BC hosts Virginia Tech tomorrow night for the annual Red Bandana Game. The Hokies are 4-4, and 2-2 in the conference. This week, Bryan Manning of Gobbler Country spoke with us about Virginia Tech’s season so far and what he expects out of the team this week.
BCI: Both BC and Virginia Tech are 4-4, but at least Tech has two ACC wins to show. What’s been the biggest issue, particularly against Pitt and Syracuse?
GC: Against Pitt, it was a punchless offense. Against Syracuse, it was a struggling defense that didn’t tackle well or apply any pressure on a quarterback who had never proven he could throw the football. In all honesty, this Hokie team is better on defense. The offense has some good skill players such as wide receivers Tre Turner and Tayvion Robinson, and running backs Malachi Thomas and Raheem Blackshear. But, the scheme and play-calling is horrendous, and the quarterback play is slightly below average. Braxton Burmeister is a tough kid who is playing hurt, but he is not a good Power 5 passer.
BCI: How are fans feeling about Justin Fuente now in his sixth season? It’s been a slow way down since starting off his VT career off hot.
GC: I would say if you polled 100 Virginia Tech fans, 99 would express anger and disappointment with Fuente. One, the program is not accessible to fans under Fuente. Secondly, he’s not embraced some of the best football players in school history, although he’s worked to repair that by hiring some former Hokies on the coaching staff. Finally, the recruiting has dropped considerably under Fuente. While the Hokies have a solid 2022 class, they still have to sign the class and that’s no sure bet. The most important thing, Fuente has produced mediocre results and became the coach who lost to Virginia, West Virginia and ended the bowl streak.
BC: Tech dominated the matchup last year. Now, a new quarterback leads the Hokies and no Khalil Herbert either, thank god. Despite two new big faces, Burmeister’s mobility at qb is going to give BC some headaches. And running back Malachi Thomas’s emergence, I fear the same result as last season. Long way of saying, what are the other major changes between this season’s team and last season’s that may give BC fans some hope? GC: Honestly, you don’t have a lot to worry about. Yes, Thomas has the makings of a special player. In his first two games of extended action, he’s gone over 100 yards each time. Burmeister is athletic, but he hasn’t been running a lot due to a shoulder injury. The Hokies should do more RPO stuff, but it is not something you see a lot of from Virginia Tech’s offense.
BCI: Not only those two, but Tech’s receivers are very talented. Talk about the rest of the offense and its strengths and weaknesses.
GC: Turner and Robinson can play They would be All-ACC players if the team had more consistency at QB and offensive coordinator. Nick Gallo is an athletic tight end that the offense should feature more. The Hokies lost the ACC’s best tight end in James Mitchell early this season. The offensive line has taken a step back this year. It happens when you lose a player like Christian Darrisaw. The Hokies have some good players on the OL in Lecitus Smith, Brock Hoffman and Luke Tenuta. The group should be better, but we’ve mentioned why it isn’t.
BCI: Hafley noted some similarities between the two defenses. They’re both pretty good on third down, and have had similar numbers in run defense. What is your evaluation of the Tech defense’s performance so far, and who are some key playmakers that could get their hands on the ball?
GC: Outside of late collapses against Notre Dame and Syracuse, the defense has been solid. Look, it’s not going to remind anyone of Bud Foster’s best units, but this group plays hard and features some good players up front and in the secondary. The two best players are defensive end Amare Barno and cornerback Jermaine Waller. Both will be in the NFL next season.
BCI: Alright, let’s hear it. How much does Tech win by and how do they do it?
GC: In all honesty, I can’t say that Virginia Tech wins this game. As you know, these games in Chestnut Hill have always been close, with the Eagles pulling out their share of these games. And this Virginia Tech team is average and could be without some key performers. Last week was fun for the Hokies, but it meant nothing Georgia Tech is bad. Ultimately, I believe Boston College wins, 23-20.