On the plus side Virginia Tech ended the season on a 3 game winning streak. A defeat of Boston College in overtime and 3 point victory over Virginia is what Virginia Tech needed to become bowl eligible. Then they registered another OT win over Rutgers all to finish 7-6, the worst record Frank Beamer’s Hokies have had in over 20 years.
It doesn’t get much better than Frank Beamer at the helm of a program. With 216 wins Beamer leads all active FBS coaches in wins and before last season he had eight consecutive double digit win seasons.
This was supposed to be a position of strength last year for the Hokies but Logan Thomas struggled mightily in a season where many wondered whether he would come back for his senior season as he looked like an NFL Draft slam dunk. Thomas posted a dismal 18 touchdowns with 16 interceptions. The Hokies brought in a new offensive coordinator in Scot Loeffler and he has been charged with trying to fix the mechanics of Logan. Logan didn’t get a lot of help from the running game, something very uncharacteristic for a Virginia Tech squad. J.C. Coleman led the Hokies in rushing with only 492 yards and it marked the first time in over 50 years a Hokie led the team with less than 500 yards rushing. Coleman is still listed as the starter but freshman Trey Edmunds could change that as he figures to see a lot of time and I feel he will eventually unseat Coleman as the primary back in the offense. I feel it is unfair to put the brunt of the blame on Coleman as far as running deficiencies goes. The offensive line seemed to struggle with opening holes on a consistent basis. I am excited to see the highly touter Edmunds in action and even with another subpar season we will see Logan Thomas getting drafted due to his tremendous size and talent.
Best Draft Prospect: Logan Thomas QB 5th Round 2014.
Wide Receivers/Tight Ends:
D.J. Coles will be back for Virginia Tech after losing 2012 to a knee injury and the Hokies need him as the top two targets from a year ago (over 1,800 yards) have been lost to the NFL. While Coles offers the most experience it may be his new starting mate that shows the most NFL promise. Sophomore Demitri Knowles is projected as a late round selection for 2016 (6th Round). Josh Stanford and Kevin Asante are next on the depth chart and they had a total of three catches between them in 2012. Stanford is a speed burner that should be used as a big play threat. With the Hokie unit so young I am anxious too see how well they block in the running game, something Frank Beamer always demands from his wide receivers. Ryan Malleck will look to become more involved at the tight end position.
Best Draft Prospect: Demitri Knowles WR 6th Round 2016.
As stated above I was more surprised with the ineffectiveness of the offensive line play than that of the running game. There were a few injuries along the line and some shuffling to find some good combinations and chemistry but nothing major that would have caused the type of dropoff we saw last season. Running in the heart of the line looks like it will be easier than bouncing to the outside with the return of senior center Andrew Miller. On the right side at guard Bruce Benedict takes over, even thought this is his first year starting, to me he looks like the best prospect on the line as he would be a solid 5th round selection as he is currently projected. David Wang is looking to follow in the footsteps of older brother Ed, from Virginia Tech to the NFL. David is a returning senior but he needs to add bulk and upper body strength if he wants to make it at the next level, a scenario that seems unlikely at this point. The Hokies seem to be a unit that is built to protect in the passing game vice the run. The Hokies need to have their starters stay healthy as this will be a year of change and where plenty of young players begin to develop.
Best Draft Prospect: Bruce Benedict OG 5th Round 2015.
The bread and butter of the Virginia Tech football team over the years has been the defense and exceptional special teams play. The defensive line is the strength once again and they are led by an All-American candidate. James Gayle came back to Blacksburg for his senior season and you can’t just look at the stat sheet for the full story on how effective Gayle is. Gayle recorded only 5 sacks a year ago and many would consider that a pedestrian number for someone attracting such attention. What Gayle did was play the run exceptionally well as well as get pressure on the quarterback with 27 quarterback hurries. I currently have Gayle ranked as a 2nd round prospect for 2014 and with a strong senior campaign he could be chosen in the late stages of the 1st round. J.R. Collins will start at the other end position after starting 9 games as a junior and registering 6 tackles for loss. Derrick Hopkins and Luther Maddy look like they will have camp invites coming in their respective draft years and have been solid in the middle for the Hokies. Tyrel Wilson will be another player at end who has started 12 games in his Virginia Tech career and did have 4.5 sacks in 2012. This is not only a talented line, they are deep with a number of second and even third string players that would start at a number of other colleges around the nation.
Best Draft Prospect: James Gayle DE 2nd Round 2014.
Jack Tyler is back in the middle after leading the team in 2012 with 119 tackles and 13 tackles for loss. Tyler will command a lot of attention and I think this opens things up for outside linebacker Tariq Edwards who missed last season with a leg injury after a promising 2011 season. I currently have Tyler rated as a 6th round prospect but I have the feeling we could see him go as high as the third round with another big year and with a team with a system where he happens to be an ideal fit. The key here will be getting promising youngsters like Deon Clarke and Josh Trimble on the field so by next season they are acclimated to the system and ready to step in and be starters. I really like watching the linebackers at Virginia Tech, they are always aggressive and always trying to cause a turnover with a bone jarring hit or trying to strip the ball away from the ball carrier. Virginia Tech does it with such frequency that you can tell it is a practice ritual they have and it is drilled home.
Best Draft Prospect: Jack Tyler 6th Round 2014 Draft.
Your heart goes out to Antone Exum as he is on my short list for players I am personally rooting for in 2013. Exum surprised many by returning to Blacksburg for his senior season, although Virgnia Tech sees a higher percentage of big time recruits come back and not leave early for the NFL. Exum led the team last season with 5 interceptions and 21 passes defensed while making 48 tackles, good enough for All-ACC honors. Exum player through what was described as a “weak leg” through most of the season which in retrospect must have been some slight tear or damage to his knee. In January, Exum tore his ACL while playing recreational basketball so his rehabilitation has been scrutinized closely by Virginia Tech and conference foes. Exum should be ready for t start of the season but it’s a tight window and there will questions about how effective he will be and if Virginia Tech will have to hold him back and kind of ease him into the season. The good news for Virginia Tech is the entire secondary returns from a year ago and this group showed the most improvement throughout the season. Fellow cornerback Kyle Fuller has NFL potential and will be a senior this season and his younger brother Kendall will more than likely replace him next season and moving forward. Virginia Tech was one of the first colleges to employ a full time rover on the field and the person primarily handling those duties is junior Kyshoen Jarrett, a good prospect for 2015 who was second on this team in tackles last season with 83 stops.
Best Draft Prospect: Antone Exum CB 3rd Round 2014.
You know you are known for special teams when part of the college football vernacular is named for your head coach. “Beamer Ball” is ma term given to a team that scores more than 1 touchdown on special teams or off a turnover in a game, it can be said that team is playing “Beamer Ball”. Virginia Tech thrives on special teams and blocking kicks although the team suffered through a few years where the kicking and punting was not up to normal standards. Cody Journell and A.J. Hughes had big seasons kicking and punting the ball respectively and Demitri Knowles is an up-and-comer at kick returner.
Best Draft Prospect: Demitri Knowles WR/KR 6th Round 2016.
Things don’t start easy for the Hokies as their first game is against defending champion Alabama. Virginia Tech has 3 home games in October and hopefully their momentum takes them into November with confidence as road games in Miami and Virginia are featured.
Virginia Tech seems to be deeper with prospects on defense which is something we have seen for many years in the past. Players at Virginia Tech always seem very pro ready as they are guided by one of the premier coaches at the FBS level.