Last year Virginia Tech was a popular pick to win the ACC Coastal with 16 returning starters. Instead they disappointed and finished just 7-6 with a 4-4 record inside conference play.
Despite the record not being what they wanted, it ended up being a special year. That’s because long-term head coach Frank Beamer announced it would be his last. Beamer had been the face of the school for nearly three decades, as he spent 29 years as their head coach.
The Hokies did a nice job replacing Beamer with an up and coming head coach in Justin Fuente. He spent the last 4 years at Memphis, where he completed turned things around.
In the 3 previous years before he arrived, Memphis had gone just 5-31. In his final two seasons the Tigers went 19-7. That included last year’s improbable 37-24 beating of No. 13 Ole Miss.
The big news with the Fuente hire, was that legendary defensive coordinator Bud Foster was sticking around. He also takes over a talented team that gets back 15 starters from last year. It wouldn’t be a surprise at all if Fuente had the Hokies competing for a division title in his first year on the job.
|Date||Opponent||Spread (Est.)||Win Chance|
|10/1||@ North Carolina|
|11/19||@ Notre Dame|
|Estimated Wins: TBD|
The Hokies will kickoff the 2016 season with a cupcake game at home against Liberty. Then comes a huge test against SEC East favorite Tennessee in Bristol. That game will really tell us a lot about where this team stands. It’s one of two brutal non-conference games, as they also have to go to Notre Dame later in the year.
The conference portion of the schedule isn’t all that bad. For a 2nd straight year Va Tech catches a big break avoiding Louisville, Clemson and FSU out of the Atlantic.
They also get their biggest threat in the Coastal at home in Miami. On top of that, it’s a Thursday night game, which gives them an even bigger advantage.
The problem is that game against the Hurricanes is part of a brutal 5-game stretch. Prior to playing Miami they have two on the road against UNC and Syracuse. They follow it up with 2 more on the road against Pittsburgh and Duke.
It doesn’t get a whole lot easier after that. They have to turn around and host Georgia Tech before going to Notre Dame. The Hokies then close out the season against in-state rival Virginia.
Despite backup quarterback Brendon Motley having to start 6 games, the offense improved. Virginia Tech put up 31.0 ppg after only managing 24.6 ppg in 2014.
All signs point to the offense getting even better under the offensive-minded Fuente. Memphis averaged 36.2 ppg in 2014 and 40.2 ppg last year.
The big question for Fuente in 2016, is who will start at quarterback. Motley returns, but he’s really raw as a passer. Motley is being challenged by juco transfer Jerod Evans and true freshman Joshua Jackson. Based on what I have seen, Evans has the upper hand and could thrive given the talent around him.
Whoever wins the job will have two big time targets to throw to. One being junior wide out Isaiah Ford and the other being junior tight end Bucky Hodges. Ford led the team with 75 receptions for 1,164 yards and 11 touchdowns. Hodges had 40 catches for 530 yards and 6 scores. Earning 4th-Team All-American honors. They also get back junior receiver Cam Phillips, who had 49 catches for 582 yards.
Even more encouraging is the talent the Hokies have coming back on the offensive line. The only starter lost from last year is right tackle Wade Hansen. They unit will be led by senior left tackle Jonathan McLaughlin and junior guard Wyatt Teller.
Virginia Tech will also feature a stable of running backs who can produce when called upon. The frontrunner being sophomore Travon McMillian. He came out of nowhere to lead the team with 1,043 yards and 7 touchdowns. Also in the mix are sophomores Shai McKenzie and Marshawn Williams.
While the offense surprised in 2015, the defense underachieved. Despite getting back 8 starters, they went from allowing 20.2 ppg in 2014 to giving up 26.3 ppg.
Surprisingly it was the defensive line that didn’t play up to it’s potential. The Hokies gave up 181 ypg and 4.6 yards/carry on the ground. Both of which were the worst numbers in Fosters 21 years with the team.
That was with 3 studs up front in Dadi Nicolas, Luther Maddy and Corey Marshall. With all 3 of those guys departed, there’s some serious question marks around the front four. The good news is they get back a couple of talented seniors. Those being defensive tackle Woody Baron and defensive end Ken Ekanem. Senior tackle Nigel Williams started 10 games in 2014 and figures to start. Competing at the other end spot will be sophomore Vinny Mihota and freshman Trevon Hill.
At linebacker the Hokies only significant loss is Deon Clarke. The leader of the unit will be junior middle linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka. Though the team is very high on sophomore outside linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.
In the secondary, Tremaine’s brother, Terrell Edmonds is another rising star on this side. He started 9 games last year at corner, but will be moving to strong safety. He’ll form a potent tandem at safety with senior Chuck Clark. The Hokies have 3 capable corners in Brandon Facyson, Greg Stroman and Adonis Alexander.
Regular Season Win Total
ACC Coastal Odds
ACC Championship Odds
National Championship Odds
Odds Courtesy of 5Dimes
Oddsmakers clearly aren’t high on the Hokies in 2016. They have their win total set at just 7 games. A lot of that has to do with only have 6 home games and those two brutal non-conference matchups. I’m sure there’s also some concern with a new head coach.
However, I don’t see the transition to Fuente being that big of a deal. Especially with Foster returning at defensive coordinator. The defense should remain a strength and he should have a positive impact on the offense.
I really like this Hokies team. Even with losses to both Tennessee and Notre Dame, I have them going 6-2 in the ACC and 8-4 overall. That will have them right in the thick of things for the Coastal title.
Win Total Prediction