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A Closer Look at the Eagles on PFF’s ACC Team of the Week

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Shouts to Hunter Long, TJ Rayam, and John Phillips

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Virginia Tech at Boston College
Hunter Long makes a play on special teams

Three Eagles made Pro Football Focus’s ACC Team of the Week. On offense, tight end Hunter Long and guard John Phillips featured, and defensively it was nose tackle TJ Rayam. Linebacker Rayshard Ashby was naturally the standout performer for the Hokies after flying all over the place and making big plays.

Hunter Long had a stellar performance. He caught 4 of his 6 targets for 53 yards. Of those six looks, he actually caught every ball deemed catchable. The uncatchable ones were the Kobay White errant throw, and an ugly forced toss by Anthony Brown that could have been picked off. The 6-5, 255 pound sophomore produced 23 YAC (yards after catch) as well. Overall, he ran only 12 routes, but was targeted on 50% of them! He actually led the country in actual yards per route run among Power 5 tight ends that ran more than five routes.

Long was one of only five tight ends in the country that also had more than one deep pass target, meaning a pass of 20 yards or more, having two. One again was the trick play, and the other was this big 25 yard gain on a drive he nabbed three passes to set up an AJ Dillon touchdown run. Look at him blow right by his defender and immediately raise his hand, giving AB a great look.

Here he is at the top of the screen one on one holding his own with ease.

Long and AB seemed to have really great chemistry throughout the game, and he clearly loved looking in his direction. We have a nice crop of tight ends, arguably our deepest position, but Hunter Long is already doing work out there and should feature as much as possible despite being one of the youngest guys in Coach Frank Leonard’s room. And no, this isn’t because I picked him to have a breakout campaign.

John Phillips played all 77 snaps at right guard, allowing one hurry and having one penalty early on. He destroyed Tech’s line in the run game. Here he is on a casual pancake block on #93 where he’s shocked at how easily he knocked him down with one arm, helping clear the way for David Bailey.

And yes, that is Hunter Long up there providing another good block to clear Bailey’s path. Back to Phillips, here’s #70 getting ahead and ends up blocking one Hokie into another to get Bailey further in the open field and make magic. Great downfield blocking by all really.

Phillips has been with the program for quite some time, and it’s great to see him noticed here.

TJ Rayam absolutely crushed it. The unheralded two-star recruit produced 1 QB hit, 2 hurries, 3 tackles, and an assist. All of this in only 38% of the snaps (34 total) at nose tackle! Here’s big #99 doing his best Aaron Donald, immediately getting into the backfield to disrupt this run and set up a tackle for loss.

Look at this 300 pound Eagle move! He quickly splits two lineman and gives Joe Sparacio a free run to force the ball out of Ryan Willis’s hands and into Tanner Karafa’s outstretched arm.

For lining up as he does and starting behind Kyiev Bennermon, Rayam put on a show. Perhaps he’ll see a more even split with the redshirt freshman after this performance.

Big shout out to these three on a great week 1. Hope to see them and more Eagles on more team of the weeks as the season progresses.