Hello again, Canes fam! We’re back for another opponent Q&A.
Joining us today to talk about his beloved Virginia Tech Hokies is Tim Thomas from the independent website Tech Lunch Pail.
I returned the favor and answered some of Tim’s questions about Miami and you can see that conversation here:
And now, let’s take it away and talk about the Hokies:
Q1. What’s your mindset heading to Miami after getting blown out by Duke last week?
Not good, not good at all.
At this point, confidence is as low as ever with this football team. It’s easy to predict that Virginia Tech could finish the season 4-8 with a lone ACC win coming against Georgia Tech along with a win over Rhode Island.
The issues start with the offensive struggles and lack of adjustments, but go to the fact that this team just doesn’t schematically fit what VT wants to do with adjustments made by coaches. Additionally, VT has been folding a lot in situations of adversity.
More than all that, the biggest thing is how this team that, yes is young, but returned around 15 starters was expected to be better and has obviously regressed. If you forced myself to get against the -13 Miami-favored spread, I would have a hard time not going with the Canes.
Q2. Having seen a fanbase turn on a coach multiple times recently, I sense that happening with you guys. Is Fuente all out of goodwill in Blacksburg? Is it time to cut bait and move on?
He’s ran out of it with a lot of the fan base. As Miami has seen, winning can cover up a multitude of problems but losing when expectations are high for a bounce back makes those problems even larger.
Now there is no reason a change should happen in season if it comes to that point. $15 million is a lot and Fuente deserves the chance to show that he has a way to fix this problem from hitting a damaging rock bottom that seems inevitable at the moment.
Fuente isn’t dead in the water yet and the buyout is forcing Whit Babcock to make what could be the most difficult decision any Virginia Tech AD has ever had to make given the risks of both options.
Q3. Who needs to step up for VT’s moribund offense to bounce back?
Unfortunately, there isn’t one person who can be blamed as the weakness. If anything, there’s a trio of areas where VT needs improvement.
First, playcalling has been questionable and predictable with the heavy reliance on screens, jet sweeps, and underneath passes; without anything to stretch the field, allowing opponents to sit in bear-like defensive formations. VT’s playcalling has to start forcing defenses to line up fewer in the box and around the line of scrimmage.
Second, QB play has to improve. Ryan Willis has regressed not only from last season but game to game this season. Hendon Hooker is expected to start this week, but VT can’t have a QB rotation. The Hokies must find someone and build a varied offense around them.
Third, the offensive line’s youth is hurting. Having a starting offensive line of all freshmen and sophomores hasn’t been ideal and while VT’s pass blocking has been adequate in general, run blocking hasn’t. This is one area where long term patience and creativity in simplifying things will be required.
Q4. VT’s defense hasn’t been great either. Does Bud Foster have one last masterpiece game in him to close out his storied career?
While Virginia Tech’s defense has been a little better especially in pass coverage, the talent just isn’t there for Bud Foster to consistently pull something out to amaze at the moment. Part of that is due to a defensive line that is extremely young and generally overmatched and part of that is due to a mix of a lack of athleticism at linebacker and issues with tackling.
There’s no doubt that Foster is a legend but even the greatest defensive coordinators can only do so much. If Foster had another year, we could see a vintage VT defense in 2020 given how almost everybody will return. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case but if VT reaches that defensive level Foster established consistently at some point this season, it’ll be his last masterpiece on what should force the CFB Hall of Fame to change their rules and allow coordinators in.
Q5. If VT were to win, who are the 2-4 players who would have stepped up to turn the tide in the Hokies’ favor?
On offense, VT needs to get their planning receivers in space and allow to stretch the field. Tre Turner and Damon Hazelton are among the ACC’s best receivers with skill sets that fit well together. VT not only needs to set up both for success but they those two to be the All-ACC level difference makers that they are once they actually set them up well.
On defense, the Hokies need a big game from TyJuan Garbutt who just returned from injury last week. Garbutt is the one VT defensive end that can take advantage of Miami’s offensive issues and make Jarren Williams throw against a secondary that has lots of talent at safety and is signs of showing improvement at cornerback.
Q6, How do you expect the game to go? Include a score prediction, please.
It’s hard to have a lot of confidence in this Virginia Tech team, but I think it’ll be a game at halftime. However, Virginia Tech on offense has rarely made adjustments and will struggle mightily against Miami’s defense. It may not be as wide of a margin as last week, but VT’s defense will once again have to carry a heavy load it can’t handle and the Hurricanes will comfortably take care of business as Justin Fuente’s seat continues to get hotter.
Miami 31, Virginia Tech 13
Thanks to Tim for joining us for the Q&A this week. You can check out his work, and the work of other talented writers, over at Tech Lunch Pail.