2018 Virginia Tech Football Season Predictions
Breakout Player: Divine DeabloThe redshirt sophomore only played four games, but looked like a natural free safety less than a year after making the move to wide receiver. Now, Deablo has taken over the full-time free safety job and seems poised to break out this season with his great instincts and ball skills along with a natural feel for the center fielder type role of a free safety that should help the Hokies' cornerbacks a lot. Don't be surprised if Deablo has multiple interceptions this season, earns some major All-ACC honors, and starts to climb on the radar of NFL scouts.
Team MVP: Ricky WalkerRicky Walker may not have Tim Settle next to him to balance the load up the middle, but the redshirt senior DT is more than ready to go from being one of the Hokies' top defensive players to being the star. After having 12.5 tackles for loss last season, Walker is poised to take his game to the next level and possibly rival the numbers that Woody Baron put up in his senior season on his way to being among the contenders for ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors two years ago.
Game to Watch: Miami at Virginia TechThere are plenty of possible trap games this season including road trips to Duke and Pittsburgh right before big home games against Notre Dame and Miami. However, it's hard to deny the intrigue surrounding this year's game between the Hokies and Hurricanes especially given the late November date that sets it up to potentially be a Coastal Championship game.
Record Prediction: 9-3On paper, this schedule sets up for a 9-3 record with the Hokies having the talent to win one of the three big games. While the schedule does seem fairly manageable, there are some potential trap games including road trips to Pittsburgh and Duke while Boston College is a top 25 caliber team and will be a bigger challenge than many may be expecting at this moment. The Hokies have had some struggles against Georgia Tech, but VT is also undefeated against the Yellow Jackets when they haven't had only a week before a Saturday game to prepare, something that shouldn't be discounted.
Breakout Player: Rayshard AshbyAshby is getting his first chance at playing time this season as part of the rebuilt linebacker corps taking the field for the Hokies. All three starting linebackers are sophomores, but Ashby is the only one who has not played in a game yet. There has been a lot of hype surrounding him during the preseason and it will be interesting to see how the season unfolds for the young defender.
Team MVP: Josh JacksonWith a full season under his belt, Jackson will have to lead a young Hokies offense in 2018. After setting multiple Virginia Tech records in his freshman campaign, Jackson should have only gotten better in the offseason and is poised to take his game to the next level. With the youth and inexperience on this season’s team, having a solid quarterback will be key and if Jackson can perform at the level expected from him, he will be one of the most important players on the Hokies this year.
Game to watch: Miami at Virginia TechThe past two winners of the ACC Coastal Division square off in Blacksburg the weekend before Thanksgiving. This matchup has gone back and forth over the past couple of years and has become a game worth watching again. By the time it rolls around, an ACC Championship Game berth could be on the line. The rivalry only adds to the excitement of the Canes’ trip to Lane Stadium, so mark this one on your calendars.
Record Prediction: 9-3The Hokies have a lot of youth on this season’s squad, but they also have a lot of talent with plenty of potential. I think they’ll get through Florida State in Week 1, but they have some tough tests waiting for them down the road. Notre Dame and Miami are two games that are sure to garner a lot of excitement and could be difficult games. Georgia Tech always plays the Hokies tough, making that game a question mark on the schedule. One other game that could go either way is Duke, but I don’t see them losing both of those conference games.
David CunninghamThe Virginia Tech Hokies are coming off a 9-4 season and while most people think it is a rebuilding year, I have high hopes that Tech will do big things this season.
