virginia native Tyler Warren.
Warren is a 6-foot-5, 200-pound quarterback from Mechanicsville. Warren currently holds offers from Virginia and Syracuse, so his recruitment ended before it really got started. As much as I’d love to evaluate Warren’s ability, both of his season highlight videos on Hudl have been made private. Hopefully that changes soon.
In terms of the entire class, there are a few big-time targets for Virginia Tech. Chris Tyree is probably No. 1 on the list, being an elite running back from Virginia. Tyree has visited Blacksburg on numerous occasions and the Hokies have been recruiting him for years. According to 247Sports, Florida State, Mississippi State and Penn State are the biggest competitors for Tyree’s signature.
Blake Corum is another running back the Hokies are after. Corum currently plays at St. Frances Academy in Maryland and is another high-end prospect.
Defensively, Virginia Tech is heavily recruiting defensive linemen Tyler Baron and Bryan Bresee. Baron is related to former Hokie Woody Baron is a solid four-star prospect that could end up playing inside. Bresee is a 6-foot-5, 290-pound athletic freak that’s rated No. 1 in the country. Bresee is likely headed elsewhere, but Jacolbe Cowan would be a nice pickup too.
It’s extremely early in the process, and more names will appear. But for now, those are the prospects to keep an eye on.
Cunningham was less involved in the passing game last season after having like 3-4 TD catches the year before. Any chance he gets back in, especially in the red zone?
There’s a chance, but this might be Chris Cunningham’s last chance at securing a big chunk of playing time.
Cunningham is entering his fourth year in the program and has yet to be a consistent impact player. Cunningham has just 15 catches over the last two seasons and after catching four touchdown passes in 2016, he caught just one in 2017.
If Cunningham is unable to solidify his role this season, he will be passed over for younger options that were recruiting by this coaching staff. Dalton Keene is just a sophomore and is already a better blocker than Cunningham is. Drake DeIuliis got a look on the outside in 2017 before pulling a hamstring and will probably get another look out there this season. Freshman James Mitchellhas impressed in preseason camp and could play right away.
Virginia Tech has plenty of options at tight end. Cunningham is on the verge of making himself expendable, so 2018 is a critical year for him.
Now that Josh has been named our starting QB, what’s the probable line up of the other QB’s? Also, how likely is it Patterson will see the field this year given the new redshirt rules?
I still think the backup position is Ryan Willis’ to lose. Willis is experienced, even though that experience wasn’t enjoyable. But he looked the best in the spring and I think Hendon Hooker needs more time to mature and develop his skills.
Normally, Quincy Patterson wouldn’t figure into the equation this season. He’s a raw, unpolished prospect with tons of upside. Patterson needs time.
But with the NCAA’s new redshirt rules that allow a player to play in four games and still redshirt, Patterson most certainly needs to play in 2018. Part of the new redshirt experience, specifically for quarterbacks, needs to include garbage playing time.
Patterson’s development may be sped up if he’s allowed to see the field as a freshman. If the result of the game is no longer in question, Patterson should see the field so he can adapt himself to the speed of the game and make mistakes. Patterson needs to be allowed to fail so that he can succeed later in his career
Sure, if Patterson lights it up there will be an immediate quarterback controversy ignited by clueless fans. But those who understand how things work know that Patterson needs at least two years of protected growth before he’s ready to bloom.
And a #Hokies one: we have 3 young exciting LBs. Any chance we could actually see a LB rotation from Bud?
Virginia Tech’s linebacker corps looks very promising. The group is full of youth and potential and the group is in good shape moving forward. But even with all the youth and all of the potential, there’s little to no chance that Bud Foster rotates his linebackers.
Foster has never rotated linebackers in his career, for better or for worse. Also, rotating young guys in and out prevents guys from getting the maximum amount of reps possible. Instead of spreading the reps around, you one guy taking as many of them as possible.
That’s not to say Foster won’t bench one of his linebackers in favor of another. Let’s say freshman Dax Hollifield starts vs. Florida State and plays poorly. I could see Foster going with Rayshard Ashby or Keshon Artis later down the line, if the poor play continued. I don’t think Foster will continue to play a guy who simply can’t get the job done.
Super important question. What’s your favorite Hokie Uniform?
I think Virginia Tech’s defense would benefit by seeing Florida State later in the season. Not only would they have real tape to watch instead of piecing things together from last season, but they’d have chances to make mistakes against lesser opponents.
