The Virginia Tech Hokies struggled this past Saturday in what was their worst performance of the season as they were upset by the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets 30-20 in a game in which the Hokies couldn’t find a way to significantly get back into the game after going down 20-0 at halftime. The Hokies did have a close call a week ago at Duke, but their performance on Saturday was surprising given that Georgia Tech also turned out to be without Justin Thomas.
There were some flaws that were exposed for the Hokies along with some positives so with that said, here are our three takeaways from the Hokies’ loss.
1. Jerod Evans Has To Improve In Progressing Through His Fields, Being More Accurate Down The Field.
Jerod Evans has shown plenty of toughness and grit while also proving he can make plays through the air and on the ground, but there are a couple concerns that could be big issues for Jerod Evans and limit what Brad Cornelsen can call offensively.
First, Jerod Evans has had some struggles reading defenses and progressing through his reads, leading to both of the interceptions last week while also leading to a couple other close calls over the past couple of games. In particular, Evans made a bad decision throwing into a blend of man and zone coverage over the middle with C.J. Carroll being unable to fight through all the traffic to even make a play on the ball.
Evans has only 4 interceptions on the season so far which is quite good, but that number could inflate if he doesn’t improve with progressing through his reads. Georgia Tech has shown a successful gameplan for other opposing defensive coordinators to follow and it will be up to Evans and Justin Fuente to get these issues fixed.
Evans also has had an issue throughout the season with his deep-throw accuracy as there were a few times when Evans missed wide open receivers down the field once again this week. This problem has seemed to limit the Hokies’ offense as Brad Cornelsen seemed to call more quick passes and less deep balls for guys like Isaiah Ford likely in part because of Evans’s deep-throw accuracy.
These two issues are preventing Evans from taking a couple big steps but if he can make improvements in these areas, it should decrease the turnovers and open up the offense for Cornelsen to call more plays to push the ball down the field.
2. C.J. Carroll steps up and takes on a larger role on both offense and special teams.
C.J. Carroll’s role on this team has grown a lot in the past two weeks and not only has solidified himself as the top backup receiver but has also gotten more regular playing time working out of the slot. In addition to that, Carroll has taken over the punt returner job with Greg Stroman and may start taking some kickoffs instead of Der’Woun Greene while Stroman is still out.
C.J. Carroll has stepped up his game the past couple of weeks with Carroll having a career high 5 catches for 65 receiving yards while also averaging 11.3 yards per punt return on his three punt return this past week. Carroll was able to make some guys miss on both offense and punt returns, and got plenty of yards in what was a productive day for the redshirt sophomore.
Carroll’s role in Virginia Tech’s offense has grown substantially in the past couple of weeks with Carroll being the primary guy to come in and work with the offense when they are playing true four receiver formations with the Hokies using a running back in the slot less and less. Carroll has shown a lot of toughness while also developing into a solid route runner with the type of speed and acceleration you want form a slot guy who can be used quite effective on quick passes or on underneath routes to provide a checkdown for Jerod Evans.
Looking towards next year, Carroll’s role should only expand even with the Hokies bringing in a few talented recruits who fit the profile of a slot receiver. Carroll could also end up being the starting slot receiver especially if one of Bucky Hodges and Isaiah Ford chooses to go to the NFL with Cam Phillips likely moving back outside in that case.
Carroll is following the footsteps of Willie Byrn and developing into a talented slot receiver after starting out as a walk-on just like Byrn.
3. Virginia Tech Didn’t Heed Previous Wake-Up Call
You can argue that this as the first wake-up call for the Hokies since their loss to Syracuse but it at least shouldn’t have been. The Hokies should have heeded the wake-up call they received a week early against a less-talented but well-coached Duke team that nearly pulled off the upset at Wallace Wade Stadium that week.
Instead, the Hokies failed to heed that wake-up call and paid the price this week against a more talented Georgia Tech team that was eager to get a big win and guarantee themselves a bowl game. Even without some of their top players including star QB Justin Thomas, the Yellow Jackets were still able to dominate the Hokies at Lane Stadium where Virginia Tech had won every game by at least 20 points this season till then and in front of what became a stunned sellout crowd.
For the Hokies, they should have heeded the wake-up call the previous week that while teams like Georgia Tech and Duke aren’t as good as the ACC teams they beat in October, they are still quality enough opponents to pull off an upset. Instead, the Hokies came out unready to face a quality opponent and suffered the consequences.
It will be hard for Virginia Tech not to take this wake-up call but if they don’t, Notre Dame will be ready to make them pay for it and send the Hokies a third-straight wake-up call.
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