#32 Virginia Tech Football 2019 Preview

Virginia Tech Hokies
Overall Rank: #32
#4 ACC
 Virginia Tech Logo
Virginia Tech finished under .500 for the first time since 1992. Coach Justin Fuente’s team did well during his first two years leading the program, but year three was a huge disappointment. And it was not like there were a bunch of tough, close losses. The Hokies lost to Old Dominion by 14, Notre Dame by 22, Georgia Tech by 21, Pitt by 30 and Miami by 24.
2018 Record: 6-7, 4-4
2018 Bowl: Military Bowl vs. Cincinnati (L 31-35)
Coach: Justin Fuente (25-15 at Virginia Tech, 51-38 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Brad Cornelsen
Defensive Coordinator: Bud Foster
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Deshawn McClease, RB, 433 yards
Passing: Ryan Willis, QB, 2,716 yards
Receiving: Damon Hazelton, WR, 802 yards
Tackles: Rayshard Ashby, LB, 105
Sacks: Houshun Gaines, DE, 4.5
Interceptions: Reggie Floyd, S, 2; Caleb Farley, CB, 2
Other Key Returnees: WR Tre Turner, TE Dalton Keene, S Khalil Ladler, LB Dax Hollifield, S Divine Deablo, P Oscar Bradburn
Key Losses: RB Steven Peoples, WR Eric Kumah, DT Ricky Walker
Ryan Willis is back after throwing for 2,716 yards and 24 touchdowns. Willis had his moments last year and, with Josh Jackson gone, this is Willis’ team. The key to Virginia Tech’s offense though could be their depth at wide receiver. Coach Fuente and company want to run a fast, pass happy offense and they should have the receiving threats to do it. Damon Hazelton was the team’s top receiver last year, catching 802 yards and eight touchdowns, but Hezekiah Grimsley, Phil Patterson and Tre Turner are all experienced options as well. Deshawn McClease will take a bulk of the carries for the Hokies. He flirted with transferring, but the speedster should be able to find the space to improve on his 433 yards of a season ago.
This was one of the worst Virginia Tech defenses we have seen in a long, long time. They ranked 106th in the nation in rush defense and 98th in total defense. That is not what anybody is used to from defensive coordinator Bud Foster. That was a young group that was forced into action due to some defections. The front line must find a way to replace Ricky Walker and hope that players like Houshun Gaines and Emmanuel Belmar can get to the quarterback on a regular basis. The linebackers, led by junior Rayshard Ashby, should be much improved with a year of experience under their belt. The Hokies hope the same is true of the secondary. Cornerbacks Caleb Farley and Bryce Watts had a tough 2018 campaign, but do have the potential to emerge as very productive players. If that happens, the Hokies defense could take a huge step forward.
The Bottom Line:
Virginia Tech will find it easier to reach a bowl for the 27th straight season. The schedule includes home games against Old Dominion, Furman and Rhode Island. And the ACC Coastal Division does not appear very tough either. If the Hokies are truly back and plan to be competitive in the ACC, they will need to win at Miami on October 5th. That game could have huge title implications.
Projected Bowl: Belk Bowl
2018 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 174.3 (57th in nation, 9th in conference)
Passing Offense: 253.8 (40, 5)
Total Offense: 428.2 (39, 6)
Scoring Offense: 29.8 (60, 7)
Rushing Defense: 210.3 (106, 12)
Pass Defense: 228.4 (63, 8)
Total Defense: 438.7 (98, 11)
Scoring Defense: 31.0 (85, 10)
Turnover Margin: 0.23 (46, 5)
Sacks: 1.85 (88, 11)
Sacks Allowed: 2.15 (63, 7)

Madness 2019 Recruit Rankings:
#109 Doug Nester