The Virginia Tech Hokies and Miami Hurricanes face off Thursday night in a critical ACC Coastal showdown that will keep the winner in serious contention to win the Coastal while severely hurting the loser’s chances of winning the division. With that said, here are our three Hokies to watch from writer Henry Skutt.
The defense for the Hokies has been, for the most part, exceptional this year. The game against Syracuse was not a good showing at all, but Bud Foster and his defense are still 7th in the country for total defense. One of the sleeper players on this talented defensive unit is Baron. He has quietly become one of the best defensive lineman throughout the years, and now he isn’t showing any signs of slowing down this season.
Look for him and the rest of the defensive line to disrupt a Miami offense that is trying to focus more on the run this year behind new head coach Mark Richt. If the defensive line can get penetration into the backfield, it will make the task of the Miami offense much more difficult. Baron will be anchoring that push and should make an impact on this game.
Another impressive aspect of the defensive side of the ball for Virginia Tech has been the defensive backs. Mook got beat a couple times last week in the disappointing game against Syracuse, but he has proven to be a lockdown defender playing the nicklewhip position — a position I went into more detail with a couple weeks ago. His versatility allows Foster to play both an aggressive man coverage, but also to drop back into the more effective zone.
If the defensive line can shut down the Miami run game, quarterback Brad Kaaya will have to show off his throwing ability. If Mook Reynolds and the defensive backs can continue to play at the level they’ve shown they’re capable of, it could be a long night for the Miami offense in the hostile environment that is Lane Stadium on Thursday nights.
Ford continues to be a huge part of this revamped offense. He didn’t have a great showing against Syracuse, but nobody really did. Evans should continue to target Ford very often, as that duo has proven to be successful — especially in the redzone. Isaiah Ford tied Antonio Freeman’s record for career touchdown receptions last week in the Carrier Dome with his 22nd touchdown, so look for him to break that record in front of the home crowd. He deserves the record, after putting in so much work in the offseason to become a NFL caliber wide-receiver.
Miami struggled to stop UNC and their spread offense last week, so look for similar results this week as VT runs a spread attack as well. I fully expect Fuente and his offense to exploit the weaknesses they’ve found on film, and the energy from the Thursday night crowd should help push the offense to a winning effort.