Would you rather the Hokies make mistakes against William and Mary, or Florida State?
On Sept. 3, several Hokies are going to be seeing the first significant snaps of their careers. Mistakes will be made. Assignments will be missed. Things won’t be communicated properly. It’s a lot easier to come back from those problems when you’re playing an FCS school, rather than a Power 5 opponent who’s recruited in the top 15 for over a decade.
Who are the 3 best prospects the O’s got in their summer sell off? And does Mountcastle and DJ Stewart make the show in ‘19
The Orioles acquired 15 different players in their summer exodus, even though most of them were mid-end prospects. A few of them standout, however.
Yusniel Diaz is the best prospect the O’s trade for this summer. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound outfielder has killed it at nearly every stop he’s had, starting in Cuba. Diaz mashed in AA-Tulsa, finishing with a .314/.428/.477 line before being traded to the Orioles and sent to AA-Bowie. Diaz’ torrid pace has slowed considerably since being acquired by the Orioles, but his larger of body work says no one should worry.
Diaz is rated as the Orioles’ top prospect and will be making his debut in the near future. If Diaz finds his rhythm once again, he could find himself in Baltimore mid-2019.
In my opinion, Luis Ortiz is No. 2. He’s a big right-hander who rates as the Orioles’ seventh-best prospect. Ortiz has rebounded from a shaky 2017 and has a 3.54 ERA this season. Since being acquired by Baltimore, Ortiz has pitched 16 innings for AAA-Norfolk and has a 2.81 ERA.
Dillon Tate is third, although he and Ortiz are very close. Tate is two years older and after a stellar 2017, has slowed in 2018. Tate’s ERA this season is over four and has allowed 18 earned runs in just four appearances for AA-Bowie. Tate will likely find his footing but isn’t ready for the bump to AAA just yet.
I think Ryan Mountcastle will be in Baltimore at some point in 2019. He probably won’t make the Opening Day roster but after a short stint in AAA-Norfolk, I think he’d be ready. Mountcastle is hitting .304 at Bowie this season and has 12 home runs and 53 RBIs in 87 games. He’s been consistent all season long and barring a setback, he should be ready some time in 2019.
DJ Stewart should get called up this September, but he hasn’t done much to boost his stock this season. Stewart is hitting just .235 at AAA-Norfolk this season and as been awful since June. Stewart hit .175 in July and is hitting .204 so far in August.
Still, Stewart needs to see major league competition. He’s next in the line of Orioles prospects expected to make their debut and given the organizational depth behind him, the Orioles need to find out of Stewart can get the job done. They also need to find out if he can even play outfield at the major league level, or if he’ll need to move into a first base or designated hitter role.
Should the O’s sell out to re-sign Adam Jones to lead the rebuild, or should they just roll with the outfield prospects? #Birdland
For those of you who are unaware of who Stephen Newman is, he’s a great friend of mine who is also a sports writer. Stephen covered all sorts of Virginia Tech sports for the Collegiate Times as a student and is very knowledgeable. Go follow him on Twitter.
The Orioles should absolutely re-sign Adam Jones and keep him around for the rebuild. Not only can Jones, a 13-year veteran, mentor the Orioles’ young outfielders sure to debut in the coming years, but Jones can still hit.
Yes, Jones’ power numbers are down. Despite a slight increase last season, Jones has slugged less than .440 in two of the last three seasons and hasn’t hit 30 or more home runs since 2013. But, Jones is hitting .285 this season, his exact average from last season. Jones isn’t a do-it-all hitter anymore, but he can still hit for average.
Jones’ community involvement and level of play over the last several years have made him the face of the franchise. As fans struggle to keep the faith through a rebuild, having a player that fans like and can connect with is essential to keeping the fanbase engaged.
Orioles fans understand that Jones will never be the defensive stud and slugger that he used to be. However, he can still be a serviceable corner outfielder (if he’s willing to play in the corner long-term) and hitter while mentoring younger players and keeping fans engaged. Hopefully, general manager Dan Duquette realizes Jones’ true value and keeps Jones in Baltimore for the rest of his career.
That’s a good question. When Justin Fuente arrived at Virginia Tech, he and Brad Conrnelsen had the star talent at wide receiver but didn’t have the depth they were looking for. Cornelsen wanted anywhere from 6-8 receivers that could contribute.
