Previous Page  11 / 48 Next Page
Show Menu
Previous Page 11 / 48 Next Page
Page Background





Despite bowl loss, Tech program

headed in positive direction

Bitter cold temperatures and an unfriendly

wind greeted those associated with the

Virginia Tech football program after they

arrived in Southwest Virginia in the early

morning hours following a disappointing 30-

21 loss to Oklahoma State in the Camping

World Bowl.

The weather fit the mood, as the Hokies, at

least from this perspective, played reasonably

well, but an ill-timed turnover and missed

opportunities dictated the game’s outcome


more in the bowl recap, pgs. 14-15

). Winter’s

doldrums set in shortly thereafter, with

plunging mercury levels befitting the ending

of the 2017 season and the departure of so

many high-quality seniors.

But this column wasn’t crafted to keep

readers in a frosty mood. On the contrary,

Tech fans should feel quite warm and fuzzy

about their team—both about its season and

its future.

To recap: the Hokies went 9-4 with a

freshman quarterback and mostly freshman

receivers. They qualified for a nice bowl game

despite losing Terrell Edmunds for the final

three games. They won without arguably their

best offensive lineman for nearly the final half

of the season (Yosuah Nijman). They beat

Virginia for the 14th straight time without

those two, Joey Slye or Mook Reynolds, all out

with injuries.

Yes, Tech struggled on offense down the

stretch. Yes, Tech’s defense gave up too many

big plays in the bowl game.

Yet overall, 2017 was very good work.

And the program appears poised to do more.

The Hokies return 13 starters, which makes

for a great 2018 foundation even with the early

departures of stalwarts like TremaineEdmunds,

Terrell Edmunds and Tim Settle—all of whom

decided to forgo their final seasons and make

themselves available for the NFL Draft.

Seven starters return on offense, led by

quarterback Josh Jackson, who admitted

following the bowl that he needed to play

better. The redshirt freshman put up solid

first-year stats, throwing for 2,991 yards and

20 touchdowns, with just nine interceptions.

He also rushed for six touchdowns.

The 20 touchdown passes were more than

those thrown by Michael Vick, Tyrod Taylor,

Bryan Randall and Logan Thomas in their first

seasons as starters, and the yardage was more

than all but Thomas’ (3,013). But in the bowl,

Jackson missed a couple of open receivers for

potential touchdowns—the types of plays that

change the course of a game.

“First year, 9-4,” Jackson said, assessing his

season afterward. “I don’t feel very good about

this game. I think I missed too many throws. I

don’t think I played very well, but I hopefully got

better as the season went along in some aspects.

But [there’s] a lot for me to get better at.”

Aside from Cam Phillips and Travon

McMillian, who decided to transfer, Tech

returns all of its skill players. That makes

head coach Justin Fuente happy, as Fuente

said all season that he worried more about

the personnel around Jackson than Jackson


A lot of that personnel played well in the

bowl. Phil Patterson caught seven passes,

while Eric Kumah and Hezekiah Grimsley

each caught five. Deshawn McClease ran for a

career-high 124 yards in his first start. Tech’s

staff needs to replace two linemen (Wyatt

Teller and Eric Gallo), but the offense should be

ready to roll when spring practice commences.

The defense will require a bit of retooling

after the three early departures and the

graduations of Andrew Motuapuaka, Greg

Stroman and Brandon Facyson. But Tech’s

staff received good news when defensive

tackle Ricky Walker decided to return for his

final season, and keep in mind that 17 different

players started on defense at some point this

past season. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster

has some talent at his disposal.

For sure, the Hokies, overall, are losing

some quality people. Those seniors led the way

for this program to win 19 games over the past

two seasons, putting Fuente in rare company.

Only two other coaches in the history of the

ACC have won more games in their first two

seasons (Ralph Friedgen, Maryland and Jeff

Jagodzinski, BC).

“They’ve really risen to change this program

back to what Virginia Tech fans like to see and

what we’ve done,” Foster said of the seniors.

“And you see where the future is going.”

Yes, the Hokies lost three of their final five

games, but Tech’s program appears stocked

with young, talented players. The roster

also features 17 rising seniors, and nearly

every recruiting service ranked Tech’s recent

recruiting haul among the top 20 nationally.

So when Tech fans sit at home on those icy

nights for the remainder of this winter, they

need only to remember this—those are the

signs of a healthy program. For sure, there are

much worse situations in which to be.