Monday Mail: Kelly Decommits, Hunter’s Progress and Tech’s Style of Play

Welcome back to Monday Mail, folks. Thank you for submitting your questions. I used a couple from this week and a couple from last week, in hopes to answer as many of you as possible.

Before diving into your questions, a bit of housekeeping. Class of 2019 athlete Cam’Ron Kelly announced his decommitment from Virginia Tech on Saturday night, dealing a major blow to the Hokies’ class.

Kelly didn’t rule out coming back to Tech, and Fuente has had success keeping decommitments in the past, but it’s still not a good sign. Kelly holds an incredibly high number of offers, many of which are from Power 5 programs. He can go to school just about wherever he wants to go.

Kelly’s decommitment frees up a spot in the Hokies’ Class of 2019, but removes a fair bit of talent from the group. Kelly is a mid-end four-star prospect and was the headliner for Tech’s class. Now, Justin Fuente and his assistants will have to fill the void.

Now, let’s get into the mail.

Devon Hunter was all everything coming out of high school.  His stats were out of sight and just about every college in the country was after him.  And yet, he played only sparingly last year, primarily on special teams.  Also, it appeared to me his Spring Game was not spectacular.  Do you believe that his seemingly lack of progress in college ball has been due to the injury he had last year, a slow acclamation to the college game, or possibly just too much hype coming in?  We desperately need a star back there this year.  In your opinion can he be the man?  — William T.

I don’t think it’s fair to say Devon Hunter’s progress is lacking. Sure, he wasn’t ready to contribute as a freshman, but Hunter is in line to start as a sophomore. If he hadn’t dealt with the lingering hamstring injury and concussion symptoms, Hunter might have been able to crack the rotation at safety towards the end of the season.

But now, he’s the man at whip/nickelback. Mook Reynolds’ dismissal opens up the position that Hunter might be best suited for. Hunter is listed at 6-feet and 222 pounds, so there’s little question that he can hold up against the run. How well will he hold up in pass coverage? I don’t believe we saw enough of Hunter in 2017 to answer that question. Hunter held his own in the spring and showed flashes of being a solid player. Time will tell if he can build on his spring success.

I absolutely loved Virginia Tech’s approach to the Camping World Bowl vs. Oklahoma State. The Hokies played ball control and ran the ball right down the throat of the Cowboys and still only scored 21 points.

Virginia Tech’s offense should be better in 2018. Everyone is a year older and the offensive line has the ability to be a strength of this year’s team. The receivers are more experienced, and the addition of Damon Hazelton gives Josh Jackson another weapon on the outside.

I think Virginia Tech needs to meld the Camping World Bowl gameplan with what the normal gameplan is. Tech’s rushing attack ran for 200-plus yards in each of the Hokies’ last two games and despite losing Wyatt Teller and Eric Gallo, the running game should be better than they were in 2017. The offense should lean on the run game while supplementing it with quick throws to their weapons on the outside, namely Sean Savoy and Hezekiah Grimsley. Mix in some play-action and throws over the top to Hazelton, Eric Kumah and possibly Dalton Keene, and you’ve got an offense that can move the ball consistently and take chances downfield.

It’s unclear if this gameplan would be successful. I’m not a coach and my football knowledge is minimal compared to the Tech coaching staff. Whatever they decide to do in 2018 will be way more informed than my suggestion.

For the first time in a while, I think Virginia Tech’s offense will be better than the defense.

I know defensive coordinator Bud Foster is a miracle worker. Even though he’s not the highest-paid guy in the business, Foster is as good as it gets and no one consistently does more with less. Foster will field a competent unit in 2018.

But competent might be the ceiling. As talented as some of the young players on this defense are, they’re still wet behind the ears. Dylan Rivers is going to make rookie mistakes, as is Devon Hunter. Whoever starts at cornerback will having growing pains. Tech’s defensive line, which figures to be pretty darn good, can’t cover up all of the deficiencies everywhere else.

On the flip side, Tech’s offense is full of players who theoretically have already worked through their growing pains. Josh Jackson is entering his second season as the starting quarterback. Eric Kumah, Sean Savoy and Hezekiah Grimsley all have a full season of playing experience under their belt. Dalton Keene started all of 2017 and Tech’s offensive line is full of older and mature players. This unit should improve tremendously on their 2017 performance.

There is zero chance that Foster rotates his linebackers in 2018, or any other season for that matter. Foster hasn’t done it yet in his career and there’s no reason for him to start now.

Whoever gets the nod at linebacker needs all the experience they can get. Every single rep is crucial to their development. If Tech is up three scores on Old Dominion late in the game, it wouldn’t surprise me if the starters are playing well into the fourth quarter. Dylan Rivers and Rayshard Ashby need game experience.

This stands even more true for guys like Dax Hollifield and Keshon Artis, who enrolled at Virginia Tech this summer. Those guys have zero experience in college football and can’t rely on their practice and special teams experience like Rivers and Ashby can. If either one of those guys are starting, they need to play all 60 minutes and then some.

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