This season, the Hokies are much closer to that 6-8 number. Here is what Tech’s first and second teams looked like on offense in the open practice last week.
Damon Hazelton, Hezekiah Grimsley and Eric Kumah will all be contributing this season. Hazelton should be Virginia Tech’s No. 1 option and Grimsley and Kumah will produce as well. Phil Patterson did very little in two games last season but given his talent, Patterson should be ready for his third year in the program. Savoy was highly productive in his first season but faltered down the stretch. All five of these players should be ready to contribute in some way.
Tre Turner is a bit of a wildcard. The true freshman missed most of his senior season with a shoulder injury and the slightly-built Turner would probably benefit from a year in the weight room. However, if Turner is cracking the two-deep in his first preseason camp, maybe he’s ready.
CJ Carroll is good enough to crack the rotation, but his constant injury issues could return again in 2018. Carroll gives the Hokies depth at slot receiver and can return punts and kicks, but how many games will he be available for?
Another dark horse is freshman Kaleb Smith. The 6-foot-2, 206-pound prospect impressed in the spring and with the Hokies lacking star power on the outside, everyone is going to get an opportunity out there. Smith might be a walk-on but he was originally committed to Wake Forest and held scholarship offers from East Carolina and Virginia. He’s no slouch.
In short, Virginia Tech should have at least six contributors at receiver this season. Not everyone I named will play well and Turner and Smith could easily redshirt. But the Hokies have options, something they lacked two seasons ago.
1. Who has the stronger arm – Patterson or Jackson?
2. How do the running backs look? Who will get playing time?
1. Why is Davis still in the lineup? Why not move Trey to Mancini to first base?
2. First impression of Cedric Mullins?
Judging from his senior highlight film, Quincy Patterson has a lot more arm talent than Josh Jackson. Not only does Patterson have the stronger arm but with time, he’ll have the accuracy and touch too.
Patterson is the prototypical quarterback. At 6-foot-4 and 236 pounds, Patterson has the unique combination of size, arm talent and athleticism. Patterson has all the tools to be a successful quarterback at the college level, he just needs time to learn and hone his skills.
Jackson is the opposite. Jackson lacks elite physical tools and size but is smart on the field and makes good decisions. Jackson has the demeanor of a senior and has an advanced knowledge of the offensive system. Jackson’s upbringing and intangibles compensate for some of the tools that he lacks, like a strong arm or quick feet.
Now we’re cooking with gas — some Orioles questions.
I’ve pondered the same question about Chris Davis. He’s on pace for one of the worst seasons in modern history, batting .160 and slugging just .303. Among qualified players, Davis’ -2.3 WAR is the worst in the major leagues. He’s the worst player in baseball this season.
As bad as Davis is, I somewhat understand keeping him in the lineup. Davis hit six bombs in July and drove in 11 RBIs but has cooled since. Given the Orioles’ youth movement, Davis needs to sit.
Trey Mancini’s future isn’t in left field, as you noted. Mancini is a defensive liability out there and is best-suited for first base. Moving him there now would be beneficial.
As long as Mark Trumbo is on the team, which shouldn’t be long, Trumbo should be in the lineup and in the field. Trumbo’s offensive output dwarfs that of Davis (17 home runs, 42 RBIs and a .790 OPS) and for some reason, Trumbo bats much better when playing in the field (1.091 OPS as first baseman and .921 OPS as a right fielder). Despite his poor defensive abilities, pushing Trumbo to left could help disguise his deficiencies.
It was fun watching Davis mash baseballs for a few years, but his time as come. Davis is nothing more than a platoon bat at this point and is no longer the solid first baseman that he used to be. I know he’s getting paid oodles of cash but at some point, you have to admit he’s sunken cost and move on.
I love me some Cedric Mullins. As a 13th round pick in 2015, it’s not surprising that he’s flown under the radar until this season. Mullins raked in Bowie to start the 2018 season, earning a promotion to Triple-A Norfolk. Mullins continued to play well, driving in 18 runs over 59 games and finishing with a .757 OPS.
Since the Orioles called up Mullins, he’s done nothing but succeed. He’s 4-9 with three walks and his speed has given the O’s an instant upgrade in center field. As good as Adam Jones is, his shrinking range has cost Baltimore defensively.
Mullins may never be a star, but he’ll always be a productive player. He’ll be a solid defensive player and a potential leadoff hitter for his entire career. The Orioles may have found their center fielder of the future.
