We have lift off on the Brent Pry era. Brent Pry and staff have made all the right moves this offseason. Now comes the hard part. How will this staff manage a roster they inherited and turn them into a winning football team? That may be a lot to ask in year one but there is a lot of excitement amongst the fan base. Brent Pry has done a good job of embracing the parts of the program that the fans care about. Pry’s next obstacle is to try get a win on the road at ODU. Something the previous staff was not able to do.
Overall: 61st Offense: 90th Defense: 31st
Overall: 93rd Offense: 80th Defense: 107th
ODU has a good offense but one that plays to the strengths of the Hokies defense. If the Hokies are able to stop the run and pressure the quarterback, they should be in good shape. ODU has Hayden Wolff at quarterback. He is not very mobile and has a tendency to throw into traffic. This sets up like a good opportunity for Derek Jones’ cheetahs to be on the prowl. They need to look to force Wolff into mistakes in the passing game. The Hokies need to also be on the lookout for TE Zach Kuntz. He’s an NFL prospect and one of the top ten tight ends going into next year’s draft. He’s a player that the Hokies need to keep an eye on.
ODU already has some familiarity with Virginia Tech quarterback Grant Wells. They played against him while he was with Marshall last season. Wells threw for 299 yards and 2 touchdowns in that game but also threw 2 interceptions. He will need to cut down on the turnovers to keep ODU from getting any short fields. The last time the Hokies lost an opener was against Boston College on the road in 2019. That day, the offense turned the ball over five times. They need to avoid the turnover bug on Friday.
Another area the Hokies will want to watch out for is on kick and punt returns. ODU was one of the best kick and punt return units in the country last season. Former Hokies recruiting target, Lamareon James, is ODU’s kick and punt returner. He is electric with the ball in his hands. The Hokies coverage teams will need to be ready, otherwise he can house one.
A lot of the national experts out there are underrating the Hokies. Yes, the Fuente-coached Hokies have looked awful in the past few seasons. That’s true. But this is a new regime and there is still talent on this roster. Does that mean the Hokies will blow the doors off ODU? No. But there is enough to win on the road against a middle-of-the-road Sun Belt team. It won’t look pretty, but they’ll get it done.
Brent Pry has a lot of work to do. The Fuente era left a lot of areas that need improvement. The first area of focus needs to be to improve the roster. There are very few all-conference players on this team. If other ACC teams had the opportunity to switch players with the Hokies, I don’t know how many would. If Tech hopes to improve on last year’s 6-7 season, this coaching staff will need to work some magic with the roster.
The previous staff was a little too conservative on offense — especially in the 4th quarter. They relied too much on “expected outcomes”. Usually, those expected outcomes were plays that didn’t go for many yards. If the new staff can take the reigns off this offense, we should see more big plays than last season. At least get the ball into the hands of your playmakers.
I don’t know a whole lot about Grant Wells but what I see from him, he looks like he should be a solid QB for the Hokies. A good arm and accurate with some mobility. He’s not a game-changing talent but there’s enough there to win you football games. I see him as another Ryan Willis / Michael Brewer-type QB. You know what you’re getting from them and it’s enough to win you football games.
In the past few years, the Hokies have also had to rely on the backup quarterback. The Hokies have a solid backup in Jason Brown. Last year, he registered wins against Florida and Auburn. Although, like Wells, he is not a game-changing talent, he is able to win you football games in a pinch. Winning games in the SEC is nice to have on your resume.
The Hokies should feel good about what they have at running back. Malachi Thomas was impressive as a true freshman. In a scheme that is set up to let running backs shine, Malachi Thomas should be able to put up even better numbers. Behind him, they should get solid play from Jalen Holston. Holston will need to prove he can be more consistent than he was last season. With Joe Rudolph coordinating the run game, this is an offense that will be friendly to running backs.
The receiving room definitely has some question marks. The only known quantity that is expected to get serious playing time is Kaleb Smith. And most of his work has come as a backup the last couple of years. If this is going to be successful group, the newcomers will need to step up and fill the void. If the Hokies can’t get production out of those newcomers, this offense might be stuck in mud all season.
