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Sep
13

3 Takeaways On Hokies: Offense, Injuries and Identity

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech)

Virginia Tech had the chance to cement themselves as one of the better teams in the country Saturday with a resounding win over Middle Tennessee State, but while the Hokies’ covered the 20.5-point spread in a 35-14 victory, the first half presented a bit of a wake-up call for everyone around the program.

Here are three key observations from the Hokies’ win over Middle Tennessee that caught my eye:

Inconsistency Continues To Plague Offense

Fans rejoiced two weeks ago as Virginia Tech jumped out to a 14-0 lead over North Carolina in the first half. But for the rest of that game, the Hokies’ offense scored just three points and struggled to move the chains.

The Hokies’ second half against Carolina looked a lot like their first half vs. Middle Tennessee. Tech scored just 14 points against what should have been a lesser-regarded defense, and failed to generate much of a rhythm.

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Sep
10

Here's A To-Do List For Virginia Tech Against MTSU

Virginia Tech welcomes a lesser-regarded team to Lane Stadium Saturday in Middle Tennessee State. The Hokies have done this regularly in the early part of past seasons but lately, those games haven’t always gone as well as they’d hoped.

It happened twice in 2019, when the Hokies knocked off Old Dominion by 15 points and Furman by just 10 points the very next week. When the Hokies hit the road to face Old Dominion team in 2018, Tech lost by two scores after opening the season with a big win over Florida State. Back in 2017, Virginia Tech scored just 27 points against Delaware.

The Hokies have an opportunity to reverse that trend Saturday. While Middle Tennessee State opened its season with a 50-15 win over Monmouth, it would not appear MTSU has the depth that would allow them to compete with Virginia Tech on the field for a full 60 minutes.

Because of that, rather than break down the Hokies’ specific matchups against the Blue Raiders, I’d instead like to create a to-do list for Virginia Tech on Saturday.

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Sep
05

UNC-VT Game Recap: The Justins Get Their Revenge...

After enjoying the emotional roller coaster that was Virginia Tech’s 17-10 victory over No. 10 North Carolina, I intentionally waited a while before I sat down and collected my thoughts. I wanted this to be as emotion-free of an assessment as one can make after such a dramatic win.

Now that I’ve taken some time, I think there are three logical conclusions to draw from the Hokies’ upset win on Friday night.

The Justins Get Their Revenge

Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente and defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton took it on the chin for the majority of the 2020 season. Fuente has been used to it, but Hamilton’s first season as coordinator unleashed a whopping amount of criticism that was mostly valid.

Friday night, those two men exacted some revenge.

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Aug
30

What Does Success Look Like In 2021 For Hokie Football?

A wise man once told me — actually, he tells me this all the time — that the only way you can accomplish your goals in an efficient manner is to have a plan.

In making that plan, you’ve got to outline what success looks like. What outcome could be considered a success?

That’s the spot I’m in right now with Virginia Tech football. What does success look like for this program this season?

Is it a specific win number? Is it passing the eye test? Is it competing for the Coastal title? What does competing for the Coastal even look like?

For starters, success probably includes eight-plus wins. For a program that has been flirting with .500 for three straight seasons — and falling short of that number twice — reaching the eight-win plateau seems like a reasonable goal for a team with as many questions as the Hokies.

Tech will have plenty of chances to win games. Even their toughest matchups — Friday vs. North Carolina, Oct. 9 vs. Notre Dame and Nov. 20 vs. Miami are winnable, even if unlikely.

But as we all know, all eight-win seasons are not created equal. This is where the eye test comes in. How does Virginia Tech play in their losses? Who are those losses against? Getting run off the field is way worse than losing a one-score game.

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Aug
25

UNC Game Will Be Excellent Test For Virginia Tech Secondary

For Virginia Tech’s secondary, Sept. 3rd's game with North Carolina is more than just a chance to start the season on a winning note.

It’s also a chance to shut down one of the best quarterbacks in the nation.

North Carolina’s Sam Howell is really good, but you didn’t need me to tell you that. His 68-14 career touchdown-to-interception ratio is also really good, but you probably didn't need me to tell you that either.