Could the issues at Maryland happen here? How do we know Cam wasn’t overworked?
For those who are unaware of the problems that Maryland is having, here’s a solid recap of the entire disaster.
The ugly truth of it all of this — there is probably borderline abusive behavior going on at every single college athletics program in the country.
Not every program is actually abusive. Not every coach pushes kids too far. In fact, almost every coach in America knows where the line is and doesn’t cross it. Coaches usually know how to push kids without pushing too far. Sometimes, coaches lose control like Buddy Stephens at East Mississippi Community College or Jason Brown at Independence Community College.
In the case of Cam Goode, the word is that Goode couldn’t handle the strength and conditioning program at Virginia Tech. Most kids don’t have a problem, but some kids just don’t buy in. The whole point of summer conditioning for freshmen is to break them down so that they can be built back up properly. It’s a grueling process, but one that is necessary.
Maybe Goode was overworked. Maybe Ben Hilgart went over the edge and Goode had enough. We’ll likely never know, unless other players come forward with similar stories. Until then, it’s not fair to blame Goode or the Hokies. The two parted ways, and that’s that.
Given Duquette’s recent track record of financial and personnel mismanagement, Orioles fans had every right to be skeptical. Everyone knows a rebuild is necessary, but is Duquette the man for the job?
The early returns are positive. After moving Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 18, Baltimore traded closer Zach Britton to the division-rival Yankees. The Orioles then shipped Jonathan Schoop to the Milwaukee Brewers and Kevin Gausman to the Atlanta Braves. Neither Schoop or Gausman were up for free agency after this season, but the Orioles moved them anyway. That alone shows that Duquette is serious.
As painful as these last few trades have been, particularly with the Machado, Britton and Schoop deals, each has been a necessary step towards the Orioles catching up with the rest of the baseball world.
In case you don’t follow the Orioles, or baseball in general, here are the trades Baltimore made prior to the July 31 trade deadline.
July 18 — Orioles trade infielder Manny Machado to the Los Angeles Dodgers for outfielder Yusniel Diaz (No. 4 Dodgers prospect), infielders Rylan Bannon (No. 28 Dodgers prospect) and Breyvic Valera and pitchers Dean Kremer (No. 27 Dodgers prospect) and Zach Pop
July 24 — Orioles trade pitcher Zach Britton to the New York Yankees for pitchers Cody Carroll, Josh Rogers and Dillon Tate (No. 9 Yankees prospect)
July 30 — Orioles trade pitcher Brad Brach to the Atlanta Braves for $250,000 in international signing bonus slot money
July 31 — Orioles trade pitchers Kevin Gausman and Darren O’Day to the Atlanta Braves for pitchers Evan Phillips and Bruce Zimmerman, infielder Jean Carlos Encarnacion (No. 14 Braves prospect), catcher Brett Cumberland (No. 30 Braves prospect) and $2.5 million in international signing bonus slot money
July 31 — Orioles trade second baseman Jonathan Schoop to the Milwaukee Brewers for infielders Jonathan Villar and Jean Carmona (No. 14 Brewers prospect) and pitcher Luis Ortiz (No. 7 Brewers prospect)
In terms of quantity, the Orioles brought in quite a haul for their stars and veterans. Duquette traded Machado, Britton, Brach, Gausman and O’Day for a total of 15 players, despite only two of them being top-100 prospects (Diaz and Tate).
Oriole fans were hoping for more value, especially in the Gausman trade, but Duquette got as much as he could realistically ask for. When all the value is assessed, the Orioles got more than enough.
Diaz and Tate are both big leaguers in at least an average capacity and have the upside to be impact players. Carroll has already been called up to the major league club and Rogers likely isn’t far off. Villar is now the team’s starting second baseman and is under club control through the 2021 season. Not all of the prospects will pan out but given the quantity of players acquired, the Orioles will get at least few big leaguers by default.
The $3 million in international signing bonus money is an undervalued asset by fans. The Orioles have been a non-factor on the international market for years, contributing to the team’s anemic farm system. Part of Duquette’s change in course is to invest heavily in the international market and as The Baltimore Sun’s Eduardo A. Encina reports, the Orioles now have more than $8 million allocated for international signings.
As an Orioles fan, it sucks to watch the team trade away most of it’s stars. Since 2012, Baltimore has been the most consistent team in the AL East and nearly made a World Series trip in 2014. But the window has closed and it’s time to focus on the future. If the Orioles manage this rebuild correctly, perhaps the Birds will get back to the playoffs soon.
