As we get closer to the start of the college football season, BCI will be sitting down to chat with writers from opposing teams on the Boston College Eagles schedule. Today we chatted with Josh and John Schneider of Gobbler Country. Make sure to follow the site for all your Hokies news and opinions.
BCI: What is general feeling around the program after the 2017 season? Are fans feeling positive about Justin Fuente?
Josh - The general feeling around the Hokies program right now? Exasperation with the offseason. Just...a lot of crazy stuff happened. Losing a trio of starters to the NFL early (Terrell and Tremaine Edmunds, Tim Settle), one to academic suspension (Adonis Alexander), one to potential jailtime (Mook Reynolds), one to injury (likely starter and JUCO transfer Jeremy Webb)...and on top of that, our safeties coach resigned due to an affair he had while on recruiting trips? Joy.
In as far as Justin Fuente and the previous season is concerned? Fuente’s managed to get to a third straight season with a really hard to gauge spectrum of expectations. First year was a first year, second year we had to replace so many offensive starters, and now the same thing happened to the defense. I think the overall mood is generally pleased, even though there have been some unexpected hiccups. I think everyone looks forward to the season where everything can fire on all cylinders for once cleanly.
John - Living in Blacksburg you get a little different perspective than the outside world’s peeks under the covers. Well, it’s a little better because Justin Fuente runs a tight to the chest PR operation. He says nothing that cannot be definitively assigned the label of “coach speak”. The spring and summer was a bit tough on Fuente, though. I think the worst of the hits was losing Galen Scott. The talent is gone, but that goes in college football. There are other kids waiting to get on the field to be a “superstar”. Losing a trusted friend and quality coach is a really heavy hit. Tyrone Nix looks like he might just fit right into the scheme of things. He’s physically imposing. He’s commanding and his presence was immediately felt. It might just be the best unfortunate occurrence to happen to the Hokies this season. I really have good feelings about the defensive Ones and Twos. We have real talent where the experience drops off, and we definitely have experience in key positions. What is concerning, though is that we are in the middle season of a five year transition, and the depth beyond the 2’s is all Freshman. We face you guys past the mid-point, and given the nature of football that means who is playing is going to be an educated guess. This defense has the makings of another first rate performer.
BCI: What are the Hokies offensive strengths and weaknesses going into 2018?
Josh - Offensive strengths hopefully this year include a potentially talented offensive line and a pretty deep group of wideouts. Josh Jackson was okay as a freshman (Good early, not so good late as the competition got tough, and the offense started to fall apart due to injury), and with another year under Fuente we look forward to a potential step further in the right direction. The biggest weakness? Tech’s running game was supremely inefficient last year, and the stalled drive rate was unconscionable. For having an offensive reputation, Fuente and OC Brad Cornelsen captained a 79th Offensive Efficiency unit, with a 106th ranked Touchdown Rate to boot. The Hokies gained only some and wasted a LOT, but that’s the downside of a young team that was replacing several key starters and playing freshmen and redshirt freshmen in a LOT of skill positions.
John - The Offense has the makings of something special. It looks like the QB pecking order has finally worked itself out, and if Josh Jackson has gotten a handle on his “issues” and the offense doesn’t drive itself into a 20x20 box in the right red zone, we might see something rare for Tech; solid offense. Everything is actually better. We really didn’t lose anyone other than Cam Phillips. We have under utilized tight ends who are actually really good at catching and running. We have nearly a three deep of starting quality wide outs, and every one of our running backs is good running or receiving. I look for the offense to start taking more advantage of Fuente’s speed packages and RPOs where they rock a defense back on its heels and then drive it back into its end. Tech was actually doing that last season, but it was stalling out in the red zone. I think Coach Fuente worked on that issue, hard.
BCI: Bud Foster’s defenses are consistently great, do you see them being a Top 10 defense again this year or will they take a step back?
Josh - If you don’t expect a step back out of the top 10, you haven’t been paying attention to the headlines. The above listed issues over the offseason means that Tech is resetting the majority of its back seven- all three linebackers are new, plus two new cornerbacks and a safety that got only 4 games of action last year before unfortunately breaking his foot. I think that there’s talent there to replace them with- underrated story is how much the average recruiting ranking on 247 has gone up in the Fuente era- but it’s still going to take time to get everything settled. Bud’s going to earn his paycheck.
John - The magic word will be injuries. The defensive back situation is sneaky good. The linebacker situation is young, but there are four really talented guys there, and Dax Hollifield is being labeled... If you will forgive me... the next Luke Kuechly. He’s looking like he’s that good. The depth at D-Line (especially Tackle) will be the issue over the length of the season. It might start slow, but Foster has the talent to keep his defense elite.
BCI: Challenge time, make a case why Virginia Tech is going to win the Coastal this year.
