Monday Mail: An Improved Running Game, the Backup Quarterback and More

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.

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.

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.

Special teams question!

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.

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.

10 thoughts on “Monday Mail: An Improved Running Game, the Backup Quarterback and More”

    1. I feel like VT’s offensive line is just fine, personally. I think these additions would be more valuable.

    1. I suppose it’s possible, but I don’t see anything to suggest that. Perkins was a low-end three-star prospect coming out of high school and did very little through the air at the JUCO level.

  1. Tom Shaub made a profound statement, “UVA quarterback, Perkins, may be special”!!!!! In the words of Nick Saban, maybe the greatest coach in college history was asked on ESPN, besides quarterback what is the most important position in football, he answered, “Quarter Back, Quarterback, etc”. Our football season this year or years in the future are predicated on QB performance. We need a fast action, results oriented offense. Our running game will explode if we have a QB that runs the Justin offense!

    1. For some reason, my part about Wake’s Greg Dortch was cut off. It has been added. I do apologize for the error.

  2. Why does Coleman Fox not get considered as a possible running back starter? His YPC was certainly more impressive than Holston or Peoples last year and he seemed more able once he was past the line of scrimmage than either of them. Is there some subtle reason that keeps him buried in the running back rotation?

    1. I didn’t mention Coleman Fox because I know the Tech coaches do not plan on starting him. I do believe Fox should be a part of the rotation at the position. Even though most of his success has come in garbage time, I still believe he might have the most twitch out of all the running backs.

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