What might be of interest, however, is that while Howell is a great college quarterback, the weapons around him aren’t what they used to be.

Of Carolina’s top five receivers from 2020, four of them are no longer suiting up for the Tar Heels. Carolina’s leading returning receiver, Khafre Brown, caught just 15 passes last season. Beau Corrales and Garrett Walston are also back, but neither played a large role in the Tar Heel offense in 2020.

So, while Sam Howell’s mettle has been tested, those around him are far less proven. Thus, Virginia Tech’s defensive backs are presented with maybe their best opportunity of the season.

The talent is there, at least in the starting lineup. Jermaine Waller seems to have put his injury issues behind him and will anchor the unit opposite of 2020 Freshman All-American Dorian Strong. Waller was one of the best cornerbacks in the country two years ago and pairing him with a seasoned Strong gives the Hokies one of the better cornerback duos in the nation.

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Aug
20

Fans Who Gave Up Are Missing Mullins' Magical Season

As the Baltimore Orioles continue to lose an unholy number of baseball games, I find it more and more difficult to follow the team.

I gave up on watching the team on a nightly basis a while ago. I simply can’t handle the constant losing. And it’s a shame really, because those who are watching on a regular basis are witnessing one of the greatest seasons in Orioles history by Cedric Mullins.

The numbers don’t tell the entire story, but they sure do provide a lot of useful information. Mullins currently leads the American League in hits and leads the O’s in doubles, triples, home runs, stolen bases, batting average, slugging percentage and OPS. Mullins’ fWAR is 4.7, which is fifth-best in the entirety of Major League Baseball.

Mullins’ ability to produce like this while being stuck in the middle of one of the worst baseball teams in this century make his feat more impressive. Mullins has played in 117 of the Orioles’ 120 games so far and has stayed as steady as possible while the team limps to the finish line in September.

Consider this — after his incredible start to the season in April, Mullins slumped mightily in May. He rebounded with an OPS of 1.172 in June and over the last two months, his OPS has remained over .800. Despite the team floundering around him on a nightly basis, Mullins continues to perform.

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Aug
19

This Is The Season For Dax Hollifield To Realize His Potential

Readers of DullesDistrict.com will remember the end of the 2018 recruiting cycle, when Dax Hollifield was on the fence about where he was going to play football.

Despite his affection for Stanford and affinity for North Carolina and South Carolina, nothing outweighed Hollifield’s love for Bud Foster and Virginia Tech. As a four-star prospect, I was thrilled to see him signing up to play in the maroon and orange.

But as Hollifield enters his fourth season in the program, we haven’t quite seen that caliber of player just yet.

If it’s ever going to happen, this is the season.

Hollifield was the victim of the hype that surrounded him, as well as poor depth at both linebacker positions. He and Rayshard Ashby were in their first and second seasons respectively, and were already the best linebackers on the roster.

While Hollifield has always been better suited to play mike, or middle linebacker, he was a better option as an outside linebacker than Ashby. And so started Hollifield’s career of playing out of position.

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Aug
12

Thank you, Chris Davis, For All Of The Memories...

As an Orioles fan, you would think that Chris Davis’ retirement would bring me eternal joy.

You’d think that Davis’ decision, which the Orioles announced on Thursday, would be reason to celebrate. I mean, Davis’ seven-year, $161 million contract has largely been a disaster, and for an organization in full rebuild mode, getting that money off the books will go a long way.

You’d think that I’d be happy. But in reality, Davis’ retirement makes me quite sad.

I’m sad because from 2012 to 2016, Davis was a linchpin in the Buck Showalter run of success. After floundering in Texas for a few seasons, Davis emerged in Baltimore as one of the best power bats in all of baseball. Over those five seasons, Davis slugged 197 home runs and led the American League in bombs on two separate occasions.

His 53 homers in 2013 and 47 homers in 2015 not only led the junior circuit but enshrined Davis as one of the best power hitters to ever wear an Orioles uniform. His 53 homers in 2013 are also the most in Orioles’ history for a single season.

