North Carolina Preview and Prediction

The Hokies didn’t look great against Rhode Island. The Virginia Tech offense only had 8 possessions the entire game. The offense was pretty efficient but it stumbled on a couple of its red zone opportunities. If the Hokies had cashed in, the scoreline would have looked much better. The Hokies offense is going in the right direction, not sure if the same is true about the defense right now.

SP+ Rankings

North Carolina

Overall: 56th
Offense: 44th
Defense: 72nd
Special Teams: 92nd

Virginia Tech

Overall: 67th
Offense: 63rd
Defense: 66th
Special Teams: 58th

Expect UNC QB Sam Howell to get his yards against Virginia Tech’s secondary. He has thrown for over 1,500 yards, 15 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions so far this season. Very impressive for a true freshman. The North Carolina offensive line has had some trouble pass blocking. The Hokies defensive line will need to get into the UNC backfield and make life difficult for Howell. This worked well against Miami and the Hokies will need to get back to that type of pass rush against North Carolina. Tech will also need to be able to cover the UNC running backs in the passing game. They use their running backs in the pass game more than the teams the Hokies have faced so far this season.

North Carolina has had trouble covering the passing game this year. The Hokies talented wideouts are going to have to make plays on the outside. Having a healthy Tre Turner and Damon Hazelton will help. Tech will not have much success running inside so they will need to look to the outside running game to find room on the ground. This is also a great opportunity to get Dalton Keene and James Mitchell involved in the offense. The run blocking looked better against Rhode Island. Having an effective run game will help to open up the passing game. Blocking UNC’s defensive line and linebackers will be much tougher than blocking Rhode Island’s.

These teams look similar on paper. Both have average offenses and defenses. The team who can win the one-on-one battles will win this game. Especially in the passing game. The Duke game also looked close on paper and we remember how that turned out. The Hokies’ play-calling may have been a bit vanilla against Rhode Island. The playbook will be open against UNC. Expect a little bit of trickeration from the Hokies. Winning this game would get the Hokies in contention for a bowl and improve their odds for spot in the ACC Championship. A loss and you can forget about the Coastal title and a bowl bid becomes dicey. In the end, Sam Howell makes more plays with his arm and North Carolina wins by a touchdown.

Prediction: North Carolina 35, Virginia Tech 28

Midseason Awards and Outlook

Offensive MVP: Hendon Hooker

Hooker is the straw that stirs the drink. A dual-threat quarterback brings a new dynamic to this offense. Having a quarterback that can run allows the coaching staff to mix up their play calls. Having a running game has also opened up space in the passing game. Hooker’s presence on the field has given this offense more options and more space to work.

Honorable mention: Dalton Keene, Deshawn McClease

Defensive MVP: Chamarri Conner

The light has come on for Conner. He is all over the field. He leads the defense with 4 sacks, 6 passes defended, 1 forced fumble and 22 solo tackles. It’s great to have a versatile player like him at the whip position. Having him there gives Bud Foster more options on defense.

Honorable mention: Rayshard Ashby, Caleb Farley

Special Teams MVP: Oscar Bradburn

This one isn’t even close. Bradburn would be the team MVP if I had to pick one. He’s fourth in the nation in yards per punt with a 48.0 yard average. He booms the ball every time he puts his foot on the ball. He’s a field position weapon that the team needs this year. He may end up as a finalist for the Ray Guy Award. He’s almost a lock for first team All-ACC.

Honorable mention: Brian Johnson, John Parker Romo

2nd half Outlook:

The Hokies didn’t have a great start to the season. They lost two games most expected them to win, and won a game that few expected them to win. I expected the Hokies to be 5-1 at this point in the season, but 4-2 isn’t terrible. The problem is that the Hokies are 90th in total offense and 59th in total defense. That’s not going to get it done in conference play.

The offense has the potential to look better in the 2nd half due to the emergence of Hendon Hooker. It operates more smoothly with him behind center. The coaches can also open up the playbook a bit more with his threat to run. We’ve already seen the last two weeks that the running game has emerged. This has made the Hokies offense more balanced and less one-dimensional.

The defense appears to have the pieces to be effective but the output is less than the sum of their parts. There is individual talent on this defense but they haven’t played well as a unit thus far. There are still far too many mental mistakes. Tackling has improved since last season, which is good to see. But there are still too many breakdowns from a defense that returned a lot of starters from last year.

The challenge for this team will be to get to seven wins to become bowl eligible. That will mean that they need to split wins and losses the rest of the way to get there. It’s possible. All the conference games look winnable. That Notre Dame game looks tough so I’m not expecting a win there. The remaining games represent opportunities to pick up wins. To make a bowl, this team will need to make strides on offense and defense. If we see the same team we saw in the first half, I’m afraid to say this team will not be bowling this season.

Spring Game Wrap Up

Spring Game Highlights

 

Spring Game attendance: 16,025

Stars of the Spring Game

Caleb Farley
 
Caleb started Spring practice as a CB and it sounded like he was doing pretty well there. Too bad for Bud Foster, he started getting reps at WR. He took to it \ well and had a big Spring Game with 2 catches for 61 yards. Doesn’t look like he’s headed back to that side of the ball. Expect him to get a reps in the Fall. He might be one of your starting WRs for the WVU game.
 
Hendon Hooker
 
The QB race was wide open going into the Spring. Hendon Hooker added his name to the list with a solid Spring and a big performance in the Spring Game. Hooker was 10-11 for 113 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. It was a big performance for him on a day where the other QBs didn’t do much. His ability to run the ball also gives him another dimension that coaches will look at this Fall.
 
Dalton Keene
 
Dalton had 4 catches for 38 yards and 1 touchdown. Looks like Dalton might be the new Sam Rogers in the H-back role. Looks like he will get playing time as a true freshman.
 
Terrius Wheatley
 
Terrius had a good showing in the Spring Game getting 32 yards on 5 carries (6.4 ypc avg). His performance through his hat into the ring for carries in the running back rotation this Fall.  Expect him to get carries with Travon McMillian and Steven Peoples this Fall.
 
Tevante Beckett
 
Tevante looks like he is off to a good start to his career. Laying some big hits in the Spring Game. The Hokies will have an option behind Andrew Motuapuaka this year. And looks like they have their future at the Mike position.
 
Tremaine Edmunds
 
It looks like Tremaine is ready to take the next step in his development. He looked a step faster than last year and was reacting to the play in front of him. Looks like he is ready for a big season.
Can’t wait for September 2nd to get here!