Thank you again for submitting your questions this week. I really do enjoy interacting with you all and hopefully we can keep this thing going.
Without further ado, let’s hit the mail.
With so much inexperience at wide receiver, who leads the Hokies in receiving yardage this year?
— Justin Clark (@JustinClarkVT) June 29, 2018
That’s actually a good question because there is no real favorite. A few guys can make a case for themselves, but a case can be made against them too.
The case for Sean Savoy is that he’ll be working out of the slot almost exclusively this season, where he excelled in 2017. Savoy was a consistent contributor in the first half of 2017 but as the season wore on, his impact lessened each week.
Eric Kumah is the exact opposite of Savoy. Kumah will play outside and found his rhythm later in the season, catching six passes for 82 yards vs. Georgia Tech in November and five passes for 72 yards and a touchdown vs. Oklahoma State in the Camping World Bowl. Kumah still does not have a 100-yard receiving game.
Hezekiah Grimsley played better in the latter part of 2017 as well, catching 11 passes for 119 yards in Virginia Tech’s final two games. Prior to that, he was not an impactful player.
Damon Hazelton was the favorite before dealing with an undisclosed injury that prevented him from participating much in spring practice. Hazelton caught 51 passes for 505 yards and four touchdowns for Ball State in 2016, but what will he do after sitting for over a year?
If Hazelton is healthy, I think he’ll be the Hokies leading receiver. He’s received the most praise from coaches and he’s had the most success at the collegiate level. Yes, it was at Ball State, but I have a feeling he’ll get the job done at the Power 5 level.
Virginia Tech needs at least two of these guys to step up in 2018. Tech needs to replace Cam Phillips’ production as best they can, and it likely won’t be replaced by just one receiver.
Whats the chances college gameday will be in Tallahassee for the game?
— Dale Kizer (@dkizer5) June 29, 2018
It’s certainly possible, but there are a few other games that might be a bigger draw in Week 1.
Tennessee and West Virginia are playing on Saturday, Sept. 1 at 3:30 p.m. at Bank of American Stadium in Charlotte. Those are two reputable programs playing in a city easy to get to. Expect it to be a good crowd.
Michigan and Notre Dame play at 7:30 p.m. on that Saturday as well, and that’s always a good draw. Louisville will lose to play Alabama in Orlando at 8 p.m. and that’s a good draw as well. Miami and LSU kick off their season at AT&T Stadium in Texas on Sunday and that’s a matchup of two premier programs.
Ultimately, I think Gameday will go elsewhere. There’s plenty of hype surrounding Willie Taggart at Florida State, but Miami and LSU in Jerry World would be my guess.
#Hokies what is your dept chart looking like so far?
— Mark Fain Jr (@ThaHokieKing82) June 29, 2018
There’s a lot to unpack here. Let’s hit each position.
Starting quarterback: Josh Jackson
Backups: Ryan Willis, Hendon Hooker
Jackson’s academic issue has been resolved and he’s still on the team. Barring a Week 1 suspension, Jackson will take the first snap vs. Florida State.
Starting running back: Steven Peoples
Backups: Deshawn McClease, Jalen Holston
Peoples is the most versatile running back and also the most experienced. He might not garner a plurality of the carries, but he’ll get the nod to start the season. Look for McClease to assume this role later in 2018.
Starting wide receivers: Damon Hazelton, Eric Kumah and Sean Savoy
Backups: Hezekiah Grimsley, Phil Patterson, Kaleb Smith, Tre Turner, Darryle Simmons
Grimsley will see the field plenty in 2018 and might even start. But I’m expecting Hazelton, Kumah and Savoy to get the lion’s share of the reps at receiver.
Starting tight end: Dalton Keene
Backups: Chris Cunningham, Drake DeIuliis, James Mitchell
Virginia Tech will rotate these guys in and out until one of them stands out. Neither Keene nor Cunningham looked particularly dominant in 2017.
Starting offensive line: Yosuah Nijman, D’Andre Plantin, Kyle Chung, Braxton Pfaff, Silas Dzansi
Backups: TJ Jackson, Tyrell Smith, Zachariah Hoyt, Patrick Kearns, Christian Darrisaw
Dzansi spent most of the spring at left tackle, but I think they’ll want to move him to the right side during the season. Putting a redshirt freshman on a quarterback’s blind side is less than ideal.
Plantin held his own in 2017 and is ready to start. Chung will slide inside to his old position and Pfaff will stick at right guard. Tyrell Smith and TJ Jackson will probably battle it out for the “first guy off the bench” role.
Starting defensive line: Trevon Hill, Ricky Walker, Vinny Mihota, Houshun Gaines
Backups: Emmanuel Belmar, Jarrod Hewitt, Cam Goode, TyJuan Garbutt
The starting group is set. When healthy, this unit is a strength for Virginia Tech.
The reserves are good too, if Goode and Garbutt are ready to contribute. Goode should beat out Xavier Burke this summer and Garbutt seems to be the leader for the fourth defensive end role.
Starting linebackers: Rayshard Ashby, Dylan Rivers
Backups: Dax Hollifield, Jaylen Griffin
Ashby and Rivers are the most prepared to start Week 1. Hollifield could play himself into a starting role as the season goes on and Keshon Artis could work himself into the mix as well.
Starting cornerbacks: Bryce Watts, Tyree Rodgers
Backups: Jermaine Waller, Jovonn Quillen, Caleb Farley
Virginia Tech should give Mook Reynolds a run at cornerback. They need some talent and experience there and the move could allow the Hokies to play their best five defensive backs. This group is scary thin entering 2018.
Starting safeties: Divine Deablo, Reggie Floyd, Mook Reynolds (whip/nickel)
Backups: Devon Hunter, Khalil Ladler
Virginia Tech is in a much better position at safety. Deablo played well in 2017 before injuring his foot and Floyd looked like a stud at rover. Reynolds is an elite-level player who can play any position in the secondary.
If Reynolds moves to cornerback, look for Hunter to slide into the whip/nickelback role.