With the football season less than 11 weeks away, it is never too soon to begin to look at the opponents that will try to derail the Clemson Tigers’ quest for a second-consecutive national championship and their third appearance in the College Football Playoff in as many years.
Today, we continue our series with the Tigers’ fourth opponent—the Virginia Tech Hokies, who were eight points away from upsetting the Tigers in the ACC Championship Game last season.
Second-year head coach Justin Fuente reached the heights that Hokie fans had been waiting on in his first-year—winning the ACC Coastal Division and taking the Hokies to ACC Championship Game, where they fell to eventual national champion Clemson.
Following an incredible first-season, Fuente received a contract extension through 2023—however, with the contract extension, and after the success’ of last season, the pressure will be on Fuente to take the next step and win the ACC Championship.
“(Last season) helped us in reaffirming to us and to our players the way we do things does give us a chance to win and compete for championships,” Fuente said. “So, I think our kids have carried on that work ethic and that workload throughout wintertime and throughout spring practice.”
Virginia Tech Offense:
The Hokie offense will have some significant holes to fill off of last year’s squad—losing six out of its 11 starters.
Not only did the Hokies lose their top two receivers from last year—wide receiver Isaiah Ford and tight end Bucky Hodges—they also lost quarterback Jerod Evans. The Hokie offense last season amassed a total of 6,229 yards, however 4,465 of those total yards were gained by players that are no longer on the team.
But not all is doom and gloom for a team with aspirations of making a return trip to the ACC Championship, as they return wide receivers Cam Phillips, Jaylen Bradshaw and tight end Divine Deablo.
However, the biggest will remain who will take over the quarterback role for the Hokies.
“I think there were some good and some bad in there with all three of them (Josh Jackson, A.J. Bush and Hendon Hooker),” Fuente said. “I want to see them make the easy fundamental plays consistently, and I want to see them value the football. All three of them at times did that and at times didn’t do that. So, I think that’s why the competition is continuing into the summer and will continue through camp.”
Virginia Tech Defense:
Long-time defensive coordinator will look to fill the void left by three starters off of last year’s team that finished the season ranked 18th in total defense, while amassing 32 sacks and 113 tackles for loss.
However, if there is one thing that Foster has learned it is how to put his players in a position to be successful and even with the losses on his defense the Hokies still return a whopping 79% of the defensive production from a year ago.
“We’re gonna find out who can play, we’re going to evaluate their strengths and their weaknesses, we’re hopefully going to put them in the right spots that’s going to maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses,” Foster said. “They’re going to have to learn positions—some of them are going to be learning new positions and they need to learn the expectations of the those positions and what we expect his coaches from the defensive side of the ball, but that’s kind of where we are.”