Virginia Tech’s Courageous Performance vs. Notre Dame Falls Short

Virginia Tech’s flaws are well known. The Hokies still deal with many of the problems they dealt with at the beginning of the season and thanks to injury, Tech has faced all sorts of adversity.

But the Hokies have also embodied their program motto for the last month or so, playing “Hard, Smart, Tough” football. Tech turned into another resilient and gritty performance on Saturday, despite falling to Notre Dame 21-20.

Continue reading “Virginia Tech’s Courageous Performance vs. Notre Dame Falls Short”

Game Balls and Challenge Flags: Near-Disaster vs. Furman Leaves Virginia Tech at Crossroads

For roughly 55 minutes or so, Furman had a real and legitimate chance of beating Virginia Tech inside Lane Stadium on Saturday.

If that statement shocked you, you wouldn’t be alone.

Sure, it was reasonable for Virginia Tech to stumble their way to a two or three-score victory over their FCS opponent. But even Tech’s biggest skeptics wouldn’t have guessed that the Hokies would be trailing 14-3 at halftime and be a questionable penalty away from Furman having a chance to tie the game at 24 in the waning minutes.

Virginia Tech won the game 24-17 on Saturday, but there are few positives to draw from the victory. Ryan Willis played uninspiring football, throwing an awful interception and failing to recognize multiple blitzes that resulted in four sacks. The offensive line got manhandled for the entire first half and Tech’s only productive running back, Keshawn King, looked battered and bruised in the second half.

On the defensive side, Tech held their own but looked far from the dominant defense that one would expect vs. an FCS team. The Hokies allowed 17 points, most of which came off Tech turnovers.

Virginia Tech finds themselves at a crossroads, not just for the 2019 season but for Justin Fuente’s tenure. His team is young and inexperienced, but it’s still his roster and we aren’t seeing enough improvement that is going to result in the team winning more games.

The silver lining? Virginia Tech now has an open date on the schedule. No game prep should allow Virginia Tech to take an honest look at themselves and start making serious improvements. It also affords more time to a litany of injured players, including King, Zacariah Hoyt and Damon Hazelton.

Game Balls

Tre Turner

Virginia Tech’s best wide receiver dazzled again on Saturday, catching a touchdown pass and rushing for another. Turner put a ball on the ground in the first half but did more than enough to make up for it. It was encouraging to see the Hokies get their best offensive weapon involved in multiple ways. The Hokies’ offense was abysmal for most of the day, but Turner was one of the few bright spots.

Keshawn King

King was the other, rushing for 119 yards and adding another 16 through the air. It was the first time since Old Dominion in 2018 that a Tech running back has eclipsed the century mark.

King’s elusiveness and ability to break tackles was the most encouraging aspect of his performance. The Hokies have been searching for an explosive back for a few seasons now, and the freshman has shown flashes of breakaway ability. Virginia Tech needs to find a middle ground with King, milking all the production they can get out of him without getting him hurt. King came out of Saturday’s multiple times and his injury status is unclear. Tech needs him to be healthy for the remainder of the season.

Chamarri Conner

Conner was Tech’s most active defender, finish with seven solo tackles and a sack. Conner found himself around the ball for most of the afternoon and gave Tech some production from the whip linebacker position that the team has been missing since 2017. Conner needs to stop tackling with his arms crossed, but the guy was Tech’s most productive defender vs. Furman.

DaShawn Crawford

Virginia Tech’s best defensive tackle isn’t the one with the most experience in the system, but rather a JUCO transfer still learning his way around campus. Crawford is a disruptor in the middle and showed the ability to draw and absorb double-teams inside. He had one of Tech’s four sacks today and looked far superior to his battery mate, Jarrod Hewitt.

Challenge Flags

The entire offensive line

Virginia Tech finished the day with their best rushing performance of the season, but the offensive line’s inconsistency created plenty of problems for the offense. The unit struggled to pick up blitzes and often got beat in one-on-one matchups.

I understand that this unit is young, but Silas Dzansi has plenty of game experience under his belt and should be performing better against FCS-level players. Vance Vice has rightfully earned a lot of praise for his successes on the recruiting trail, but he also needs to get his unit playing at a higher level. They didn’t meet that level of expectations today.

Ryan Willis

Willis redeemed himself with a two-touchdown, zero-turnover performance vs. Old Dominion last week, but failed to improve upon that vs. Furman. He finished 17-of-21 with just 123 yards, throwing a touchdown and an interception. Willis did an awful job of recognizing Furman’s blitz packages and along with the offensive line, shares a portion of the blame for the four sacks Tech allowed.