Davis was reliable and productive. His glove improved too in Baltimore, making him one of the best first baseman in baseball during that time span.

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Aug
11

Barno Heads Up A Defense That Could Be Surprisingly Good

The 2020 college football season was full of things most fans are still trying to forget.

Chiefly among them was limited to zero fans in the stands.

Experiencing a player’s performance while in the stadium is entirely different than watching it on television or streaming it on your smartphone or computer. So when it comes to this season, I’m excited for people to have the opportunity to watch Virginia Tech’s players in person.

Amare Barno is one of those players, and Virginia Tech fans came close to never witnessing him play in person, which would have been an outright shame.

Barno is probably the most talented edge rusher to wear a Virginia Tech uniform since the mid-to-late 2000s. The Hokies have had some good ones since then — James Gayle, Dadi Nicolas and Ken Ekanem come to mind — but none of them had the ceiling that Barno does.

That potential almost landed Barno in the NFL Draft this spring, but Barno ultimately decided to return to Virginia Tech and try and improve his draft stock. Barno’s return is a godsend for the Hokies, who have enough talent on the defensive front to make a difference on gamedays.

Barno plays a large role in that — the JUCO transfer registered 6.5 sacks and 16 tackles for loss in 11 games in 2020, leading the Tech pass rush. His speed and length off the edge makes him someone that opposing coordinators will have to scheme heavily against each week.

But alongside Barno are some talented players with a chance to break out. Norell Pollard and Mario Kendricks both return at defensive tackle, as does Josh Fuga. Clemson transfer Jordan Williams is in the mix there as well, giving Tech a solid two-deep that allows defensive line coaches Bill Teerlinck and JC Price to keep their interior players fresh.

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Aug
09

Virginia Tech Extends Babcock's Contract Through 2029

True to its historical modus operandi, Virginia Tech once again valued continuity and stability in the athletic department when the university extended director of athletics Whit Babcock Monday.

The extension, which inks Babcock until June 2029, heightens the probability that Babcock will select Virginia Tech’s next head football coach.

Whether that is a good or bad thing is yet to be determined. Excluding football for a moment, Babcock has mostly made excellent coaching hires since arriving in Blacksburg in 2014. The list is actually quite extensive.

We can start with the men’s basketball program, where Babcock has made two hires already. Buzz Williams elevated the basketball program in true mercenary fashion, coaching the Hokies to consecutive NCAA Tournament bids (including a Sweet 16 appearance) before bolting for more money in a bigger conference. Babcock then hired NRV native Mike Young, who pushed the Hokies back into the NCAA Tournament in just his second season.

Then there’s Kenny Brooks, who’s headed the women’s basketball program since March 2016 and won 63 percent of games he’s coached. Brooks’ team made their first NCAA Tournament appearance this past season.

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Aug
06

With Darrisaw Now Gone, Where Do Hokies Go From Here?

For the last three seasons, Christian Darrisaw has been a godsend for Virginia Tech football.

The former prep recruit turned first-round pick anchored Virginia Tech’s offensive line during that span of time, and played a critical role in the Hokies’ offense when on the field. But with Darrisaw now playing for money, the question for Virginia Tech is this:

Where do the Hokies go from here?

It’s not like the cupboard is bare. Virginia Tech has returning offensive linemen ready to go this season. Guys like Lecitus Smith (No. 54 at right), Brock Hoffman and Luke Tenuta are back in the starting lineup, and some offensive linemen who’ve been in the program are ready to fight for a spot.

But can any of them pick up the mantle that Darrisaw left behind?

Rather than one man doing it all, it needs to be a collaborative effort from the aforementioned returning linemen. Together, they can provide enough stability in production to maintain the offensive line’s position as an asset instead of a liability.

Smith has the best chance of catching on to an NFL roster out of anyone in that group. The 6-foot-3 tight end-turned guard has started each of the last two seasons, and in 2020, Smith was a Third Team All-ACC player per Pro Football Focus (PFF). ACC Network’s Eric Mac Lain put Smith on his second team.

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