Tag Archives: travon mcmillian

2017 Virginia Tech Season Preview

Justin Fuente had a great debut going 10-4 in his first season. This included wins over Coastal division rivals Miami, Pitt and UNC. He also brought back order to the ECU series with a resounding victory. Then he took the Hokies back to the ACC Championship Game for the first time since 2011. There they took the eventual National Champions to the final possession. Pretty good first season all things considered.

For all that Fuente did well in 2016, it will be challenging to repeat or exceed the same level of success in 2017. The Hokies will have a new quarterback and have to replace three of their top four receiving targets from 2016.  This will be a season where the Hokies will have to lean on the defensive side of the ball to have success. We’ve seen this story before.

Offense

Joshua Jackson should be a solid QB for the Hokies. He was close to playing himself into the starting job as a true freshman last year. Justin Fuente likes him because he makes good decisions. He is the type of quarterback who will make the correct read on each play and not turn the ball over. That is very important to Fuente’s offense. Joshua Jackson is the type of quarterback that Fuente has liked in the past. If he had the same supporting cast as Jerod Evans had, I could see him putting up similar numbers. Unfortunately, Isaiah Ford, Bucky Hodges and Sam Rogers are no longer around.

Healthy bodies at the running back position will also help Joshua Jackson. Last season, the Hokies had to rely on Travon McMillian, Sam Rogers and Steven Peoples. The other running backs on the roster were nursing injuries or off-the-field issues. This year McMillian returns along with Deshawn McClease, Peoples and newcomer Jalen Holston. It’s good to have healthy and capable options to choose from in the running game. You should see rushing yards from scrimmage improve from that position group. A lot of that will come from read-option plays like we saw last year.

Look for Cam Phillips to have a huge year as the Hokies’ primary pass catcher. I’m expecting him to be first or second team All-ACC this year. He should see around the same amount of targets as Isaiah Ford did last year. Phillip Patterson and Eric Kumah should fill that 2nd receiver role on the outside. They lack experience but will get better as the year goes on. There are a variety of options in the slot like CJ Carroll, Henri Murphy, Hezekiah Grimsley and Sean Savoy. This inexperienced group will need to step up for the Hokies to have an effective offense.

Defense

On defense, the Hokies should be stout. This is a defense that could be better than last year’s group which finished 18th in total defense. The Hokies have a talented secondary. They also boast one of the most experienced group of linebackers in the country. The biggest question mark is on the defensive line where there is not much experience or depth. The Hokies will need some young players step up.

The defensive line returns four players with starting experience. The starting line features Vinny Mihota, Trevon Hill, Tim Settle and Ricky Walker. While all have enough talent to be front line starters, the depth behind them is full of unknowns. The good news is that the Hokies have a lot young players to choose from. In previous seasons, the Hokies have been able to work with lineups like this. A mix of experienced starters and inexperienced backups. They need to make sure to avoid the injury bug. That would cause major issues for this position group.

For the first time in a long time, the Hokies linebackers are a major strength. They are one of the most talented and experienced groups in the ACC. Andrew Motuapuaka was third team All-ACC and a statistical leader in the conference. Tremaine Edmunds was second team All-ACC and could choose to leave early for the NFL at season’s end. That leaves Mook Reynolds, who was one of the best hybrid linebackers in the conference in 2016. And came on strong at the end of last season. This is an elite group and one of the best in the ACC.

No surprise the secondary is full of talent. This is DBU after all. The corner position will cycle between Brandon Facyson, Greg Stroman and Adonis Alexander. Terrell Edmunds and Reggie Floyd will split duties at the safety positions. Add in all-everything true freshman Devon Hunter who can step in and provide support. This is a talented unit.

Special Teams

Special teams went back to being special under James Shibest. #Shibestball became a thing in 2016. I look forward to more special teams plays like the fake punt he drew up against Clemson last season. Joey Slye is back to boom the ball on kickoffs and be very accurate inside 50 yards on field goals. He has one last chance to prove he can make those 50 yarders. New Aussie punter Oscar Bradburn has a canon for a leg but he will need to adjust to American football. I wouldn’t expect a huge drop-off in the punting game. I think the Hokies should be able to win the field position battle in most games. I would also expect big things from Greg Stroman in the return game. He already has 2 career punt return touchdowns. It would be surprising if he didn’t add to that this year.