Breakout Player: Damon HazeltonJosh Jackson is in his second year as the starting quarterback and should be much more comfortable. One of his biggest targets this season will be Damon Hazelton, who I believe will be the breakout player on the team. The transfer wide receiver from Ball State is 6’2”, 222 LBS and has seemed to be doing well in the preseason workouts and practices. With Eric Kumah, Hezekiah Grimsley, Sean Savoy, and CJ Carroll at the wide receiver position, the Hokies actually have more depth than you’d believe. Add Hazelton to the mix and Tech is solid at the position. I think Carroll and Savoy will get less snaps to start the season than the other three, but they will definitely be thrown in the mix. With Grimsley and Kumah already being pretty big threats on the field, having Hazelton, who has not played at Tech yet, will provide an extra boost for the Hokies. Add Phil Patterson to the mix and you are set. The offensive line looks solid with Kyle Chung and Yoshua Nijman leading the charge up front. The running backs, where the team needs production the most, is filled with Steven Peoples and Deshawn McClease, who will share carries, and Jalen Holston and Teruis Wheatley will fill in if needed. Peoples and McClease are going to be huge for the Hokies this year, and they will have to produce if the team wants to knock off big time opponents.
Team MVP: Ricky WalkerOn the defensive side, the line is great and is led by Ricky Walker, my team MVP, who will have the biggest impact on defense. Walker is going to have to step up even more and help communicate with the younger guys in the secondary, or else the team will be on different pages. Vinny Mihota, Trevon Hill, Houshun Gaines, and Jarrod Hewitt will hold down the rest of the fort with Emmanuel Belmar, Tyjuan Garbutt, Xavier Burke and Nathan Proctor. The Hokies should be good in that position. There’s a lot to go into in the linebackers and secondary, but overall, Bud Foster will have to work his magic and get the young players such as Rayshard Ashby, Dylan Rivers, Caleb Farley, and others to step up and be ready to compete. Special teams should be solid per usual.
Game to Watch: Virginia Tech at PittsburghSo.. what does all of this mean? Well, I think that it actually doesn’t look as bad for the Hokies as some might think. Florida State is very winnable and the other two standout games, Notre Dame and Miami, are both at home. I think the game to watch for the Hokies is at Pittsburgh on the second weekend in November. The only other game I believe the Hokies wouldn’t possibly come prepared for is when they play at Duke in week 5, right before Notre Dame. Otherwise, I think this is the game where Tech could be upset. Right before the Miami game and after a Boston College game at home, Pittsburgh sneaks up on you and so does Heinz Field. I think the Hokies drop one here to a solid Panthers team, but they will rebound the following weekend at home against Miami.
Record Prediction: 9-3The Hokies win the ACC Coastal and finish the regular season at 9-3 with losses at Florida State, home against Georgia Tech, and at Pittsburgh. Yes, I know it is a bold prediction, but I believe that Virginia Tech will handle Miami and Notre Dame at home, along with the rest of the home slate besides the Thursday night game against the Yellow Jackets. I wanted to pick the Hokies, but I could go either way and decided to side with the other Tech in this one. It looks like a positive season for Fuente and the Hokies right around the corner, but we will see what happens this weekend in Tallahassee.
Breakout Player: Caleb FarleyThis was a hard choice for me, as with so many new faces getting significant playing time, the options were numerous. I finally decided to go with face that isn’t so new, but will be seeing his first snaps on the field this year. Caleb Farley came to the Hokies with a lot of hype and promise, but a knee injury last season delayed his debut until this year. Hopefully fully healed and ready to go, Farley has moved back to Bud Foster's defense and is going to try and fill the shoes left empty by Greg Stroman, Brandon Facyson, and Adonis Alexander. The defense secondary is going to be a question mark at these beginning stages of the season. However, I think Farley will be able to use his size and athleticism much like Alexander did to excel. Farley is also slated to be a big part of the return game, where his athleticism will once again play a huge role. I look for Farley to be as much or more of a return threat than Greg Stroman was last year. All in all he is just one of many that will be break out stars this season for the Hokies.
Team MVP: Ricky WalkerOnce again, this is a tough decision but not because of the amount of players who could potentially be the MVP, but instead two individuals whose performance could turn the Hokies season for the good or down the tubes. Ricky Walker and Josh Jackson are the two names who are the definite MVP in my mind. However, Ricky Walker is my choice. Walker will have to lead a very young Hokie defense against some stout offensive powers. Walker will have to lead in the huddle as well as on the field. Walker will be counted on to get pressure on the quarterback as well as be a huge force in stopping the run. The Hokie defense will need Walker to be the All-American we all know he can be.
