Monday Mail: Conservative Play Calling, Staff Changes and More

It feels like it’s been forever since we did a Monday Mail after a Hokies win. Virginia Tech ended their four-game losing streak on Friday, winning their 15th in a row against Virginia and locking in a matchup vs. Marshall with bowl implications.

The Hokies made plenty of mistakes, but made just enough plays to win. If Virginia Tech can knock of Marshall on Dec. 1, the fans might be able to forgive this team for their season-long struggles.

Without further ado, let’s get into the questions this week.

That didn’t take long. C’mon guys, you’re supposed to be more positive this week.

Virginia Tech started on their own 24-yard-line with 43 seconds left in regulation. They had no timeouts remaining and the score was tied at 31.

In this position, there’s a small chance you’re going to work into field goal range. Ryan Willis had already made one boneheaded interception before halftime that nearly resulted in a Virginia touchdown, so you don’t want Willis taking too many chances.

The Hokies kicked off the drive with an inside run with Steven Peoples, one that gained 13 yards. Tech was then at their own 37, still well outside of field goal range. They spiked it on first down to stop the clock, and then called an outside run that gained seven yards and stopped the clock. Tech ran it one more time on third down, likely trying to pick up a quick first down so that they could spike the ball again.

As frustrating as those play calls might be, it makes some sense. Virginia Tech’s kicking game has been shaky all season and Jordan Stout had already missed a field goal. Willis is prone to make critical mistakes anyway.

Tech fans have to understand that this offense isn’t like Oklahoma or Alabama. The Hokies have a ceiling, and the coaches decided the risk was too high. I don’t think that’s a bad decision.

Caleb Farley owned Florida State, but that performance seems so long ago. Farley’s had a bad year and we all know it.

Farley struggled in coverage throughout this season and couldn’t tackle consistently either. He never really impacted the game on special teams either.

Despite great length, elite speed and high-level athleticism, Farley got worked at cornerback this year.

If Farley can catch, Virginia Tech should ponder moving him back to receiver. If he can’t, the coaching staff should stick with him at defensive back and coach him up.

Let’s hit on the second part of that question in another answer.

“Mailbag question – if you were head coach, what staff members would you replace in the off-season?” β€” Blasko (@Blask_RVA)

As I’ve written before, I don’t enjoy talking about people’s job. These coaches and staffers have families, and these jobs are their livelihood. Fans shouldn’t forget that when talking about potential staff changes.

But to answer the question, I’d consider parting ways with safeties coach Tyrone Nix. Fuente hired Nix this summer in response to Galen Scott’s resignation, and the hire was about as good as Fuente could have done. But this season hasn’t gone well for Tech’s safeties.

Divine Deablo, who’s been in and out of the lineup due to injury, has struggled for most of the season. Even when he’s been healthy, he’s had far too many lapses in coverage and hasn’t looked good against the run either. The redshirt sophomore has plenty of time to improve, but this year was a giant step backward for him.

Even Reggie Floyd has regressed. Floyd impressed in 2017 as a sophomore, but has been plagued by many of the same issues Deablo has struggled with. Khalil Ladler, the Hokies’ whip linebacker, has been exposed as well. Devon Hunter didn’t progress as a sophomore and his development is in question.

Brian Mitchell has to be discussed too. None of the Hokies’ cornerbacks have progressed this season. Farley looks lost, Bryce Watts hasn’t made a significant impact and Jovonn Quillen hasn’t stabilized things either.

Both Nix and Mitchell have a lot to answer for after this season. Out of the two, Nix’s case for dismissal is the most damning.

Yosuah Nijman, Kyle Chung and Braxton Pfaff are all slate to leave the program after this season, leaving three open spots along the Hokies offensive line.

Virginia Tech’s offensive line will be extremely young next season. Christian Darrisaw, a rising sophomore, will likely start at left tackle. Silas Dzansi is probably going to start at right tackle. But the interior positions are up for grabs.

Zacariah Hoyt has started for the most part at center and with another offseason, he’ll probably have that locked down. Tyrell Smith has worked into the lineup in several spots and as a redshirt senior, would be the eldest option in the room.

Walker Culver, John Harris and Luke Tenuta could factor into the equation as well. The three rising redshirt freshmen came in highly regarded and Harris has dressed for several games this year. It wouldn’t be surprising to see one of them crack the starting lineup next summer.

The Hokies have plenty of experience to replace this offseason, but they’ve got several young offensive linemen that have impressed the coaching staff.

The chances of Virginia Tech beating Marshall are higher than the Hokies’ chances were of beating Virginia.

Marshall is now 8-3 on the season, but their eight wins aren’t that impressive. Their non-conference victories over Miami (OH) and Eastern Kentucky don’t inspire confidence, and five of their six C-USA wins came against teams with sub-.500 records. Marshall’s only notable win came this weekend against Florida International (8-4).

None of Virginia Tech’s potential opponents for this date would have been easy, but Marshall’s offense seems to lack the firepower to expose the Hokies’ leaky defense. The Thundering Herd are 74th in scoring offense (28.1 points per game) and tied for 88th in total offense (378.4 yards per game).

Marshall’s defense is a different story. They rank 18th in total defense (324.8 yards per game) and 16th in opponent third down conversions (31.98 percent). Marshall’s defense could keep this game close well into the fourth quarter.

Saturday will likely be another nail-biter for Virginia Tech fans. The Hokies simply aren’t good enough to easily dispatch teams like Marshall. This game should be close and will likely be decided in the final period.


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