2017 Outlook

The good news for the Hokies is that the Coastal division is full of teams with question marks. Only UVA and Duke return their quarterbacks from last year. The team that is able to re-load the best on offense is the team that will win the division.

One of the Hokies biggest challenges this year, is to win all the games they should win. Last year, the Hokies should have beaten Tennessee, Syracuse and Georgia Tech. At the end of the season, the Hokies were statistically better than those three teams but they stumbled when they played them. The Hokies will look for more consistency this season. But it will be difficult with so many new faces on offense.

* Key games for the Hokies: Clemson, at Miami, at Georgia Tech

Date Opponent Prediction
Sun, Sep 3 West Virginia W
Sat, Sep 9 Delaware W
Sat, Sep 16 @ East Carolina W
Sat, Sep 23 Old Dominion W
Sat, Sep 30 Clemson* L
Sat, Oct 7 @ Boston College W
Sat, Oct 21 UNC W
Sat, Oct 28 Duke W
Sat, Nov 4 @ Miami FL* L
Sat, Nov 11 @ Georgia Tech* L
Sat, Nov 18 Pittsburgh W
Fri, Nov 24 @ Virginia W

Final Regular Season Record: 9-3 (5-3 ACC)
Expected finish: 2nd in Coastal Division
Final Regular Season Ranking: 19th
Predicted Bowl Game: TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, FL

TaxSlayer_Bowl_Logo_2014-Closed-PNG

Liberty Preview and Prediction

Justin Fuente’s first game as head coach at Virginia Tech. Will his team be ready? How will he shuffle his personnel? Will he choose to go with simple packages to not show anything before Tennessee? Or will he go pedal to metal in order for his offense to a find groove? As far games against FCS go, this one should be pretty interesting.

What do we want to see from Virginia Tech? I’d like to see us get the ball into the hands of our playmakers. I want to see a lot of handoffs from Jerod Evans to Travon McMillian and Sam Rogers. I want to see short passes to Isaiah Ford, Cam Phillips and Bucky Hodges. Get the ball to your playmakers and let them make plays. Oh, and no turnovers please. PLEASE.

On defense, I don’t want to see the Hokies make any major snafus. No busted coverages. No wide open running lanes. Assignment football. This defense should be able to handle Liberty’s offense even without Adonis Alexander. It’s all about covering their assignments. If they do that, I can’t see Liberty score more than seven. Although, I have my doubts that we will see perfect assignment football from our defense.

Things to lookout for from Liberty:

Stephon Masha (QB, 6’1″, 205 lbs, Jr.) – Uh oh. Running quarterback. Call me when we figure that one out.

Strong passing game – Liberty ranked 29th last season in passing offense last year.

Trick plays – Turner Gill pulls out a trick or two every now and then. Look out for that.

I don’t think that Liberty has the horses to pull off this upset. The Hokies didn’t play a top 10 opponent this past Monday, right? Justin Fuente is the type of coach that always looks for opportunities. This Saturday is opportunity is to show off his team. He seems like the type of coach that is not shy about putting points on the board, regardless of the opponent. This is a game that the Hokies should win without too much trouble. Show up. Play assignment football. Walk away with a comfortable win.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 42, Liberty 17

UVA Preview and Prediction

This is a must win. Can you imagine Mike London’s team ending Frank Beamer’s last season with a loss and snapping the bowl streak? Neither can I. But realistically, it could happen.

The Hoos are a middling team, as they have been for the past decade or so. They’ve been surprisingly tough at home. They’ve taken Notre Dame, Pitt, Miami and Louisville to the final whistle. This doesn’t appear to be a UVA team that you can put away early.

On offense, UVA is effective in the passing game. They are ranked 45th in the nation in passing offense and move the ball pretty well thru the air. With a banged up Brandon Facyson, that could be something to watch for.

When VT has the football, they are going up against a defense that hasn’t been particularly impressive. By the numbers, it’s a struggling offense against a struggling defense. The Hokies will need a big day from Travon McMillian in order to move the ball consistently.

If there is one area where the Hokies should have an advantage, it is on special teams. Even though it may not seem like it, the Hokies have been very efficient on special teams this year and in a close game like this, it could play to the Hokies advantage. Watch for this particularly on punt and kick returns.

