Justin Fuente wore through his Virginia Tech honeymoon rather quickly. From transferring quarterbacks to flirting with new jobs and lying about it, his time in Blacksburg went from star power to fizzled out. Fuente resurrected the Memphis Tigers program and parlayed that work into the job at VT.
After winning the Coastal in year one (2016) at Tech, he’s slowly slipped down the ranks every season. The Hokies finished the 2020 season with a 5-6 record, and rumors that Fuente’s staff weren’t taking the pandemic seriously.
Info: Virginia Tech @ Miami in Miami Gardens, FL
Day/Time/Channel: November 20, 2021 / TBD / TBD
Fuente’s Hokies are 38-26, including 25-17 in the ACC and 1-4 in bowl games. I have to believe he’s on the hottest hot seat in the ACC, and especially the Coastal. Only Dino Babers at Syracuse is more likely to be fired than Fuente after the ‘21 season.
The ‘Canes have a 23-15 all-time lead over the Hokies in this 2nd tier rivalry. Miami won the first 12 meetings between the two programs dating back to 1953. The Butch Davis era saw Miami lose five straight to Frank Beamer’s Hokies until the 2000 game, above. Since 2000, the series has danced back and forth quite a bit between the programs.
2020 Record/Ranking: 5-6/Unranked.
2020 Data: 31.1 PPG scored (43rd in FBS), 32.1PPG allowed (82nd in FBS).
Bowl Game: None.
Key Losses: Herndon Hooker, QB (transfer); Khalil Herbert, RB; Rayshard Ashby LB; Justus Reed, DL; Divine Deablo, DB, Christian Darrisaw, OT.
The Hokies return 14 of 22 starters for the 2021 season. The Hokies have 11 players listed on the Athlon Magazine All-ACC preseason team, including three players on the first team. The issue is the Hokies have lost another starting QB, this time in Herndon Hooker. They’ve also lost running back Khalil Herbert to the NFL.
On the first team offense, the Hokies have TE James Mitchell. Mitchell hauled in 26 passes for 435 yards and four TD’s last season. He averaged 16.7 yards per catch which makes him a dangerous weapon, especially against the Hurricanes who have a tendency to lose TE’s in coverage.
On the first team defense, the Hokies have defensive end Amare Barno and cornerback Jermaine Waller. In 2020, Barno logged 16 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, both a team lead. Waller was injured in ‘20 and hardly played.
On the second team offense, Tech has offensive lineman Lecitus Smith. Smith is expected to start at left guard for the Hokies in ‘21. On the 2nd team defense, VT has safety Chamarri Conner. Conner logged 81 tackles and four PBU’s in 2020.
On the 3rd team offense, Tech has WR Tre Turner. Turner had 529 receiving yards and three TD’s a year ago. The offensive line has another starter on the All-ACC preseason team in Luke Tenuta. Tenuta is the proposed left tackle.
The 3rd team defense has lineman Norell Pollard at defensive tackle. In 2020, Pollard finished with 4.5 TFL’s and 2.5 sacks.
VT Scheme on O
Fuente and the Hokies run a fairly standard 11 personnel (one running back, one tight end) offense like most of the NCAA and NFL. Starting QB Braxton Burmeister threw two TD’s and ran in two more in 2020. Burmeister is mobile enough but lacks the dynamic playmaking ability of Hooker.
How do you lose to the VT offense? In 2020, it was about letting Herbert get loose as a running back, and then leaving Hooker to beat you on power read or inside zone read with his legs. in ‘21, I think VT will have a better passing game and will use experienced WR’s in Turner, Tayvion Robinson, and Mitchell for a more pro style approach.
How do you beat the VT offense? The Hokies return three of their starting OL from ‘20. That should help them in pass protection but last season Fuente never adjusted to Jaelan Phillips pass rush. I’m wondering if the key to beating VT isn’t just letting Fuente be stubborn and getting someone on the edge that their tackles can’t slow down. That could be Jahfari Harvey in ‘21.
VT Scheme on D
The Hokies run a 4-2-5 under DC Justin Hamilton. Hamilton is a former Bud Foster player who understands the 4-4 and 4-2-5 the Hokies have ran in Blacksburg for decades. VT has never been light on All Conference quality defensive backs and defensive ends and they’re strong at those two positions once again.
How do you lose to the VT defense? The Hokies defense isn’t easy to beat, period. So you lose to them because they’re traditionally a solid, fundamental squad that has a four man pass rush, tackles well, and has excellent cornerback play. However, some how VT gave up 40+ to the Pitt Panthers in 2020. How did that happen?
How do you beat the VT defense? Pitt softened the middle of the field by connecting on 10 yard sail routes and bubbles before drilling in some deep and intermediate middle posts and digs. Pitt used gap scheme runs (power, especially) and play-action passing, too. Miami needs a strong play-action game, but that means they need some semblance of a consistent run game which they didn’t produce in ‘20.
Canyonero keys to victory
1- Don’t succumb to the crossing routes. For years Miami lost the Tech TE’s and RB’s in the flats and on crossing routes which led to big plays. It wasn’t as much of an Achilles Heel in ‘20 and Miami came away with a 25-24 win.
2- Get a pass rush with four. Fuente and Burmesiter could be a dangerous duo with experienced WR/TE on the roster. Blitzing and leaving giant holes in the coverage could backfire, but getting a rush with four and dropping seven could be the best course of action.
3- Come ready. The Hokies have always treated Miami like their Super Bowl and this year will be no different. Beating Miami could save Fuente his job and as much as he flirted with leaving Blacksburg at this point it will only be as a coordinator elsewhere.
Way too early prediction: Miami by 6.