There are far more important things to think about right now than college football. As the world comes to grips with a globally recognized pandemic, sports seem insignificant to the most of society.
That said, sports serve as a necessary release and its important for us to maintain our sanity at this point as we process the news and what it means for the future.
Like everyone else, Virginia Tech has been grossly affected by the novel coronavirus, scientifically known as COVID-19. The campus has practically shut down, with classes going online and commencement being cancelled. On the athletic side, all winter sports were stopped in their tracks and spring sports barely even started.
For Virginia Tech football, an offseason of hope and growth has vanished. Players can certainly work out together on their own, but all sanctioned practices and workouts are off the table. And if the virus continues to spread exponentially, players will be smart to isolate as much possible.
This means that a team on the verge of coming together and taking the next step is impacted far more than a program already certain in their standing. The Hokies are full of talented players who are on the verge of hitting their prime and elevating Virginia Tech into top-25 status.
On the offensive side of the ball, anyone hoping to take Hendon Hooker’s job as starting quarterback can put that dream on hold. Whether it be Quincy Patterson or Braxton Burmiester, no one is going to have the opportunity to vault themselves past Hooker this offseason. Both Patterson and Burmiester would have needed this spring to begin that process, and the spring is now gone.
Perhaps the biggest impact on offense will be felt at wide receiver, where the Hokies are aiming to replace two fixtures at the top of their depth chart. Damon Hazelton, who caught 16 touchdown passes in two seasons at Virginia Tech, has transferred to Missouri and Hezekiah Grimsley, who played in 27 games in three seasons, is currently in the transfer portal and isn’t expected to return.
Replacing these two won’t be easy. Tayvion Robinson will surely play a larger role in the offense, but can redshirt freshmen Elijah Bowick and Jaden Payoute take the next step and become contributors? This spring would have given us some insight into that.
Defensively, Virginia Tech’s front four have plagued the unit for some time. The Hokies have struggled to generate consistent pressure up front or off the edge. Emmanuel Belmar and TyJuan Garbutt figure to start at defensive end, but how is the depth behind them? Will Jaylen Griffin or Zion DeBose make an impact as they head into their fourth season in the program? Extra spring practices only would have helped.
In the secondary, replacing Reggie Floyd at rover is critical. Devon Hunter is the likely solution there, but the former five-star prospect has yet to live up to the lofty expectations set for him. Can he improve enough this offseason with a full set of spring practices? Virginia Tech’s starting cornerbacks are set in stone, but who will fill in behind Caleb Farley and Jermaine Waller?
Virginia Tech can overcome this but losing their set of spring practices is no small problem. The Hokies were counting on this offseason to serve as the final seasoning this roster needed before they became one of the best teams in the ACC.
I’ve written and said many times now that the 2020 season is one of the most important seasons in Virginia Tech’s history and with the team distanced from one another for the next several months, the Hokies now have another obstacle to overcome. Time will tell if they are able to do so. Hopefully, they’ll get the opportunity this fall.