Josh - Because Miami plays Virginia Tech in Blacksburg and Malik Rosier really isn’t that good if he’s still starting by that time? And at some point Fuente’s going to learn how to score on Georgia Tech? I’m not AS concerned about Duke- though Cutcliffe is a good coach and they always play the Hokies tough. Pitt and UVA are still likely rebuilding- UVA lost a LOT of depth and Pitt might just be bad- and Fedora is on a hot seat at UNC at the moment. I think it COULD happen if things break right, but honestly I believe that the Hokies will be better next year than this year.
John - Miami beat us on 3 plays, in their own house. Josh is right, they don’t have a quality quarterback, he’s a big half back with questionable accuracy. Who is behind him? 2016 a favored Miami came to Lane, at night, and left under cover of darkness. Duke will be a dangerous game because Cutcliffe is a seriously good coach with a serious drubbing in the rain (Noah’s flood rain) to avenge. UNC isn’t there but you never know it’s at home for them. Pitt is in the Big Ketchup and we have to remember that we can win there... remember that the 2017 game ended with a goal line stand on 4th and 2 1/2 for the final go-ahead touchdown. Pitt is dangerous. As to y’all. We’ll see, because I personally never, ever take BC lightly. It’s not a bright thing to do. Matty Ice.. in the rain... so long ago, now. We have a better than 45% shot and if the Miami game ends up being the ACC Coastal Championship game, the Hokies will be up for it, and the Richter Scale will get set to earthquake mode again.
BCI: Tell me a player that BC fans don’t know yet, but should be aware of before our matchup?
Josh - Well, per DBU mandate, I probably should let you know a bit more about the safety that broke his foot and is back this year, Divine Deablo. Yes, that’s his name. Before his injury, in his first four games as a part-time starting free safety, he recorded 8 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, half a sack, an interception, 3 break-ups, and four passes defended while looking really spry and athletic- and that was in his first year at safety after flipping from the offense. I really think the sky’s the limit for him assuming he’s healthy.
John - Yes, Divine is,and barring injury he’s going to make a big impact. But I think that the one guy that will be the silent weapon of the Virginia Tech Defense is the punter, Oscar Bradburn. I get the feeling that his ability to drop the ball inside the 10 and get it to stick, is going to balance field position battles in the direction of Tech.
BCI: Hollywood producers are going to make a movie on VT football, who would play Justin Fuente, and who would play Bud Foster?
Josh - Crap, I’m not much of a Hollywood guy, but in my opinion Fuente would probably be played by some character actor that can pull off the stoic cowboy type. I can definitely imagine Oklahoma native Fuente out in a ten-gallon on a horse as the sun sets. Foster? Imagine Shia LeBouf in another thirty years or Christian Bale in fifteen and a case of bad migraines and indigestion later. It’s that kind of intense sometimes.
John - I don’t do many movies anymore - not a big Hollywood fan anymore. Pooh Bear and Tigger? Beamer could be played by Owl.
BCI: What is the craziest or most unique VT tradition (football or non-football)? And it better be Enter Sandman because even as an opposing fans that gives me chills!
Josh - Enter Sandman is its own kind of crazy. We alumni leave the school programmed to jump to Metallica. It’s nuts. It’s loud. It’s the best thing ever. I’d say the new thing they do with Beamer’s jersey number- passing it around to the standout special teams player from the previous week- is the most unique just due to how it honors a coach and is based on the brand he built and how he actually forced coaches to pay attention to special teams excellence again. It’s definitely the most on-brand of the potential traditions.
John - I have been down on the sideline for the entrance for two seasons, now. I am going to tell you that I often perch on the stairs going from the field to the North End Zone seats - just below the band. I’ve had to jump out of the way of the kids with the flags... The concussion is amazing. Your teeth hurt. The pressure on your ears is disorienting, and when it’s evening it’s even more isolating. Yes, we have registered on the Richter scale several times. There is no “official” 12th man “thing” for the Hokie home crowd, but I think we were credited with 12 or more false starts or procedural penalties last season.
BCI: It’s summertime. What is your beer/liquor and song choice for this summer?
Josh - I’m sorry I can’t answer the first part of the question; I’m a teetotaler, but as for the song choice? As a song for the theme of the summer, just for the headlines, let’s go with Flirtin’ With Disaster by Molly Hatchet. The season can’t start soon enough.
John - I raised him, and he still won’t touch a drop. Beer.. I know beer jingles that your age group has never heard. Sam Adams Summer Ale for me.. but my favorite is Octoberfest. Song... Always “Hotel California”
BCI: Pick a GIF that best describes how you envision VT’s season going this year
Josh - Why, the same thing every year in the Fuente era so far, because I need medication by the time the season is done:
John - When they run a jet sweep right to the short side of the field inside the 10. And then follow it up with a halfback ISO to the right. and then throw a fade into the back right corner of the end zone.