Despite his failures in recent years, maybe Duquette is the right guy to lead the way.
It’s that time again folks. Thank you once again for submitting your questions this week. As the season approaches, you’ll begin to see more and more content on here. I hope you stick around as I continue to try and build my blog.
For now, let’s get into the mail.
Do you think it is possible that our running game will be good. Much better than in recent years with Mclease seemingly ready to breakthrough with a good last 3 games last year, hopefully healthy peoples all year, and Holsten with another full year of experience?
It’s certainly possible, but I think it’s too soon to say likely.
Virginia Tech found a groove on the ground late in 2017, rushing for 200-plus yards vs. Virginia and Oklahoma State. Even though Virginia Tech averaged just 3.9 yards per carry the week before vs. Pittsburgh, the Hokies really started to find their rhythm then.
Deshawn McClease led the way during this three-game burst, rushing for 70, 71 and 124 yards in Virginia Tech’s final three games. McClease looked like Tech’s lead back and heading into 2018, he should fill the role.
As versatile as Steven Peoples is, McClease should be getting the majority of the carries to start the season. Jalen Holston never got it going in 2017 and should play a supplemental role until he shows he can be productive. McClease gives the Hokies their best option in the backfield, in terms of production, and hopefully he’ll get the opportunity to show that Week 1. I think he’s earned it.
If Josh Jackson goes down who do you expect to step in and who would then become the backup?
It’s become clear that something really weird would have to happen for Josh Jackson to lose the starting role vs. Florida State. The real question is who plays behind him, and what does that mean for the future of the position at Virginia Tech?
Ryan Willis is the most experienced option and probably has the most arm talent in the room. But Willis hasn’t played since October 10, 2016 and at this point, his experience is less valuable. Still, Willis impressed in the Spring Game and should be a viable option if Josh Jackson were to go down.
Hendon Hooker finds himself in a peculiar situation. The redshirt freshman hasn’t progressed as much as Hokie fans hoped and likely won’t start at any point in 2018. Hooker has zero playing experience and isn’t the young, project quarterback on the roster anymore (Hello, Quincy Patterson).
If Hooker doesn’t see a realistic path to the starting role in the next year or two — and the path doesn’t exist at the moment — it would make sense for him to seek a transfer. Even if Hooker is named the backup in 2018, does he want to sit behind Jackson for three more seasons and then duke it out with Patterson? Probably not.
Willis should be the backup in 2018 unless Hooker has grown astronomically this summer. Willis looked much better than Hooker did in the spring and Hooker is likely on his way out over the next calendar year. Patterson will slide into the backup role once Willis leaves after the 2019 season.
Any thoughts as to who will be the Hokies FG kicker in Tallahassee?
Justin Fuente went all the way to Australia to find his punter but may have found his kicker in a small town just two hours away from Blacksburg.
Jordan Stout signed with the Hokies in the Class of 2017 and redshirted last season. Stout was rated as the 41st-best kicker in his class according to Chris Sailer Kicking, who says, “Jordan is an excellent kicking prospect. He has a great leg and hits an excellent ball of the ground. Field goals are smooth and accurate. Kickoffs are strong and near the top of his class.”
Stout is battling Brian Johnson for the place kicking job. Johnson subbed in for Joey Slye last season and made three of his four field goal attempts and all five of his extra point attempts. Still, Johnson’s longest make was just 30 yards and it became clear he lacks legitimate leg strength.
Stout will almost certainly handle kickoffs and as long as he’s accurate in preseason camp, he’ll takeover field goal duties too. Stout is the Hokies’ kicker of the future and might as well start this season as a redshirt freshman.
If you could add a player from every other ACC team to the Hokies, who would that be and why?
I really liked this question, so I’m saving it for last.
Virginia Tech has plenty of holes to fill, so let’s go through the ACC and see how we could fortify the Hokies’ ranks.
Boston College running back AJ Dillon — This is an easy one. Dillon finished the 2017 season as one of the most productive backs in the country, rushing for 149 yards or more in each of Boston College’s final five games. Dillon ran for 272 yards vs. Louisville and another 200 vs. UConn and finished the season with 14 rushing touchdowns. Dillon is the real deal and the Hokies don’t have a single back on the roster who has been this productive.
Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins — Clelin Ferrell was the most productive player on Clemson’s loaded defensive line last season, but Wilkins would make the biggest impact for Virginia Tech. The Hokies are fine at defensive end but could use another difference maker on the interior next to Ricky Walker. Wilkins is as good as it gets at defensive tackle is poised for a monster senior season.
Duke linebacker Joe Giles-Harris — Virginia Tech could use a productive and experienced linebacker, and Joe Giles-Harris fits the bill. He finished 2017 with 16 tackles for loss and 125 total tackles on a team without much defensive talent. Giles-Harris would give the Hokies a solid replacement for Tremaine Edmunds.
Florida State defensive back Levonta Taylor — Taylor is going to be a star on Florida State’s defense this season. The junior corner had two interceptions in 2017 and according to Pro Football Focus, led all Power 5 defensive backs with 30.6 snaps in coverage per catch allowed. The former five-star prospect should dominate opposing receivers as a junior and will give Josh Jackson plenty of fits on Sept. 3.
Georgia Tech linebacker Victor Alexander — Nobody on Georgia Tech’s roster is particularly impressive outside of TaQuon Marshall, and he’s not a fit for Virginia Tech. Alexander led Georgia Tech in tackles last season and will anchor their defense in 2018.
Louisville wide receiver Jaylen Smith — Sure, he played with one of the best college football players of all time in Lamar Jackson, but Smith was a big part of Jackson’s success. The 6-foot-4 receiver caught 60 passes for 980 yards last season and would immediately be Virginia Tech’s best offensive threat.
Miami defensive back Jaquan Johnson — Everyone knows Virginia Tech’s secondary is full of question marks. Johnson would immediately fill a starting role in the Hokies’ defensive backfield. Johnson was named a second-team All-American by Sports Illustrated and the American Football Coaches Association and intercepted four passes last season.
North Carolina defensive lineman Jalen Dalton — Despite Dalton’s penchant for being a knucklehead on the field, he’s be a productive player for Virginia Tech. Dalton had eight tackles for loss and three sacks last season.
NC State wide receiver Kelvin Harmon — Harmon caught 69 passes for 1,017 yards and four touchdowns last season as a sophomore. At 6-foot-3 and 213 pounds, Harmon would be Tech’s premier threat in the passing game with two years of eligibility remaining.
Pittsburgh defensive back Oluwasuen Idowu — Idowu would play whip/nickelback for Virginia Tech and would play well. Idowu has made 169 total tackles over the last two seasons and racked up 11.5 tackles for loss in 2017. Devon Hunter should be fine, but an experienced player like Idowu would be a fine addition to Bud Foster’s defense.
Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey — Dungey is the real deal. The senior quarterback broke onto the scene as a sophomore in 2016 and regressed slightly in 2017. If Justin Fuente had a mobile quarterback like Dungey, I think his offense would run quite efficiently.
Virginia wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus — Virginia loses a ton of their offense heading into 2018, but Zaccheaus returns. He’s the perfect do-it-all weapon that any offense could use and Fuente is creative enough to utilize him. Josh Jackson needs an experienced offensive weapon and Zaccheaus would be a perfect fit.
Wake Forest wide receiver Greg Dortch — Here’s another guy that would boost Virginia Tech’s offense. The talented redshirt sophomore caught 53 passes for 722 yards and nine touchdowns in 2017. The Hokies’ missed this evaluation in the Class of 2016, failing to offer the Highland Springs, Va. native.
In the biggest news of the week, Virginia Tech added a commitment from Keshawn King to their Class of 2019. King is a three-star running back prospect from Orange Park, Fla. and is listed at 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds.
King is far from Devyn Ford, but there’s potential nonetheless. Judging from King’s film, he’s a shifty back with solid top-end speed. King looks a little bigger than his listed height and weight and should be able to hold up against bigger competition, so there aren’t any obvious concerns about his longevity.
He’ll never be a bruiser, but King looks like a real home run threat. He has experience running out of both the shotgun and pistol formations, so he’s used to that style of running already. He can also catch short passes out of the backfield and contribute in the passing game.
Fifteen Power 5 programs deemed King worthy of a scholarship offer. King has real pedigree and seems like a solid overall prospect. He isn’t Ford, but it wasn’t realistic to expect Virginia Tech to snag a player of that caliber this late in the cycle.
