Photo Credit: Jake Roth
It's game-week for the first time in 2020 for the Virginia Tech football program which means it's also time for us to roll out our season preview for this season. We'll start today with our bold predictions with each of our staff making their own predictions.
One big theme is that there is a lot of confidence in Jermaine Waller stepping up with Caleb Farley gone to become one of America's top cornerbacks and one of the ACC's elite defensive players.
So with that, here are our bold predictions for the 2020 Virginia Tech football season.
Tim Thomas: Khalil Herbert Will Be Justin Fuente's First 1,000 Rushing Yard RB.
We've featured Khalil Herbert recently here on The Tech Lunch Pail especially given the hype that has surrounded him coming in from Kansas where he showed loads of potential, but never got his chance stuck behind two-time All-Big 12 First Team RB Pooka Williams Jr.
That chip on his shoulder he likely carries combined with his talent and size at 5'9'' and 212 pounds will help him handle the wear and tear of being the primary ball carrier and becoming Justin Fuente's first 1,000 yard rusher.
Yes we know Justin Fuente has done RB by committee in the past, but he also hasn't had a true running back as good as Herbert who's bought in to Fuente's system. Additionally, he'll benefit from the fact that Hendon Hooker is Tech's starting QB from the beginning, giving Tech two legit running threats on every read option rather than just one when Ryan Willis was at QB.
Tech also came close to having a 1,000 yard rusher in Deshawn McClease who had 843 yards on the ground last season. Add in a full season with a mobile QB and an offensive line that not only returns everyone but also adds Brock Hoffman and it's the perfect recipe for Herbert to break the 1,000 rushing yard mark this season.
Jawhar Ali: Jermaine Waller Finishes With Either 1st or 2nd Team All-ACC Honors.
Caleb Farley's opt out of the 2020 season leaves a gaping hole to be filled in the Virginia Tech secondary. On paper, it does not seem like they will have a guy to lock down a receiver on the boundary the way Farley did in 2019. However, Waller has the potential to step into that role and succeed.
Although he was inconsistent at times last season as teams chose to pick on him instead of Farley, Waller showed loose hips and improved ball skills which may be the two most essential traits for a cornerback.
Without seeing new defensive coordinator Justin Hamilton's coverage schemes, it is difficult to predict the man/zone splits for the defense but when Waller is matched up in man coverage I expect him to excel - and if the defense overall excels, Waller should earn recognition for his work on the back end.
Andy Loce: Jermaine Waller Earns First Team All-ACC Honors.
With the events that occurred this year, some would say a bold prediction that the Hokies complete their entire slate of the 2020 season. But as that would be a negative outlook on the season ahead, it’s better to talk about which player I believe will make the biggest jump for the Hokies over the next few months.
Jermaine Waller appeared on the scene last season for the Hokies as he appeared in all thirteen games which consisted of ten starts. In those appearances, he finished in the Top 10 in the ACC with three interceptions (T-7th) and thirteen passes defended (T-5th).
Playing alongside the likes of Farley, Hunter and Deablo, Waller was able to gain a mature role in the lineup and greatly improve his impact from the 2018 season to 2019.
Flash forward to 2020, Farley and Hunter will not be a part of the team which opens the door for Waller to be the heavy favorite as the #1 cornerback for the Hokies.
After landing an All-ACC honorable mention last season, my bold prediction for Waller is that he takes it up a notch and lands on the All-ACC First Team in 2020.
Prior to the start of the season, Florida State CB Asante Samuel Jr. and Clemson CB Derion Kendrick were listed onto the Preseason All-ACC first team. All three of these players are entering their junior year at their respective schools, and if Waller is able to produce a breakout season, he will become a favorite to land on the postseason All-ACC first team.
If Virginia Tech is going to have success this season, they will help from their defensive specialists and Waller can be that guy to make 2020 a successful year in Blacksburg.
Jack Brizendine: Raheem Blackshear Has At Least 1,200 All-Purpose Yards, 10 TDs
The Hokies were fortunate when the NCAA granted transfer running back Raheem Blackshear immediate eligibility after initially denying his waiver request. He will be a gadget type running back for Virginia Tech this season, lining up pretty much anywhere behind the line of scrimmage including (and especially) in the slot, and possibly returning kicks.
The Hokies will need someone to take a large portion of the workload following the departures of starting running back Deshawn McClease and standout wide receiver Damon Hazelton, and the former Scarlet Knight is the perfect candidate. I think that Blackshear will do more than fill in the gaps for these two former Hokies and will shine in his first year with the team.