Last season didn’t exactly go as expected. A losing season, the end of the bowl streak, cancelled Spring practices, and Fall practices reduced due to contact tracing. Not exactly what anyone had expected going into last season. None of those things were ideal for a team in transition.
This season the Hokies hope to get back on track with a return to a blue-collar style defense we’re all accustomed to. Having practices in the Spring and Fall will help with that. So will having a year under their belt in Justin Hamilton’s scheme. Justin Hamilton having a year of experience running the defense doesn’t hurt either.
On offense, it will be difficult to replace two NFL draft picks in Christian Darrisaw and Khalil Herbert. This squad has solid contributors and guys who have been around the program for a while. But not as much star power as last year.
This is a make-or-break year for Justin Fuente. This program needs to show improvement over the past couple of seasons. Another year of .500 football isn’t going to cut it. Even 7 wins doesn’t necessarily mean he will be back.
Why will the Hokies be good?
Braxton Burmeister closed the season looking like a star. In the last two games of the season, he completed 73.5% of his passes and averaged 9.97 yards/attempt against Clemson and Virginia. After struggling with his completion percentage, he came on strong late in the season. If Burmeister can maintain that level of play and can stay healthy, it bodes well for the Hokies this season.
The Hokies have a veteran group of pass catchers in James Mitchell, Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson. Braxton Burmeister will have a reliable group of receivers to target along with guys who can stretch the field. This is a situation where the top guys must stay healthy otherwise the Hokies must rely on young and inexperienced players.
The Vice Squad returns. They lose the star power they had with Christian Darrisaw. But they still have a solid group headlined by Luke Tenuta, Brock Hoffman and Silas Dzansi. This group should have no trouble protecting Braxton Burmeister or opening holes in the run game. Vice seems to turn out a good group every year.
The Hokies will have one of the best cornerback tandems in the ACC. Jermaine Waller was one of the best cover corners in the nation in 2019. And Dorian Strong was one of the best freshmen corners in the nation last year. Waller and Strong look to lock down both sides of the field and make life easier on the defense.
Why will the Hokies be not-so-good?
In a word: depth. This is not a deep team at most position groups. There are a lot of position groups where if the starters get injured, there are no proven options. That looks a lot like last year’s team where a key injury or two puts some less-than-ideal options on the field.
Look no further than the quarterback position, if the Hokies lose Braxton Burmeister they are in trouble. That’s not to say they can’t win games with one of the backups. But the season outlook looks a lot more dicey with one of the other options behind center.
Last year, the defense didn’t have a feel for the new defensive scheme. Will that look better after a Spring and Fall practice? Will they have a better grasp of Justin Hamilton’s scheme in Year 2? Will they develop a defensive identity that was missing in Year 1? Can this group get back to playing the aggressive-style defense we’re used to? These are all question marks going into Justin Hamilton’s second season.
Tough games (<40% chance to win)
North Carolina, Notre Dame and Miami. The Hokies can win all these games. But these are games that will be tough sledding for a Hokies team short on depth. Wins against any of these teams should be seen as bonus wins at the end of the season.
Toss-up games (50-50 games)
West Virginia. Pitt. Georgia Tech. Boston College. Virginia. These are the games that will define the season. These games are the difference between 9-3 and 4-8. The Hokies need to win the majority of these games to have a good season.
Should win games (>70% to win)
Syracuse and Duke. This isn’t the season for this coaching staff to stub their toe on games like these. These are games where the Hokies have a clear talent advantage and they need to take care of business.
Must win games (>90% to win)
Middle Tennessee and Richmond. The Hokies don’t need to add to a list that includes James Madison, Old Dominion and Liberty.
Key games for the Hokies: North Carolina, at West Virginia, at Miami
Upset Alert: at Boston College
Game by Game Predictions
|at West Virginia|
|at Georgia Tech|
|at Boston College|
Final Regular Season Record: 7-5 (5-3 in the ACC)
Expected finish: Tied for 3rd in the ACC Coastal