Monday Mail: How does Virginia Tech Fix This?

Virginia Tech’s depressing season continues. The Hokies have now lost three straight games after being dragged by Pittsburgh on Saturday afternoon.

Fans are losing hope and it’s understandable. This year’s Hokies are now eliminated from ACC Coastal contention and Tech must win each of their next two games to qualify for a bowl game. The program’s two prized streaks, a 25-year bowl streak and a 14-year win streak over Virginia, are both in serious jeopardy.

Thank you all for sending in questions. Let’s get to it.

I wish I could seriously make a case for Virginia Tech to win their remaining two games. But I can’t.

Making the case for Virginia Tech to win one of their remaining two games, let alone both, is difficult enough. The Hokies are not a good football team and there are no signs that this is going to get any better.

In terms of talent, Miami is the best team Virginia Tech has played all season. The ‘Canes have recruited top-tier talent for years now and they should give the Hokies more than they can handle.

That said, Miami hasn’t been a good team since the end of last year. Since starting last season 10-0, Miami is 5-8.

But playing Virginia Tech right now is about as easy as it gets. Miami doesn’t have a ton to play for outside of a bowl game, so Tech could come into this game with a bit more motivation. But they’re still heavy underdogs. Playing Virginia won’t be any easier, and the ‘Hoos will be more than motivated.

More on the latter question in a bit.

I think there’s a small chance you’ll see coaching changes, but it’s much more likely that this staff remains intact.

Of the assistants I think could possibly leave, Zohn Burden is the most likely. He might be the assistant on the hottest seat, given that Virginia Tech has failed to hit on any of their top targets at running back and that Tech’s running game has left a lot to be desired. Burden has made some massive in-roads in the 757 area of Virginia, and he deserves credit for that. But not all has gone well for him.

Burden has interned twice with NFL teams over the last two offseasons. He’s had rumored interest in leaving for the professional game, and its possible he could leave Virginia Tech on his own accord. It’s more likely than Virginia Tech deciding to part ways with him, which I doubt will happen. And I’m not sure that it should happen.

To be clear, I don’t think we’ll see any coaching changes this offseason. Justin Fuente and his coordinators aren’t going anywhere, and his assistants are likely to stay as well.

It’s hard to assess blame when we don’t know all of the details, but it’s clear that some of Virginia Tech’s late defensive departures weren’t on Justin Fuente.

Adonis Alexander was declared ineligible. There’s nothing Fuente can do about that. Mook Reynolds and Trevon Hill were both dismissed from the team, and nothing has come out to say those moves were unnecessary.

Sure, kicking those guys off the team hurts the on-field product. Hill was a highly productive pass rusher and Reynolds was one of the few experienced defensive backs on the Virginia Tech roster. There’s no doubt that they’d make this defense better.

But sometimes, sacrifices have to be made. You can’t deal with problem players but for so long. Eventually, you’ve just got to cut ties. It hurts the team on the field, but both of those dismissals were probably better for the program in the long-term.

Hooray for positivity!

I’d agree that the receivers have improved the most. That’s not to say they’ve gotten good all of a sudden, but they’re the best unit on the team.

Damon Hazelton is the real deal. The Ball State transfer is leading the way with 40 receptions, 687 yards and eight touchdown receptions. Hazelton’s been consistent too, with those eight touchdowns coming in eight separate games.

Eric Kumah has emerged as Tech’s second-best weapon. His 34 receptions are second on the team, as are his five touchdown receptions. Kumah and Hazelton have given the Hokies two reliable options on the outside, something Virginia Tech didn’t have last season.

In terms of regression, I’d like to pick the entire defense. Instead, I’ll stick with you and pick the offensive line. The big uglies up front were supposed to be one of the bright spots for Virginia Tech this season, but they’ve actually been a net negative.

Virginia Tech’s rushing attack is still mediocre. The Hokies are 65th in the nation in rushing, thanks in part to average blocking and and average running back play. The Hokies haven’t allowed a ton of sacks — just 19 — but they haven’t been stellar pass blockers either.

Tech’s snapping issues continue. Both Kyle Chung and Zacariah Hoyt have made some errors, resulting in a few negative plays.

What was supposed to be a good unit has turned into an average one. It’s too bad, because this offense could use a really good offensive line.

I think Fuente and Foster have resigned themselves to their probable fate. They understand that there’s only so much that can be done this season.

That doesn’t mean they’re giving up on the team. They’ll continue to try and make things better, but I believe they understand this team has a limited ceiling for the remainder of the season.

There is hope for next season and beyond. There’s even reason to believe this season is an outlier, not the beginning of a trend.

Virginia Tech is going to improve. The defense will get older and better next season, though the unit may still have some issues. The offense should improve as well, with even more experienced receivers and improved quarterback play. Virginia Tech isn’t recruiting at an elite level, but talented help is on the way.

As hard as it has been to watch this season, things should get better. If they don’t, then talks about coaching changes will carry more weight.

2 thoughts on “Monday Mail: How does Virginia Tech Fix This?”

  1. I recall several writes reporting last year to expect a downward trend starting with last season and this one. We certainly squeaked out a few wins last year by shear luck and good fortune. This year, not so much. Think Tech was given far too much credit for the record they posted the first 2 seasons in Fuente’s era. Think we are seeing the peak (or valley) in the lack of talent depth from Beamer to Fuente. A overall young team with a severely gutted defense.

    I’ll give Bud a pass due to the personnel circumstances that were probably well out of his control. However, the offense I expected better this year and feel often times it’s lack of production has more to do with the coaching than players and their ability to execute. There often just seems to be glaring lapses in various phases of coaching. From the play calling, to game management and head scratching decisions.

    Recent example. Against Pitt we twice get in first and goal situations and we bring in Patterson. We were fortunate to score once…on a fourth down. But failed to score the second time. I personally feel the coaching has put the team in positions at times making it difficult for success on the offensive side of things.

    Fuente made a remark once that Bud wouldn’t have to worry as much about winning the games with Defense but his offenses have yet to hold up their end of the bargain. If not changes in coaching staff offensively then perhaps he needs to re-evaluate his philosophy and get away from the whole analytics and expected outcomes.

    1. I agree with much of what you said. The defense has been absolutely decimated by a variety of things and it’s understandable to see them struggle. The offense is indeed a bit of a head-scratcher, and I’m not quite sure where the problems come from. The passing game simply isn’t as effective as many had hoped, and Tech’s running game has been subpar for two-plus seasons.

      As bad as the defense has been, that’s been somewhat predictable. The offense’s mediocrity? Not as predictable.

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