While Virginia Tech football will be expecting most of their contributions on offense from players who were on last year’s team, the Hokies do have some opportunities for newcomers to make a difference whether that’s in pushing competition at certain positions, making an on-field contribution as a rotational player, or even earning a starting job this fall.
Here’s a look at the top 5 offensive newcomers to watch for Virginia Tech football in 2019.
5. QB Braxton Burmeister
While Braxton Burmeister is very unlikely to be Virginia Tech’s starting QB this fall, the Oregon transfer is poised to make an impact whether it’s in the backup QB competition that is inevitable to begin soon or the proxy 2020 quarterback battle that will run in parallel.
Burmeister is pursuing a waiver to be declared immediately eligible for the Hokies in 2019 though his reasoning is unclear at this point. Whether Burmeister does receive a waiver or not, the long term competition at quarterback makes him one of the top offensive newcomers to watch.
There’s no doubt that Burmeister is the unknown for Hokie fans, but he clearly has the skill set to be a factor in the long term competition for the 2020 QB job. Burmeister simply transferring at the Power 5 level should make the transition to VT easier even if there are some changes to adjust to in terms of the environment.
Burmeister also has Power 5 experience having thrown 87 passes in 2017 and 2018 for the Oregon with 2 touchdowns and 6 interceptions on 77 attempts as a freshman. While those numbers may not be great, the Hokies have shown that they can take QBs who had slow starts to their collegiate careers elsewhere and develop them into highly-productive QBs as Ryan Willis showed last season.
Whether Braxton Burmeister plays or doesn’t this fall, the Oregon transfer will be one of the most intriguing offensive newcomers in part because of the proxy 2020 QB competition poised to start this fall.
4. WR Tayvion Robinson
In a talented group of receivers, it’s hard not to lump them all in this one category given how early it is in camp but for now, Tayvion Robinson has taken a step ahead in part because of his potential at punt returner with Justin Fuente being impressed by Robinson’s potential there in early practices.
Hezekiah Grimsley and Tayvion Robinson are two names to watch at punt returns, long time to go, but coach Justin Fuente like how they both looked at first day of practice
— michaelniziolek (@michaelniziolek) August 3, 2019
With the punt returner job wide open, the fact that Robinson has been able to make such a strong impression after not arriving at Virginia Tech till the summer is a major statement that Robinson is a top contender to return punts and therefore avoid a redshirt this fall.
As a slot receiver, Robinson’s skill set profiles well for what teams look for in a punt returner, someone with great acceleration and agility. The fact that Robinson has also made this quick impression after playing quarterback high school even says more about not only the work Robinson put in before getting to campus but the natural athletic talent that he has.
While Robinson’s best opportunity may be as a punt returner, Robinson also has a respectable chance to earn playing time behind Hezekiah Grimsley in the slot after Sean Savoy’s offseason transfer to Maryland. Robinson will have tough competition from redshirt freshman DeJuan Ellis with the Hokies also having the tight end to use some two tight end sets with Dalton Keene and James Mitchell, one of whom would likely be in the slot.
However, Robinson has the athletic skills to develop into a quality playmaker in the slot and could be someone that gains playing time as the season goes along especially if he ends up earning the Hokies’ punt return job, ruling out any chance of a redshirt.
Virginia Tech’s impressive receiver class is poised to add even more depth for the Hokies at WR this fall with Robinson being the one to watch the most largely due to his chance to earn playing time as a punt returner.
3. OG Doug Nester
The gap between second and third is quite small with the only reason for Doug Nester falling to this spot is the harder battle he’ll have earning a starting job along with the greater ease Keshawn King should have at earning playing time even if he doesn’t earn the starting job.
It’s well-documented that Nester is one of the highest-ranked recruits that the Hokies have landed over the last decade with the late addition from West Virginia making a big recruiting statement for the Hokies. Now, the Hokies may reap the benefits of bringing in a talented offensive lineman like Nester who may be one of the few true freshmen at his position across the country who has the talent and opportunity to play immediately.
Nester profiles as an offensive guard in college and should be able to get involved in the competition at right guard with impressive size for a freshman at 6’6” and 315 pounds. While Nester may have the size on paper, he also more than looks the part as this photo from Tech Sideline shows.
Virginia Tech's Young Players Make Strides in Strength and Conditioning
— TechSideline.com (@TechSideline) August 3, 2019
Of course, just because someone looks the part doesn’t guarantee mean that they can actually play the part but given the talent level Nester brings, he appears more than ready to at least push for a spot in the two-deep.
The competition at right guard won’t be easy for Nester with the loser of the battle at center between Brock Hoffman and Zachariah Hoyt likely being the favorite in addition to talented redshirt freshman John Harris and veteran backup Austin Cannon being among the challengers.
However, don’t be surprised to see Nester at least receive a spot in the two-deep with the potential to push for more playing time as the season goes along.
2. RB Keshawn King
There’s no doubt that the most intriguing freshman is four-star RB Keshawn King. The Floridian running back was impressive as a high school putting up numbers that 99.9% of the population could only have the opportunity to put up if there were playing NCAA Football 14 Road to Glory mode with plenty of 200, 300+ rushing yard performances.
Now, King has an opportunity to be an early contributor in a backfield full of opportunity with Steven Peoples graduated and the Hokies having missed out on Clemson transfer Tavien Feaster.
If there is one concern about King at this point, it’s how much durability he’ll have given the toll a running back can take and the fact that he is only 182 pounds at 5’11”, a frame that has plenty of room to fill out as his college career goes on.
Now that may prevent King from taking on a lead role, but that shouldn’t stop him from being able to earn a rotational role as he adjusts to the collegiate level especially in a backfield looking for backs with explosiveness beyond Deshawn McClease who has shown promise but hasn’t been able to put it together over a full season.
It wouldn’t be surprised to see King’s role grow as the season goes along in part because the Floridian didn’t have the chance to arrive in the spring and adapt to the Hokies’ offense and collegiat environment sooner. However, running back is fortunately one of the easiest positions to transition early into at the collegiate level, making his summer arrival not something that would stop him from earning playing time.
Keshawn King has shown the promise and though he may not be a starter till 2020 or even 2021, it’s more than reasonable to expect King to be a quality contributor as a true freshman given the promise he’s showed in high school.
1. OL Brock Hoffman
There’s no doubt that Brock Hoffman is the most intriguing newcomer on the Hokies’ offense. The Coastal Carolina transfer is a top contender to start this fall at center or right guard after being a starter during his only two seasons with the Chanticleers and proving to be a quality offensive lineman that should be playing at college football’s highest level.
Hoffman’s versatility is one of his biggest assets having started a season at guard and center, something that OL coach Vance Vice cherishes in his offensive line. That also gives Hoffman a couple of different places where he can earn a starting job given the opportunity at center and right guard along with the potential to be the first interior lineman in the game should Hoffman be unable to earn a starting job.
Hoffman also isn’t some undersized Group of 5 lineman coming in at 6’3” and 316 pounds, almost ideal size for a Power 5 offensive line. That combined with his starting experience makes Hoffman a clear favorite to earn a starting job this fall whether that is at right guard or center.
Of course, the question still hanging over Hoffman is whether he will win his appeal and receive immediate eligibility.
As you most likely already know, Hoffman left Coastal Carolina to play at a school closer to home in Virginia Tech due to his mother dealing with cancer. However, the NCAA didn’t approve his waiver since VT was 5 miles outside of a 100-mile radius of his hometown and apparently because her health was improving even though she was still dealing with cancer and the side effects of the treatments that would increase the toll still.