The stats show the Hokies as a slight favorite in this matchup. If you’re looking from a talent standpoint, the Hokies should have a moderate talent advantage over the Hoos. If the Hokies play as well as they did against UNC, they should win by two scores. Ultimately, I think it’ll be a close game just like last year’s game was. Whoever makes the biggest mistake or the worst mistake will lose. Hopefully, the Hokies find a way to win and make it twelve straight and send Beamer to his 23rd bowl game.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 24, UVA 17

Georgia Tech Preview and Prediction

Do it for Frank. The Hokies have a terrible habit of playing flat coming out of a bye week. I really hope this is a different type of bye week with Coach Beamer announcing his retirement 10 days ago. My hope is that we will see a team reinvigorated to win two out of the next three and get Beamer to his 23rd consecutive bowl game and see him off on a high note.

This is certainly a winnable game. This one reminds me of the game against Boston College. Georgia Tech is flawed team. This explains why they are 3-6 overall and 1-5 in conference. They have a respectable offense but not the high powered attack we’re used to from them. But certainly still enough firepower to put some points on the board. This is a team you have to outscore. If you can’t counter their scores, you could find yourself in a difficult position.

I mentioned that this a flawed team and their flaw comes on the defensive side of the ball. This was a bad defensive team to begin with and now they are missing two of their top three defensive tackles. Couple that with inexperience at the linebacker position and you find a team that struggles to stop the run. If the Hokies can stick to the run, we should see a big game from Travon McMillian. Georgia Tech has experienced and talented players in the secondary, so you want to try to run the ball against them. I think we should see the Hokies put up some points this week. They should have the matchup advantage when they have the ball.

I wish I had a read on how this team was going to react to Coach Beamer announcing his retirement. Honestly, we just don’t know. I’m sure the players were just as shocked as we all were when the announcement became known. My guess and hope is that they use it as a rallying cry. I truly feel like this team has been close to putting it all together all year. Hopefully, this is what the need to string together a couple of complete performances. Let’s see if they get off to a good start on this critical three game stretch. I’d love to see Coach Beamer get one last bowl game.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 31, Georgia Tech 24

Duke Preview and Prediction

The Hokies have to win this game if they hope to make a bowl this season. A loss would put the Hokies at 3-5 and would mean they would have to finish 3-1 in order to make a bowl. They do not want to put themselves in that position. On paper, this is a game where the Hokies are favored and if they play like they are capable of, they should win this game.

Duke’s offense is even more anemic than the Hokies’ offense. They rely on the running game and a running quarterback (uh oh). Even with the youth in the secondary, the Hokies should be able to limit the Blue Devils’ passing game. The key to this game will be limiting QB Thomas Sirks’ rushing yards and limiting the Duke RBs from getting involved in the passing game. As long as the Hokies’ defense can play disciplined defensive football in these two areas they should be able to limit Duke offensively.

In theory, the Hokies should move the ball better with Michael Brewer behind center but there are a couple of things about this matchup that concern me. Michael Brewer isn’t particularly mobile and Duke likes to show a lot of blitzes and coverages. Michael Brewer needs to be able to recognize the blitzes and get the ball out of his hands quickly. We cannot have a sack fest like we saw against Pitt.

The Hokies would be well served to lean on their running game. They need to feed the ball to Travon McMillian early and often. If he is rushing for 7+ YPC, don’t take the ball out of his hands. The Miami game would’ve gone much differently, if the coaching staff had kept giving Travon the ball.  This will help Michael Brewer and open up the play action passing game. Michael Brewer cannot be successful if he has to drop back on every down against an aggressive Duke defense.

This will be a tough challenge for the Hokies but it is a game that they can win. Let’s hope the team hasn’t packed it in. If they can play smart and disciplined football, they stand a good chance to win this game. This is a game where the defense will have to stand tall in order for the Hokies to win.

Prediction: Virginia Tech 17, Duke 10

Miami Preview and Prediction

Who knows with either of these two teams? It’s been a long time since anyone could figure out what was going on with either of these two programs besides the fact that both have been treading water. A win on Saturday would be big towards staying in the Coastal race for both teams. The winner of this game becomes a legitimate contender in the Coastal division.

The Hokies are catching the Canes at a good time. Recent history tells us that the Canes lose a little bit of their edge after losing to FSU. It’s been like that for about the last five years. We’ll see if a beat up Miami team still has the focus and energy to show up on Saturday.