More importantly, Willis failed to spark his team when needed. Trailing 14-3 late in the first half, Willis worked the offensive slowly into Furman territory before getting sacked and missing Kaleb Smith on a third-and-15 play. The drive resulted in a missed 50-yard field goal attempt.

When the Hokies’ offense found their rhythm in the third quarter, Willis didn’t play a role. The offense ran the ball six straight plays, giving carries to King, Turner and ultimately James Mitchell, who scored on a three-yard run. Willis was completely taken out of the gameplan for that drive, and the Hokies moved the ball quickly downfield.

I don’t know what Willis’ role on the team should be anymore. He’s played average-to-poor in Tech’s first three games to start his season and things are only going to be more difficult from this point on. Tech needs Willis to be at his best and it’s hard to know how often that’s going to happen.

Justin Fuente

I’ve been vocal in my support of Fuente and his long-term direction. I think he’s done the dirty work of weeding out negative influences within the program and he’s still dealing with the aftereffects of poor recruiting before his arrival. That said, the roster is comprised almost entirely of his players and the team is showing few signs of improvement.

Fuente did an excellent job of turning an older roster accustomed to mediocrity into a winning team in 2016 and even in 2017. But there aren’t many upperclassmen on the roster right now and the Hokies are struggling to play to their potential. The quarterback is playing like a freshman and not a fifth-year senior, the defense is undisciplined and lacks fundamentals and the special teams units aren’t making impact plays to flip the field or swing momentum.

Virginia Tech fans can be mildly encouraged about Tech not losing to Furman, but they also have every right to question the direction of the program. Perhaps I’m naïve, but I’m sticking to my belief in Fuente in his ability to build a winner. However, I’m running out of evidence to cite. Fuente is in serious danger of losing the fan base and while that doesn’t directly affect wins and losses, it affects everything else in and outside of the program.

Tech has a bye week and I expect Fuente to take full advantage of it. Fuente is an honest man and internally, he’ll go line-by-line and start making adjustments. I believe Fuente will get this team prepared for their Sept. 27 matchup vs. Duke, I just question how much better this team is going to get this season.

The LaBlue Review is Now On Patreon

Hello Hokies, I hope all is well with you.

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Virginia Tech Addresses Glaring Needs With Early 2019 Signees

The 2018 regular season confirmed what most of us thought prior to the season — Virginia Tech had too many obvious holes in their defense to realistically compete for an ACC title.

And sure enough, Virginia Tech’s problems caught up with them. Young and inexperienced defensive backs allowed chunks of yardage each week through the air while a thin defensive front struggled to generate a consistent pass rush and failed to slow down opposing rushing offenses.

As they attempt to do every year, Virginia Tech’s recruiting class aimed to fill holes on their roster and prepare the roster for future success. Rather than running through each of the 19 new Hokies’ signees, I want to hit on some trends in this class that should be intriguing moving forward.

Continue reading “Virginia Tech Addresses Glaring Needs With Early 2019 Signees”

Monday Mail: An Interesting Hypothetical, Best Bowl Locations and Landers Nolley

Monday Mail is making a return this week, thanks to the beginning of bowl season and a Virginia Tech men’s basketball season that is becoming more interesting by the week.

Before diving into this week’s questions, be sure to read this week’s preview of Virginia Tech’s Military Bowl opponent — Cincinnati.

Without further ado, let’s get it.

Continue reading “Monday Mail: An Interesting Hypothetical, Best Bowl Locations and Landers Nolley”

Which Virginia Tech Freshmen Will Benefit the Most From the New NCAA Redshirt Rules?

Incoming quarterback Quincy Patterson will benefit immensely from the NCAA’s new redshirt rules. (Photo via @quincy_qb1 on Twitter)

Very few freshmen can play right away in college football. The overwhelming majority of new enrollees are forced to sit for one reason or another, usually because they just aren’t ready for the next level of football.

However, with the new redshirt rules approved on Wednesday by the NCAA, players will now be able to play up to four games in any given season and still be able to redshirt for that season.

“This change promotes not only fairness for college athletes, but also their health and well-being. Redshirt football student-athletes are more likely to remain engaged with the team, and starters will be less likely to feel pressure to play through injuries,” said Blake James, council chair and Miami athletics director. “Coaches will appreciate the additional flexibility and ability to give younger players an opportunity to participate in limited competition.”

