The Virginia Tech Hokies opened the season with a strong 36-13 victory over Liberty led by a defense that only gave up 6 points on the day and held Liberty to only 160 yards of offense in addition to keeping them off the scoreboard in the second half. There were plenty of things for Hokie fans to be pleased about but there was one thing that some fans are concerned about.
Virginia Tech had a new punter with Mitchell Ludwig replacing the graduated A.J. Hughes who had been the starter for the past four years. There had been some concerns that punting could be an issue from info that seemed to be leaking out of camp in addition to the lack of depth at the spot that forced Joey Slye to take some reps there during fall camp.
Ludwig wasn’t bad on Saturday as he had 5 punts for an average of 39 yards per punt but only one of those punts pinned Liberty inside the 20. Ludwig did have a solid 52-yard punt but a couple of his punts were quite short and relied on some good bounces to up that average.
While Ludwig’s average on Saturday isn’t awful, it is worse than the full-season averages for A.J. Hughes in any of his four seasons for the Hokies. The Hokies definitely will need their punting situation to improve over the coming weeks to help with the field position battle.
However, Ludwig’s performance on Saturday brings questions as to whether Ludwig may be the best punter on the roster and if punting could be an issue throughout the season.
The Hokies have given Joey Slye some reps at punter in practice leading to Slye being listed as the backup punter on the Hokies’ two-deep. It is far from unprecedented for a college football to have their kicker also be their punter and Slye has shown that he has a powerful leg.
For now, the Hokies need to stick with Mitchell Ludwig and see if he can improve upon his performance against Liberty. Ludwig was able to get good hang time but the lack of power is a concern that could cause problems throughout the season. If Ludwig can’t improve in the coming weeks, it may be worth giving Joey Slye a shot and seeing how well he can do.
Being unable to get Brandon Nickle to walk-on at Virginia Tech over Tennessee after his previous commitment to the Hokies is not looking good at all for the Hokies right now given their punting struggles. If those punting struggles continue throughout the season, the Hokies may be left wondering if they should’ve offered Nickle a scholarship.