Key Matchups for #18 Virginia Tech Against Delaware

Virginia Tech has had a short week to prepare for their home opener against a Delaware team that will be looking to pull off a huge upset. The Hokies will look to take care of business and give their younger backups some playing time, and avoid a game that still is uncertain in the second half.

With that said, let’s take a look at the key matchups.

Greg Stroman vs. WR Diante Cherry

Delaware hasn’t had a prolific passing game over the past two years, but Diante Cherry enters this season as the Blue Hens’ top receiver after being their leading receive in 2015 and 2016. Cherry isn’t a big guy at only 5’10” and will likely have Greg Stroman marking him a lot throughout this game.

Stroman didn’t put up big numbers last week, but Will Grier barely looked his direction knowing the talent Stroman has and not daring to test him. Stroman was solid in coverage throughout the Hokies’ win over WVU and will look to put together another strong week against a quicker receiver like Cherry who will look to find separation and get some big plays.

Cherry was productive in Delaware’s season opener with 4 catches for 83 yards and a touchdown. If the Blue Hens are going to be to keep this game interesting, they’re going to need Cherry to produce at a high level against one of America’s best defensive back units, a task that will be extremely difficult.

Cherry will get a couple of catches in this game, but Stroman will play well and force Delaware QB Joe Walker elsewhere a lot in this game. Cherry should be one of the best WRs in the CAA, but he’ll struggle some in this matchup with Stroman.

Eric Gallo vs. DT/NT Bilal Nichols

In the trenches, the toughest battle will come right in the middle as Eric Gallo will face veteran Delaware DT Bilal Nichols. As Delaware has shifted to a 3-4 defense, Nichols has shifted inside and will look to do some damage against the Hokies’ veteran center.

After having a slow start last year, Eric Gallo has looked much more like the center we thought he would be after his solid sophomore season. Gallo has received plenty of praise from Vance Vice in the lead-up to this season and has taken on a leadership role along the Hokies’ offensive line.

However, Nichols will give him a good test on Saturday as Nichols was a Second Team All-CAA player last year with 7.5 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. Nichols got off to a solid start to this season with 4 tackles and 0.5 sacks against Delaware State, and will look to get some pressure on Josh Jackson consistently Saturday.

This should be one of the more interesting matchups on Saturday and one where Gallo will likely get some help at times from Wyatt Teller and Braxton Pfaff. Eric Gallo should still have a strong game, but don’t be surprised if Nichols is able to get at least a little pressure on Jackson.

Cam Phillips vs. CB Justin Watson

Cam Phillips shined Sunday night with 7 receptions for 138 yards and a touchdown in one of the best individual WR performances of the weekend. Phillips will look to continue his strong start to the season against a Delaware defense that got off to a solid start against Delaware State.

Justin Watson will likely be marking Phillips throughout most of this game as the veteran cornerback who the Blue Hens will want on the Hokies’ star WR.  Watson regressed in 2016 after being a starter in 2015, but he has plenty of experience that should give Phillips a little bit of a challenge.

Delaware will likely give Watson some help but even when they do, Phillips has shown that he can be productive having a very good game against a West Virginia team that definitely saw him as the top threat. Phillips will look to put together another strong game and keep the offensive momentum going with a trip to East Carolina up next.

Cam Phillips has continued to improve and develop into one of the best receivers east of the Mississippi and that will show once again on Saturday even against a veteran cornerback like Watson. Phillips already has the makings of fulfilling his Preseason All-ACC status and Delaware won’t be able to slow him down.

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