Indeed, the change benefits coaches as well as players. Coaches can now give true freshmen plenty of game experience while preserving their full eligibility.

Given the new rules, which of Virginia Tech’s true freshmen stand to benefit? It’s conceivable that Virginia Tech, and possibly most teams, will now play most, if not all, of their true freshmen during the season. But which Tech freshmen are most likely to benefit?

Wide receiver Tre Turner (6-foot-2, 177 pounds)

Virginia Tech is deep at wide receiver in terms of numbers, but the Hokies don’t have many proven options. There’s plenty of playing time available at the position, which means everyone at the position is going to get a look.

Despite his slight build, Turner likely would have competed for a starting role this summer. But a shoulder injury that ended his senior season has set him back several months and it’s unclear if Turner will even be 100 percent by the start of the season.

However, later in the year, Turner should be healthy and have had an opportunity to develop physically. Turner could realistically contribute to Virginia Tech later in the season and with the new redshirt rules, Turner’s late-season contribution wouldn’t affect his eligibility moving forward. Turner is a heck of an athlete and even if the Hokies remain relative healthy at wide receiver next season, Turner could contribute later in the year.

Defensive back Nadir Thompson (5-foot-10, 170 pounds)

Thompson is in a similar position to Turner. Thompson’s senior season was cut short due to a debilitating leg injury, as Thompson fractured his tibia and partially tore his MCL.

The injury happened at the beginning of his senior season, so Thompson will have had almost a full year to heal and rehab. Still, it would be understandable if Thompson needed some extra time to get ready for his college debut.

Thompson will have that time if he needs it. Even though Virginia Tech is fatally thin at cornerback heading into the 2018 season, Thompson won’t be needed to contribute immediately. However, in October and November, Thompson could play a role in the secondary. At least, Thompson could play on special teams and help return punts and kicks. Thompson has a bright future at Virginia Tech and playing in a few games as a freshman will help ease him back into things.

Linebacker Alan Tisdale (6-foot-3, 208 pounds)

Virginia Tech is about as green as it gets at linebacker. Tech lacks a junior or senior linebacker on the roster, so it’s expected that young players will get a chance this season.

Of the three linebackers that Virginia Tech signed in the 2018 class — Dax Hollifield and Keshon Artis are the other two — Tisdale seems to be the one who needs the most time for growth. Tisdale has a good frame but needs time to fill out. Tisdale may not be ready by the beginning of the season but November? It’s possible

Tisdale wouldn’t be inserted into the starting lineup by that point, but he could become a fixture on special teams. Players get nicked up all the time on special teams and by November, the ranks may be wearing thin. But Tisdale, who otherwise would have zero chance of seeing the field as a true freshman, could gain valuable special teams experience towards the end of the season.

Quarterback Quincy Patterson (6-foot-4, 229 pounds)

Patterson is the golden boy of Virginia Tech’s 2018 recruiting class. The high-upside signal caller not only has a chance to be a good football player, but has already endeared himself to the fanbase with his demeanor and off-the-field success.

However, Patterson simply isn’t ready to start. Patterson has said as much since committing to the Hokies and it seems like Patterson has no problem redshirting his first season at Virginia Tech.

Now, it’s almost guaranteed that Patterson will play in 2018.

Virginia Tech has three straight games in September that should be blowouts — William and Mary, East Carolina and Old Dominion. The Hokies should win all three of those games going away, meaning the fourth quarter will be almost meaningless. There would be no better time to get Patterson on the field.

Patterson could even play later in the season. Whether it was an injury at quarterback or another blowout (I’m looking at you, Virginia), Patterson could see the field if he has a game left. Either way, Patterson is going to play in 2018 and fans should be excited. Not because Patterson will steal the show, but because the experience he gains will be invaluable.

Welcome to The LaBlue Review

Welcome! Thanks for visiting my new personal blog, The LaBlue Review.

As you may know, I was let go by my full-time employer, TechSideline.com, on April 19, 2018. I was the associate editor for TSL, providing Virginia Tech football and recruiting coverage.

Until I am able to find full-time employment elsewhere, I want to continue writing about Virginia Tech football and Tech athletics in general. Creating my own personal blog is the best way to do that.

I won’t be making any money off of this. Profiting off of this isn’t my goal, at least in the short term. Instead, my goal is to further my portfolio as a writer while continuing to serve and inform the readership I have built since I began covering Virginia Tech athletics in 2014. I hope you all enjoy my writing, and I hope you continue to interact with me.