This is an important period of time for the Virginia Tech Hokies football program. After two successful seasons, it’s year three for Justin Fuente in Blacksburg and his blueprint for the future should be in place.
Also, while the ACC Coastal Division is still chaotic, Miami seems to be making a serious move forward and attempting to separate themselves from the pack. But if there is one team in the division that may be able to stay in lockstep with the Hurricanes, it’s Virginia Tech.
The development must continue year round and here are areas where Virginia Tech needs to show progression this spring.
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One area where progression did not occur in 2017 was at quarterback. It’s well known to Hokie fans: Josh Jackson started fast and faded down the stretch. Over the next few weeks, the sophomore will find himself battling redshirt freshman Hendon Hooker. In reality, it’s more than just who wins the job. It’s about that player becoming a dangerous weapon in Justin Fuente’s offense. A wild card is freshman Quincy Patterson, but he will not be on campus until this summer.
2. Finding a No. 1 receiver
Virginia Tech has been very fortunate over the past few years in that the Hokies have had some elite pass catchers. Isaiah Ford set the all-time record for receptions and receiving yards in 2016, only to have those marks broken by Cam Phillips last fall. Bucky Hodges also was a primary target in his hybrid tight end role. But now, Phillips is gone and Virginia Tech’s quarterback would love to have a security blanket to go to in times of need. Sean Savoy and Eric Kumah are solid targets but can one of them — or someone else — take that next step this spring and establish himself as the go-to guy?
3. Replacing Wyatt Teller and Eric Gallo
There will be Hokies starting at left guard and center this fall. But they won’t be Teller and Gallo. Virginia Tech has answers at the other offensive line positions — and will be aided by the return to good health of left tackle Yosuah Nijman — but the middle of the line will be a question mark. D’Andre Plantin played some tackle at the end of last year and is a possibility inside. Zachariah Hoyt will be asked to step up at center while several candidates will try to claim the vacant guard position.
4. Getting the young linebackers ready
There are going to be some growing pains for this inexperienced group. But the players that emerge will get plenty of reps this spring to work out the kinks. Prize recruit Dax Hollifield will arrive in June, so Dylan Rivers, Rico Kearney, Rayshard Ashby and Jaylen Griffin, four members of the 2017 recruiting class, will battle for time this spring.
5. Putting together the secondary
The Hokies lost Greg Stroman, Brandon Facyson, and Terrell Edmunds, but there is still good talent returning. Adonis Alexander is a big, physical cover corner and Reggie Floyd had a fine year at safety. Also back is playmaker Mook Reynolds (above, right), who does so many things in defensive coordinator Bud Foster’s system. But it will be interesting how the coaching staff puts things in place. Athlete Devon Hunter is looking for a spot and Divine Deablo will play, though his recovery from a broken foot may slow his progress this spring. There seem to be several options at safety, so the key will be finding the right corners and one may be junior college transfer Jeremy Webb, who enrolled in January.
— Written by Jon Kinne, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a college football fanatic. Kinne has been writing about recruiting for the Irish Sports Daily for 10 years. Follow him on Twitter @JonRKinne.