King’s commitment means the Hokies are likely done at running back for this class. Virginia Tech will have seven scholarship running backs in 2019, including King and excluding Steven Peoples, who is slated to graduate. The Hokies are carrying more scholarship backs than are necessary, but Tech is also still looking for a real difference maker there.
How much Dalton Keene do expect to see this season and do you expect that to occur earlier rather than later?
Tight ends coach James Shibestsaid in the spring that the tight ends were getting the ball more than ever in practice. That still might not be that much, given how little the tight ends were a factor in 2017. Dalton Keene and Chris Cunningham combined to catch 19 passes last season and rarely factored into the Hokies’ offense.
Both are a year older and should see more targets by default. But I don’t believe either will be consistent offensive threats in 2018.
Keene is more a fullback than a tight end. He’s got a tight end build but was usually lined up in the backfield in 2017. Perhaps his role grows as he develops as a player, but Brad Cornelsen wasn’t too confident in his receiving abilities last season. Cunningham is noted as the better receiver, but has caught 15 passes in two seasons.
Josh Jackson might rely more on his tight ends this season and that could inflate both Keene and Cunningham’s stats by default. But based on what we’ve seen so far, neither will be a dynamic offensive threat in 2018 despite seeing the field frequently.
Lots of rumor mill around Buzz Williams and potential move. What is the likelihood he is coaching the Hokies in fall 2019?
The Buzz Williams rumor mill has been circling for years and rightfully so. Williams has flirted with four different schools since taking the Virginia Tech job, and now he’s lost two coaches and a 2018 signee.
Williams will be coaching Virginia Tech this coming season. But outside of that, there are no guarantees. The amount of turnover within the program over the last year is remarkable and Williams is likely eyeing other jobs already.
It’s disappointing for fans to hear, but I believe it’s the truth. Williams has toyed with other jobs since his first offseason and has seen two of his most-trusted assistants — Jeff Reynolds and Steve Roccaforte — leave the program. Roccaforte would not be leaving Virginia Tech for East Carolina, one of the worst Division I programs in the country, without a valid reason.
I’d put the percentage around 40-45 percent. Williams loses three key players next season in Justin Robinson, Chris Clarke and Ahmed Hill, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker could declare for the NBA Draft after his sophomore season. That sounds like the perfect time for Williams to move on to his next stop.
Virginia Tech football’s tumultuous offseason is quietly spreading to the basketball team too.
Men’s basketball head coach Buzz Williams confirmed on Monday that lead assistant Steve Roccaforte, who was named associate head coach prior to the 2017-2018 season, has been hired as an assistant on Joe Dooley’s staff at East Carolina.
Roccaforte, who had spent the last four seasons working at Virginia Tech, is the second assistant to leave the program in the last six weeks. Jeff Reynolds, who was Virginia Tech’s director of scouting and game management last season, was hired earlier this summer by Texas A&M and head coach Billy Kennedy as an assistant coach.
All this instability leads one to wonder — what the heck is going on?
The departures wouldn’t be as odd if Williams’ status as the head coach wasn’t up in the air every offseason. After Williams’ first season as head coach at Tech, his name was on the list for the opening at Texas. Since then, Williams has had interest in real or potential openings at Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.
There’s no way that constant rumor mill surrounding Williams hasn’t had an effect on Virginia Tech’s recruiting. Yes, Tech has landed Nickeil Alexander-Walker and Landers Nolley in consecutive classes, but the Hokies’ 2018 class finished 49th in the country and Tech doesn’t have a single commitment from a 2019 prospect. Tech had three commitments — BJ Mack and Keyshaun and Kobe Langley — and all three decommitted together in December 2017.
It’s still early, but things aren’t heading in the right direction. Add Reynolds’ and Roccaforte’s departure from the program and Williams’ flirting with other schools and one phrase comes to mind — something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
I don’t know how this will work out. Maybe Williams makes a good hire to complement young assistants Jamie McNeilly and Christian Webster. Maybe Williams decides that Virginia Tech is the best place for him and maybe the Hokies’ hit on some of their recruiting targets.
Or, maybe Williams makes lazy hires and seriously considers leaving Blacksburg after the season. It would be a harsh reality, but it’s a reality that Virginia Tech fans should brace themselves for. Williams has engineered a terrific turnaround of Virginia Tech men’s basketball and has left the program in a far better position than he found it. But all good things must come to an end and that time may be approaching more quickly than we thought.