The offensive line doesn’t have a lot of depth but they will have elite coaching. Joe Rudolph is one of the best offensive line coaches in college football. He is the right guy to take a young line and mold them into functional group this year. This is a position group that needs to avoid the injury bug. An injury or two on the line would dampen the ability for this offense to move the ball.
The biggest change will be the new scheme and new coaches. These coaches will let the players go out there and make plays. The previous staff put the reins on the office too much. The staff needs to let their playmakers make plays.
There are some good pieces on the defensive side of the ball. Including a couple of players that have not reached their potential the last few years. This new, defensive-minded staff should be able to get more from this defensive talent. If we know one thing, it’s that Brent Pry knows how to coach defense.
The defensive line doesn’t have a ton of depth but they have enough that they should be okay. They should be able to go two deep at both at end and at tackle. Should injuries pile up, things might get a little dicey. For now, this is a solid group that could get All-ACC play from their two starting defensive tackles. The defensive ends will need to get more pressure than they did last year to improve this defense. Quarterbacks last year had too much time to throw.
Linebacker is the position group that concerns me the most on defense. Too many guys that haven’t been consistent in the past. Will the new staff be able to maximize their strengths? These linebackers will need to learn and adapt to the new scheme that they were not recruited for. The Hokies will need to get more sideline-to-sideline play from this group. There has been too much inconsistent play from this position group in the past couple of years. And there are questions about speed and coverage ability in this group.
I like the defensive backs group quite a bit. This is an underrated group. Dorian Strong has the potential to reclaim his play from 2020 when he was a freshman All-American. You also have Armani Chatman and Brion Murray who have been solid. Not to mention DJ Harvey who has the potential to have a breakout season. The big unknown is what to expect from the boundary safety position. If someone steps in that role, this should be a pretty good group.
If there is an area that should improve the most with the new coaches, it should be the defense. After finishing ranked 78th in total defense last year, expect a big improvement. The Hokies should be able to rely on the defense once again.
This team might not look great right out the gate. Those first few games might include a couple of squeakers. The offense will look rough at times. The hope is that the defense is able to carry this team at the beginning of year. If the defense is also struggling, it might be a long year. You can expect an improved defense and an offense that will get better week-to-week. That four game stretch in the middle of the schedule is going to be tough. This roster isn’t ready yet to compete in tough games like those. Especially the ones on the road. All the other games on the schedule are winnable but the defense needs to keep Tech in the game. This should look like classic VT — tough defense and a ground-and-pound offense. A good foundation to build on.
Tough games (<40% chance to win)
at North Carolina, at Pittsburgh, Miami and at NC State. Getting even a single win from this group of games is a bonus for this season. It would be great if the Hokies could pull an upset in that game at home against Miami.
Toss-up games (50-50 games)
Boston College, West Virginia, at Georgia Tech, at Liberty, Virginia. You can judge this season based on these five games. They will represent the difference between 9-3 and 3-9. If the Hokies can get three wins out of this group, they should be in good shape toward bowl eligibility. Based on how the home-road games break down, the Hokies have a good chance to post a good record in these games.
Should win games (>60% to win)
at Old Dominion, at Duke. The Hokies need to stop losing these type of games. Under the previous staff, the losses against ODU and Liberty were coach killers. The Hokies have to be able to win games against G5 opponents. That should be a given at a school with a strong football history like Virginia Tech. Duke is one of the weakest ACC teams this season and the game is at Duke which has always been friendly to the Hokies.
Must win games (>90% to win)
Wofford. The Hokies need to treat this game as a tune up, and not squeak by like they have been the past couple of years.
Key games for the Hokies: at Old Dominion, West Virginia, Virginia
Upset Alert: at Old Dominion
Game by Game Predictions
at Old Dominion (Fri.)
West Virginia (Thurs.)
at North Carolina
at NC State (Thurs.)
Final Regular Season Record: 8-4 (4-4 in the ACC) Expected finish: 3rd in the ACC Coastal