After seeing Josh Jackson play the first four games of his rFR last season it would be inconceivable to think he wasn’t a lock to be the starter at VT for at least two, maybe three more years. As it happens with many young players, particularly QBs, he regressed and finished the season playing like a freshman.
First four games: 75 for 115 (64%) for 1,127 yards (9.8 Y/A), 11 TD and 1 INT
Final nine games: 161 for 281 (57%) for 1,864 yards (6.6 Y/A), 9 TD and 8 INT
There are many factors that led to his leveling out, but it has left the door open for someone to unseat him in 2018. The most likely candidate would be 6’4” and 216 lb rFR Hendon Hooker. He had a magnificent spring scrimmage last season going 10 for 11 for 113 yards and a TD. A redshirt was the end result, but he showed his ability in that scrimmage and on the scout team. VT HC, Justin Fuente, has stated that if they had to make a decision today, then Josh Jackson would be the starter. Behind him, Ryan Willis, a 6’4”, 221 lb rJR transfer from Kansas, will also be hungry to win the job. Lastly, incoming freshman Quincy Patterson has outstanding ability and already looks the part of an NFL QB. Patterson won’t enroll early, and it’s unlikely he will know this offense well enough to pose a real threat in this contest. While he may not be on the field for them, I will still certainly be rooting for him. This was a powerful story about him that I read last year. I am looking forward to seeing how all of these guys play during the scrimmage.
The running backs were incredibly disappointing last season. Steven Peoples is a big back that started the season as the RB1, but through injuries and general poor play, he didn’t finish the season as their top guy. That honor belonged to Deshawn McClease. He finished the season with 45 carries and 265 rushing yards over the past three games. Being able to catch as an RB is very important in this offense. McClease caught nine passes which were the most of any returning RB on the roster. At 5’9″ and 190 pounds, he is unlikely to get a bunch of goal line work with several bigger backs on the roster that may be better built for that role. Jalen Holston is one such player that is made in the mold of a traditional power back. He was lightly used last year, but he’s a young player that will likely continue to develop and see an increased workload in 2018. Coleman Fox, Terius Wheatley, Caleb Steward, and Cole Beck will round out the running backs on the roster. Beck is a true freshman that I really like the look of that has absolutely blazing speed. Overall, I don’t know what his 2018 outlook will be and I generally don’t have very high hopes for CFF from this group. This offense does have the ability to support a fantasy relevant back or two and the offensive line could be better this season, I just don’t feel optimistic based on the info that I currently have.
Speaking of fantasy relevance, this offense has produced some high-performing WRs over the past couple years.
2016: 79-1094-7, 76-983-5, 48-691-7
The WR1, in particular, has a really high floor. My best guess for who that WR1 will be is rSO Ball State transfer, Damon Hazelton. He had to sit out last year after transferring, but at 6’2” and 217 pounds, he has the size and ability to be a real weapon for this team. He, TrFR Tre Turner, and JR Eric Kumah are all on campus but have either been limited our out this spring. Sean Savoy would be my second best guess at who else could fill Cam Phillips’ production void. As a freshman in 2017, Savoy was second on the team with 39-454-4 receiving and also added 116 yards and two more scores while running jet sweeps. Veterans Henri Murphy and C.J. Carroll could be role players this season, but I don’t foresee either having a huge role. Chris Cunningham, Hezekiah Grimsley, and Phil Patterson are all relatively young, talented players that I feel optimistic about. Bucky Hodges had a terrific season in 2016 as a move TE, but there was very little production from that position in 2017. Dalton Keene and Drake Deiuliis will want to change that this season. I will be specifically monitoring both of them during the scrimmage.
Virginia Tech will be losing some very experienced and talented players on defense. The defensive line looks like a good group with Ricky Walker and Jerrod Hewitt. Linebacker is where I am concerned about this team. They will lose a first-round pick in Tremaine Edmunds, but fans will hope they’ve recruited another in Dax Hollifield. He is a fantastic looking player that I think will have the opportunity to get some snaps this season. Alan Tisdale and Keshon Artis are also talented linebackers from this most recent recruiting class. The secondary loses a bunch of good players, but I am excited about Adonis Alexander (incredible length), Mook Reynolds, Divine Deablo, Devon Hunter, and Reggie Floyd. There is an abundance of length and talent in this secondary, and I am confident that Bud Foster can get the best out of them. There are some big questions that Virginia Tech will need to answer this fall, but they have a very manageable schedule.