Virginia Tech opened the season with a thrilling win over West Virginia, sending a message that the Hokies aren’t going to take a step back with a new quarterback and new receivers. There were plenty of positives takeaways from the Hokies’ win but there are also some clear concerns that arose from this game.
1. Sean Savoy is Virginia Tech’s Second Best WR
Sean Savoy, like Josh Jackson, got off to a slow start but by the second half, the D.C. area native was quite productive. Savoy finished his debut with 4 catches for 42 yards and 3 carries for 6 yards, a very good performance for the true freshman receiver.
In this game, Savoy showed that though he is only 5’10”, he has the skill set to be a playmaker in the slot and on the outside. Savoy ran some good routes and showed off his speed a few times to gain separation and make plays. Savoy was a reliable target for Josh Jackson and showed in this game that though he wasn’t a starter, he was the Hokies’ second best WR.
Sean Savoy was consistently the second receiver out there for the Hokies with CJ Carroll being the third guy and Eric Kumah having a smaller role than expected. Savoy proved to Justin Fuente that he could be trusted more than guys like Kumah, and Carroll at times, and should continue to have a large role going forward.
A true freshman having such a large role in the opener does bring some concern about the Hokies’ depth at WR, which is legitimate. However, Sean Savoy proved that he’s ready to be a playmaker for the Hokies and a quality second option after Cam Phillips.
2. Divine Deablo is Going to Play a Lot
Divine Deablo made a surprising move from wide receiver to safety this spring, a move that many wondered if it would actually work including myself. Right now, Bud Foster is looking like the very smart defensive coordinator he has always proven to be while people like me are eating crow for our doubts.
Deablo wasn’t perfect, but he showed plenty of promise against West Virginia with 6 tackles, 1 tackle for loss, and 1 pass breakup. Deablo played a lot throughout the game getting in early for Reggie Floyd and being solid down the stretch when Terrell Edmunds was out due to cramps.
To the surprise of many, Deablo is the Hokies’ top backup safety over Devon Hunter, whose role for now is limited to special teams. Deablo proved that he is worthy of this position being able to make plays in pass coverage and around the line of scrimmage on rush defense. Deablo also has a lot of comfort in that free safety role and allows Terrell Edmunds to be used more in man coverage and around the line of scrimmage.
Going forward, we can expect Deablo to continue to have a fairly large role on the Hokies’ defense. Expect Deablo to play a lot against Delaware to get him more experience and give Terrell Edmunds some extra rest after his cramping issue against West Virginia.
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3. Virginia Tech’s Backup Defensive Line is a Problem
Virginia Tech’s starting defensive line had a strong game especially in the first half where they still had a lot of their energy. Because of West Virginia’s long first half drives compared to the Hokies’ mostly short first half possessions, the Hokies’ starting DL wore down some and showed occasionally in the second half. This also forced Bud Foster to use his backup DL, which proved to be a liability.
While the starting defensive line could get pressure on Will Grier, Grier had tons of time to throw when the Hokies brought in their backup DL. When the full backup defensive line unit was out there, Grier was able to be extremely patient while West Virginia saw this weakness and attacked it. One example was on one of Justin Crawford’s carries that was ran towards the ends where the Hokies’ backup DEs were instead of up the middle where Tim Settle and Ricky Walker were.
Dana Holgorsen was quickly able to spot this weakness and every opposing offensive coordinator will see this as well as a weak point that the Hokies must improve. There is no easy fix for this weakness, but Charley Wiles will have to continue to develop his backup defensive linemen, opening the door for younger freshmen like Zion DeBose at DE and Robert Porcher IV at DT to push and compete for playing time.
The good news is that the Hokies have a few weaker opponents before facing Clemson to get their backup defensive linemen in-game reps that could prove quite valuable by the time ACC play starts.
Extra Point: Terrell Edmunds, Steven Peoples are Fine
In his press conference after the game, Justin Fuente stated that both Steven Peoples and Terrell Edmunds are okay. Fuente said that Peoples could have returned later in the game, but that he chose not to bring him in.
Fuente also mentioned that Terrell Edmunds was fine as he was walking in to speak to the media after Fuente. Edmunds himself said that his injury issue was a cramping problem with Edmunds having returned to the sidelines at the end of the game.
This is a nice relief for Hokie fans as the importance of Edmunds is already well-known while Peoples had a solid game and will be a big part of the Hokies’ RB rotation this season.
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