Monday Mail: The Revival, Meeting Expectations and Searching for a Defensive Coordinator

Folks, I’m excited to bring back Monday Mail this week. It’s been an eventful season of Virginia Tech football and with Tech basketball now underway, there’s no shortage of things to discuss.

Without further delay, it’s time to get into your questions. Thank you for the submissions.

I’m not sure we’ll ever know exactly why Virginia Tech was able to turn around their season, but it’s pretty clear what the probable reasons are.

The switch from Ryan Willis to Hendon Hooker at quarterback is the root of it all. Willis had clearly lost the confidence of the team with his early season struggles and the coaches seemed to have lost the locker room.

Hooker’s ascension to the starting role has directly coincided with Virginia Tech’s resurgence. Hooker has thrown 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions and is averaging 10.3 yards per attempt. He’s added another four touchdowns on the ground, winning every game he’s started.

Willis, on the other hand, has thrown five interceptions in five games. He’s averaging far fewer yards per attempt and has added almost zero production on the ground. Willis wasn’t producing and Hooker is.

I also credit Fuente for reengaging the players and getting them back on track. He held a team meeting (again) after the Duke debacle and since then, he’s publicly assumed the blame for the team’s horrendous start to the season. His play caller, offensive coordinator Brad Cornelsen, has retooled the offense to better suit Hooker’s strengths and his defense has developed into one of the better units in the country. It’s all coming together.

Ultimately, Fuente’s move at quarterback and his ability to hold himself accountable are the biggest things that stick it out to me.

Yes, a victory vs. Virginia would give the Hokies nine wins, which was a reasonable standard to hold Tech to this season. Even a loss would have them at eight wins, another reasonable standard, but would include a giant blemish.

However, winning eight-to-nine games in any normal way would mean far less. The fashion in which Virginia Tech has achieved eight wins this season is more impressive than any scenario one could have expected. The depths that Virginia Tech has grown out of were about as deep as it gets in Blacksburg and the Hokies have the chance to erase all of their early-season struggles.

Think about it — finishing the regular season on a winning binge means more than winning some and losing some. They’ve shown resilience and drive that was completely absent from last season. The team has rallied around this coaching staff and Hooker, who was himself on the way out after last season. This year has been a coming together of sorts and who knows, maybe something special springs from this season.

I’ve read speculation that Virginia Tech has already settled on their next defensive coordinator, but I can’t confirm that on my own. If it’s true, Tech won’t announce the hire until after the regular season and conference championship game, if Tech makes it that far.

In terms of candidates, the most often discussed name is Virginia Tech legend and former defensive backs coach Torrian Gray. Gray left prior to the 2016 season, bolting for Florida. It sounds like both sides would be open to a return to Blacksburg, but I’m not sure where that situation stands.

I still believe Charley Wiles needs to be considered for the position. Nobody knows the defensive scheme and personnel as well as Wiles does, who has coached at Virginia Tech since 1996. Wiles has done an excellent job recruiting over the last several seasons and has developed his young defensive linemen in 2019. He’s on the older side, but he would give Virginia Tech the kind of continuity that Fuente likes.

There are assuredly other candidates, and we’ll learn their names in the coming weeks. Fans can expect this hire to be announced between the end of Virginia Tech’s season and the bowl game, with the new defensive coordinator likely in attendance at the bowl game observing and learning from Foster.

Ahh, the ultimate question.

Virginia Tech is facing a good team on Friday. Virginia began the season on a heater, breaking into the top 25 before falling to Notre Dame. That loss started a stretch of losing, as Virginia suffered three defeats in four games. Since then, Virginia knocked off North Carolina and Georgia Tech by a combined 12 points and blasted Liberty 55-27. The ‘Hoos are good, but they aren’t that good.

There are two keys to this game — containing Bryce Perkins and taking care of the football. Perkins doesn’t have very many weapons around him but if Tech lets him, Perkins will win this game by himself. He’ll be one of the best athletes on the field and has explosive potential. But if Tech’s defense maintains their level of play over the second half of the season, they’ll hold him down.

Even if they contain Perkins, Virginia Tech must take care of the football and win the turnover margin. Tech’s offense has shown ability to move the ball and score points, but the unit isn’t good enough to overcome turnovers. Fortunately for them, Hendon Hooker has yet to throw an interception this season.

Virginia Tech is going to win this game. The Hokies will keep Perkins from causing too much damage, while the offense will plug away and take advantage of Bryce Hall‘s absence in the secondary. Tech will win 27-17.

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