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You Know You'll Be Watching, So Here's What To Focus On

(Photo Courtesy Of Virginia Tech)
Virginia Tech Running Back Malachi Thomas

Alright, so here’s the deal — nobody could blame you for tuning out tomorrow when Virginia Tech plays Georgia Tech at noon on a Regional Sports Network (MASN for those of you in Loudoun County), which just so happens to create an annoying acronym that rivals the IRS and NSA.

But you know you’re going to watch. As Dave Scarangella has so eloquently explained before, you’re going to keep watching.

Because you’re going continue tuning in to Virginia Tech football, despite their 3-4 record, you might as well have some things to look forward to. Let’s hit on some of them.

Thomas’ Breakthrough

Virginia Tech’s offensive performance vs. Syracuse was their best and most consistent performance of the season. Why? Because the Hokies found a successful running game.

Malachi Thomas’ 151-yard, three-touchdown performance against the Orange was beautiful in its productivity, but maddening in that fans have been clamoring for this kind of performance all season.

Why did it take seven weeks worth of games to get Malachi Thomas more than six carries?

Whatever the answer is, Thomas is Virginia Tech’s best option to develop a consistent running threat. He’s got good speed, runs physically and displayed good vision against Syracuse. He no doubt benefitted from a solid showing from the offensive line, but Thomas showed his skills as well.

There’s no need to worry about burning Thomas’ redshirt — he’s played in four games already and they certainly aren’t going to bench him now. Virginia Tech needs to give Thomas the overwhelming share of the load and let the young man build on his stellar performance. Thomas won’t score three touchdowns every game, but he surely is capable of giving the Hokies more than his fellow running backs.

Finding Solutions On The Offensive Line

The right side of Virginia Tech’s offensive front has been a liability for most of the season. That’s not up for debate.

But heading into next season, when Tech may need to replace their left guard and center, the Hokies need to find answers now at right guard and right tackle.

Kaden Moore seems to have settled in at right guard, and with Brock Hoffman and Johnny Jordan potentially gone after the year, Moore doesn’t have much competition behind him. I’d like Moore to start the rest of the season to get as much experience as possible.

On the outside, sticking with Parker Clements seems like the prudent decision. The second-year freshman has started each of the Hokies’ last two games and has a higher ceiling there than Silas Dzansi. Clements should be starting for the remainder of the season.

Tech will have options next year on the offensive line - younger players like Jesse Hanson, Danijel Miletic and Bryce Goodner will have another year under their belts  - and should be ready to contribute.

Maintaining A Competitive Mindset

How the Hokies handle the rest of the season matters. Even if the losses continue to mount, what kind of fight will the players show on the field?

Jump in the Time Machine to 2018, when the Hokies entered their bye week losers of two of their last four. Among those losses? The infamous defeat in Norfolk.

Virginia Tech came out of the bye week and got hammered by Georgia Tech. The Hokies went on to lose four straight games, all of which came by double digits. Tech lost by 30 to Pittsburgh and by 24 to Miami, where Tech wasn’t even competitive. It took the Cavaliers’ presence to wake up the Hokies, resulting in a 34-31 win in overtime for Virginia Tech.

Things are bad right now within the community, and people are rightfully upset about the direction of the program. But beyond that, I’m interested in seeing how these players handle adversity. So far, they’re handling it quite well, because while Tech is losing games, the team is fighting and putting themselves in position to win. The collective locker room is still playing hard, and that’s an encouraging sign.

Maintaining that competitive edge will go a long way in future seasons. Maintaining it could also be the toughest thing these men do in their football careers, but tough times make tough people. You can never have enough of those people on your football team.


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Sunday, 29 January 2023

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