Game to Watch: Virginia Tech at DukeThe Hokies have several marquee games this season, beginning with a tilt with Florida State. Later there are matchups with Notre Dame and Miami. However, the game I believe will be the game to watch is an early season ACC matchup which could shape the Hokies chances at controlling their own destiny in the ACC Coastal division. September 29th, the Hokies travel to Duke to face a pesky Blue Devil team. Duke always plays the Hokies tough, especially on their home field. Duke is bringing back a wealth of talent and with Coach Cutcliffe at the helm you can guarantee they will be well coached. The Duke offense is going to give the Hokies young defense all they want in an early season challenge. Mark my words fans we should not over look the boys from Duke this year.
Record Prediction: 9-3This year is no doubt going to be tougher than the past two under Justin Fuente. The Hokies are extremely young, and inexperienced at several key positions. The offense might actually be the stronger unit this year, which is a different story from the years before. The offense has the firepower to stay in most marquee games, but it's the defense getting that one crucial stop which could be the difference from a perfect season to one that isn’t so perfect. Reality is the Hokies are a team where 8 to 9 wins will be a major victory. I believe the Hokies will go 9-3 with losses to FSU and Notre Dame with another road loss either to Pitt or Duke making up the third. Notice I have the Hokies beating Miami this year. Part of me thinks this is wishful thinking after last years performance. However, the turning point could the fact this game is being played in Lane Stadium. The home field advantage is a fantastic equalizer. This record should be good enough to for the Hokies to have a date with Clemson in the ACC Championship (let's be real people Clemson is to good not to run through the Atlantic). If the Hokies lose to Miami, the Hurricanes will more than likely represent the Coastal side. Either way it would be a great season, with two important things happening, continuing the bowl steak and of course, beating UVA.
RJ GarzaWith another exciting season of Hokie football underway on Monday; There’s plenty of talent on the Hokie football team but who will be that breakout player the Hokies need?
Breakout Player: Sean SavoySavoy started 12 games for the Hokies last year and had 39 receptions, 454 receiving yards, four touchdowns, and averaged 11.6 yards per reception. With the departure of Cam Phillips, this gives Savoy the perfect opportunity to take some of the load at wide receiver. Josh Jackson will need a go-to guy on third down, and I think Savoy can be that.
Team MVP: Josh JacksonJackson played all 13 games last season completing 236 passes for 2991 yards, 20 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions. Last year Jackson looked to be poised as one of the top quarterbacks in college football after the win against West Virginia. As the season went along, Jackson continued to shine until struggles began against Clemson and Miami in the regular season along with the bowl game against Oklahoma State. Granted,offensive struggles weren’t completely on the quarterback. The main reason why the offense had success was because of the QB play. Overall, it was a pretty good season for a redshirt freshman. As a redshirt sophomore, Jackson has potential to excel as a top QB in the ACC and possibly on a national stage.
Game to Watch: Notre Dame at Virginia TechA game to watch this year is the home game against Notre Dame. In 2016, Virginia Tech went into South Bend and defeated Notre Dame 34-31 on a thrilling defensive stand on Notre Dame’s final drive at the end of the fourth quarter. This year Notre Dame comes to Lane Stadium, and this game outside of the Florida State opener can be a statement game. Especially with Miami coming up in November. The Notre Dame game could show that VT can win those big games in prime time during the middle of the season.
Record Prediction: 9-3
For this season, I predict the Hokies going 9-3 with the three losses being to Miami, Notre Dame, and Georgia Tech. Miami and Notre Dame are Tech's biggest games of the season and it’s still unproven if this team is ready to win prime time games. Under Justin Fuente, the Hokies have had some trouble with Georgia Tech and Paul Johnson's triple option offense going 0-2 against them in Fuente's first two seasons.