Virginia Tech did what they were supposed to on Saturday beating William & Mary 62-17 in one of their best offensive performances regardless of competition. Here are three of our takeaways from the Hokies’ blowout win against the Tribe.
1. Terius Wheatley Should Have a Larger Role
One of the biggest surprises of the first two weeks of the season has been redshirt freshman RB Terius Wheatley. Wheatley only had 2 carries against Florida State, but the Fork Union product had 22 yards with runs of 15 and 7 yards.
Wheatley built on that Saturday with 7 carries for 58 yards and a touchdown showing lots of explosiveness and speed that gave William & Mary plenty of problems on the edge. With his performance Saturday, Wheatley is averaging 8.9 yards per carry ith almost all of his carries going for 6+ yards.
Most of Wheatley’s touches have been designed to be runs outside the tackles, but Wheatley has shown the speed and vision to find holes and be a big play threat anytime he touches the ball. Though Wheatley doesn’t appear to be a high-volume carry guy or a between the tackles runner, he has shown that he can quickly get in space off of handoffs out of shotgun.
Entering the season, Justin Fuente and the Hokies’ offensive staff mentioned how Wheatley and Jalen Holston were even on the depth chart behind the pair of McClease and Steven Peoples, but Wheatley has shown explosiveness and decisiveness with the ball that has separated him from Holston and makes him a change-of-pace guy who seems poised to receive 4-7 carries per game.
Over the past two weeks, Terius Wheatley has proven that he can be a playmaker for the Hokies on the ground, emerging as a third change-of-pace back behind McClease and Peoples and claiming a role in the Hokies’ first team offense.
2. The Starting WR Corps Appears To Be Locked In
The first two games of the season have not only backed up the expectation that Virginia Tech would have their deepest wide receiver corps of the Justin Fuente era, but has also shown that the starting trio of receivers have separated themselves from the pack.
Throughout the first half, the starting trio of Damon Hazelton, Hezekiah Grimsley, and Eric Kumah dominated the reps at wide receiver with Sean Savoy, Phil Patterson and Tre Turner getting a few snaps mixed in. In addition, Hazelton, Grimsley, and Kumah only played one possessions with the first team offense in the second half before all three spent the rest of the afternoon on the sideline with Josh Jackson.
While the Hokies have talked about being unafraid to rotate receivers in and out, the Hokies also will go with the best receiving corps they can have, and the trio of Hazelton, Grimsley, and Kumah has proven to be just that. When watching the game, it didn’t take long for there to be a clear disparity between the reps of that trio and the reps of any one of the Hokies’ backup receivers.
That trio of receivers has also proven that they ought to be the top 3 guys with Hazelton having a special blend of size, athleticism, and speed; Grimsley proving the be the most effective slot guy and someone who can get separation quickly, and Kumah building some consistency after finishing last season strongly.
Though it’s likely that receivers like Sean Savoy and Tre Turner will receive a good amount of snaps in the coming weeks, it appears pretty clear that the Hokies’ starting trio has separated themselves and will consistently be called upon in the most important moments for the Virginia Tech passing attack.
3. Competition Still Open at Linebacker
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech still has plenty of competition at linebacker especially at backer where the competition between Dylan Rivers and Dax Hollifield doesn’t seemed settled just yet.
Rivers worked exclusively with the first team defense against Florida State, but Bud Foster gave Hollifield the chance to get his first reps with the first team defense in the first half of William & Mary with the true freshman receiving a significant portion of those reps. Though Dylan Rivers still received the clear majority, the first half showed that the competition is still open at backer with Rivers still being ahead of Hollifield.
However, Hollifield showed that he shouldn’t be taken lightly in this competition over the next few weeks with 5 tackles including 1.5 for loss in his first game with significant reps. Hollifield appeared more than comfortable when playing with the Hokies’ first team defense and never seemed to be out-of-place during the first half.
Dylan Rivers remains in the lead at backer, but Saturday showed that the competition isn’t over with Dax Hollifield still having a reasonable opportunity to take the job away from Rivers.