A couple of keys for the Hokies will be stopping Miami’s advanced passing game. Brad Kaaya is a very good passer having thrown for almost 1,500 yards with eight touchdowns and only one interception. VT’s young secondary will have to be up to the task of covering Miami’s group of talented and experienced wide receivers. They have the type of speed that should pose a major challenge to the Hokies inexperienced secondary.

Last year, the Canes steamrolled the Hokies on the ground. The just lined up and ran it down our throats. That’s less likely to happen this year since the Canes are starting a very young offensive line along with two running backs who while talented, are not Duke Johnson. This is a game where the Hokies can’t afford to get bad play from their linebackers. They need to be able to stop the run and make Miami have to beat the Hokies through the air.

This is not your father’s Miami defense. This is a game where the Hokies offense should be able to move the ball both on the ground and through the air. Regardless of who is playing quarterback for the Hokies, they need to look to establish the run to set up the pass. In each of their victories this season, the Hokies have been able to run the ball effectively to help out their passing attack. Let’s hope we see more carries for Travon McMillian this week. The Hokies simply need to pick a running back and stick with him like they did in the NC State game.

On paper, this game looks very even. Most Virginia Tech-Miami games are. One team is going to take a big step forward this week toward remaining in the Coastal race. The team that loses this game runs the risk of letting the division race slip away from them. I’m hoping the Hokies gained confidence from that win against NC State but I’m still worried that the speed of Miami’s wide receivers combined with inconsistent play from the VT linebackers will lead to a long day down in South Florida. Just like last week, prove me wrong, Hokies.

Prediction: Miami 34, Virginia Tech 20

Midseason Awards

We’re halfway through the season and we’ll take some time to examine who has stood out in the first six games.

Offensive MVP

Finalists:

Travon McMillian – 7.4 YPC, 334 Rushing Yards, 1 TD
Brenden Motley – 1019 Passing Yards, 10 Passing TDs, 3 Rushing TDs
Isaiah Ford – 421 Receiving Yards, 15.0 YPC, 70.2 YPG, 6 TDs

ford_isaiahWinner: Isaiah Ford. This one was close. You could make good arguments for Brenden Motley and Travon McMillian but Isaiah Ford is playing at a first team All-ACC level. Isaiah Ford would start for any team in the ACC and he’s only a sophomore! He’s going to have a very impressive career and is going to break A LOT of Virginia Tech receiving records. He already has as many receiving touchdowns as Eddie Royal did in his entire Virginia Tech career!

Defensive MVP

Finalists:

Chuck Clark – 51 tackles, 2 TFLs, 1 Sack, 1 fumble recovered
Deon Clarke – 35 tackles, 7 TFLs, 3 Sacks, 5 QBHs
Adonis Alexander – 34 tackles, 3 INTs, 5 PD

clark_chuckWinner: Chuck Clark. This year’s defense has been very inconsistent but Chuck Clark’s versatility has kept the train from going off the tracks. He’s been an excellent tackler in the secondary as well as being a force in the run game.  Chuck Clark doesn’t get a lot of attention but he’s been a huge asset to the defense this season.

Best position coach

Finalists:

Stacy Searles
Scot Loeffler
Zohn Burden

searels_stacyWinner: Stacy Searles. Let me start off by saying I think all three of these coaches have done a fantastic job. Scot Loeffler has had to play his backup QB and you could make the argument that he’s been the 2nd best QB in the ACC in weeks 2-6. Only Deshaun Watson has better numbers than Motley. Zohn Burden hasn’t had much depth to work with but he has gotten a ton of production from Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips. Maybe moreso than any WR combo in the Beamer era. But Stacy Searles has to win this award. This is the first time in years that the offensive line hasn’t been the Achilles heel of the offense. And while there have been some rough spots (Pitt game), overall their play has been excellent compared to recent years.

Most surprising player

Finalists:

Travon McMillian – 7.4 YPC, 334 Rushing Yards, 1 TD
Brenden Motley – 1019 Passing Yards, 10 Passing TDs, 3 Rushing TDs
Adonis Alexander – 34 tackles, 3 INTs, 5 PD

motley_brendenWinner: Brenden Motley. When Michael Brewer went down in the Ohio State game there was a sense of dread in the air. There was a feeling that the season went down along with Michael Brewer’s collarbone. Little did we know that Brenden Motley was going to be ready to rock from the Furman game on. With the defense struggling, these first six games could’ve gone a lot worse without Brenden Motley stepping up to the challenge.