Monday Mail: The Hokies’ 2018 Sack Leader, Trevon Hill’s Status and More

Monday Mail is back! So is college football, technically. Eight teams have started their 2018 season already, even though the season really begins this weekend. I’ll have my season prediction for Virginia Tech coming out this week, so look for that.

Until then, be sure to read the rest of this.

The odds-on favorite is probably Ricky Walker, who should build on his 4.5-sack performance in 2017. The problem is that Walker is now a marked man, and he’ll be the highlight of offensive gameplans in 2018.

Trevon Hill and Houshun Gaines will benefit. Hill is entering his third season as a starter and actually totaled 5.5 sacks last season. He’s an explosive pass rusher off the edge and with most of the line’s attention focused on Walker, Hill is positioned for success.

Gaines’ presence helps too. He finished 2017 with three sacks in limited playing time and gives Virginia Tech more of a pass rush than the Hokies had with Vinny Mihota at defensive end. With Gaines and Hill on the edge, both should find success getting to opposing quarterbacks this season. My money is on Hill to lead Tech in sacks, and he’ll take a long, hard look at the NFL after he does.

Speaking of Hill, our next series of questions relate to this…

Hill wasn’t allowed to speak to the media at Virginia Tech’s media day, which could signal one of two things.

In the past, Virginia Tech has kept players away from the media for a multitude of reasons. Wyatt Teller was kept from the media during his senior season but he was never suspended. Adonis Alexander was kept from the media for a very long time, and he was declared academically ineligible and suspended multiple times during his Virginia Tech career.

Hill could be in trouble, or it could be because of his criticism of Andy Bitter’s coverage of Mook Reynolds’ dismissal this offseason. We’ll find out on Sept. 3 if Hill is in Tech’s good graces or if he’s in big trouble.

Here’s a look at Florida State’s projected starters, courtesy of Noles247.

Virginia Tech’s offense has some talent, but so does Florida State’s defense. Brian Burns and Demarcus Christmas are Florida State’s most experienced defensive linemen. Burns had 4.5 sacks last season and 13.5 tackles for loss and is FSU’s headliner up front.

Two of Florida State’s linebackers have experience, albeit limited. Adonis Thomas is entering his final season of eligibility. The former Alabama linebacker turned JUCO product played in just four games in 2017 for the Seminoles. Junior Dontavious Jackson played in eight games last season and made 17 tackles, but lacks experience too. Freshman Jaiden Woodbey was one of the top college prospects in the Class of 2018 and is expected start at nickelback for Florida State.

In the secondary, Florida State is hoping Stanford Samuels III is able to play and if he is, he brings 10 games of experience with three tackles for loss and two interceptions worth of experience. AJ Westbrook is another experienced safety with 24 games under his belt as a Seminole. Levonta Taylor is about as good as it gets at cornerback, and Kyle Meyers is entering his third year in the program.

Virginia Tech’s offensive line should be able to hold their own vs. Florida State’s defensive front. Florida State has some experience at linebacker but none of them are proven options and as lone as Josh Jackson exercises extreme caution when throwing towards Taylor, Tech’s receivers should be able to find holes. Florida State might recruit like a juggernaut, but they’ve got holes they can’t fill.

Here’s who Noles247 predicts Florida State’s receiving depth chart heading into this season.

Starting outside receivers: Tamorrion Terry, Keith Gavin

Starting slot receiver: Nyqwan Murray

Murray led Florida State in receiving yards (604) last season and should be even more productive in his senior season. Murray is still recovering from a torn ACL but is expected to be a full go vs. the Hokies.

Outside of Murray, Florida State is bereft of experience at receiver. Terry is a redshirt freshman who signed with the ‘Noles in the Class of 2017. Terry wasn’t a highly-regarded recruit by Florida State standards, carrying just a three-star rating.

Gavin is a junior with 27 career catches, but that’s it. Gavin’s receptions all came last season and he still doesn’t have a touchdown reception in his career. Virginia Tech’s receiving corps isn’t all that experienced, but Florida State’s is even greener.

Florida State’s receivers are talented, but so are Tech’s defensive backs. They’re both young and both will make mistakes. It should be an entertaining battle between these two groups.

I’ll give one pitcher and one hitter that fit the description. Left-handed pitcher Josh Rogers has pitched well all season at the AAA level and has been even better in Norfolk since being acquired in the Zach Britton trade. Rogers has started five games for Norfolk, totaling a 2.08 ERA and a 1.088 WHIP. He’s pitched plenty of innings in the minor leagues throughout his career and since the Orioles starting rotation is a disaster, Rogers should get a chance this September.

Rogers isn’t on the 40-man roster, so space needs to be made. Twenty-eight-year-old reliever Sean Gilmartin doesn’t provide much value for the Orioles and really doesn’t need to be in the organization.

Despite poor numbers this season for Norfolk, DJ Stewart needs to get a look at the major league level. Stewart hasn’t really earned a promotion, hitting just .234 and slugging .391. However, given the Orioles plethora of future options in the outfield, Stewart needs to prove that he belongs. Yusniel Diaz, Austin Hays and Ryan McKenna will all reach the majors within the next two seasons and Cedric Mullins is already there. It’s time for Stewart to earn his spot or get pushed to the back of the line.

As much as I’d love to boot Chris Davis from the 40-man roster, that’s not realistic. How about Craig Gentry, who’s a 34-year-old outfielder that’s been average or worse at the plate since 2013. Gentry is a solid fourth outfielder that can play all three spots and run the bases, but he provides little to zero value to a team in the middle of a full rebuild.

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