The Virginia Tech Hokies head away from Blacksburg for the first time this season as they take on the Purdue Boilermakers in what could also be called the Tim Sands Bowl. Darrell Hazell and Purdue are looking for a big win while the Hokies will look to go above .500 led by QB Brenden Motley who played well against FCS Furman last Saturday.
Here’s a look at our players to watch in Virginia Tech’s first road game of the season.
TE Bucky Hodges
After having a great 2014 season, Bucky Hodges had plenty of hype surrounding him as one of college football’s best tight ends while also being named to the 2015 Preseason All-ACC Team. However, Hodges has not had the start that he likely hoped for even with the injury to Michael Brewer.
Through two games, Hodges only has two catches for 48 yards with both of those catches coming against Furman. Hodges has also had a couple of drops to start the season, and hasn’t been able to get open as much with teams seeming to focus on him more.
However, Hodges seems like someone that is one big game away from taking off, and that could come on the road against Purdue.
Purdue does not have great size in the secondary, which will make covering Hodges a lot harder. Hodges also just needs to gain some confidence and his game against Furman may be the spark that he needed after not having any catches against Ohio State.
Hodges is still a matchup nightmare, and don’t be surprised if he makes a big impact for the Hokies against Purdue.
DE Dadi Nicolas
Dadi Nicolas is one of the best defensive ends in all of college football, but he hasn’t had the start he probably hoped for this season with only three tackles and two QB hurries. Nicolas has been getting some pressure, but the senior defensive end just hasn’t seemed to find a rhythm just yet.
However, Nicolas seems poise for a big game against a Purdue team with a big, but not very athletic offensive line.
Nicolas is one of the best edge rushers in college football, and is the type of player that doesn’t have long cold streaks. Nicolas is going to be a nightmare on the edge with his speed while also being effective in run defense against a Purdue team that will look to run the ball effectively to set up the passing attack.
Nicolas seems ready to have a 6 to 8 tackle game with 1 or 2 sacks and multiple tackles for loss while also getting tons of pressure on the Purdue quarterback. The senior defensive end will want to prove to NFL scouts that his rut to start the season was a random cold streak with a big game.
Purdue’s left tackle does have some experience, but the senior left tackle has not faced a defensive end as dynamic as Nicolas. Dadi Nicolas is poised to have a big game, and it will happen on the road against the Purdue Boilermakers.
MLB Sean Huelskamp
Sean Huelskamp will make his first career start in place of the injured Andrew Motuapuaka at mike linebacker. Huelskamp played just about every defensive snap after Motuapuaka was injured against Furman, and Bud Foster will do everything he can to prepare him for this week’s game.
Huelskamp is another one of those tough, walk-on mike linebackers that Virginia Tech has had some past success with including Jack Tyler. However, this game will be a challenge for Huelskamp after competing for the backup spot this fall with Motuapuaka having the starting spot locked down.
Huelskamp seems to be a fairly smart linebacker, but he is not as athletic or strong as Motuapuaka, which showed some against the Paladins on run defense. Part of that may have been due to Huelskamp’s lack of experience, but this could be a problem in this game against a Purdue team that is a lot better athletically than Furman.
What is certain is that Huelskamp will bring everything he’s got to every play and has the type of toughness that you want in the center of defense. Will Huelskamp be able to step up in his first career start on the road against Purdue? We will have to wait and see.