Kickoff is almost here as Virginia Tech and West Virginia are making their final preparations for the Black Diamond Trophy showdown. The Hokies will need several players to step up in this game so our own Henry Skutt gives us his Hokies to watch.
This is an obvious pick for the first game. The quarterback is the key part to any offense, and it is no different for Fuente and his system. Jackson will be the first freshman to start the opening game of the season since Michael Vick. While the expectations are a little bit lower for Jackson, he’ll still need to have a good game against a difficult 3-3-5 WVU defense.
It’s obviously a difficult ask for a young QB starting in front of a huge crowd in an NFL stadium, but Fuente has shown time and time again that he can prepare quarterbacks for the big stage. I trust that the coaching staff will make sure he is comfortable on the field before asking too much of him against the Mountaineers.
Look for him to make simple plays in the early going as a way to settle in, and if you thought you saw a lot of screen passes last year, get prepared for even more this year. If the running back corps can step up and make some plays as well, that would be benefit Jackson too. If he can make some bigger plays later as the game goes along, either with his feet or with his arm, the Hokies have a great shot at starting the season 1-0.
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As the main returning wide receiver for a WR corps that is very young, Phillips needs to be the steady rock for the young guys. He was in the shadow of Ford and Hodges last year, and still managed to be one of the most efficient producers for the team.
With him now fully in the spotlight, I expect a breakout season. His targets should go up drastically, and he proved that when he’s in open space, he can be very elusive. With how much emphasis is put on quick passes for Fuente and his offense, I anticipate Phillips to be all over the stat sheet this season.
In this game, I expect the passing offense to go through Phillips. He could even take some jet sweeps as well -- but I expect that to be more for the speedy guys on the offense. I'm hoping that a full offseason with the strength and conditioning coach has given him the ability to shed even more tackles, because that will be important when catching the ball in the open field.
He’ll be out wide instead of in the slot position this year, which should give him more opportunities to be impactful for the offense. If the Hokies can be anywhere close to as productive as last season on the offensive side of the ball, he’ll break 100 yards easily against the Mountaineers.
Tim Settle/Ricky Walker
These two big boys up front are going to be key for the defense. If Virginia Tech can disrupt Will Grier early and often, it’ll bode well for the rest of the game. West Virginia has an offensive line that is full of inexperience — with the weight and quickness that these two players bring, it should be a good result for the Hokies. A 600+ pound anchor for Bud Foster will be influential this entire season, but especially in the first game where there might be jitters at other skill positions.
The defense will be there to help pick up any slack that the offense needs on Sunday night, and Walker and Settle will be the base of that. In the past, VT has had a defense that would make stop after stop but the offense wouldn't be able to put up points. This defense is no different, but the offense has the ability to score. If both of those things can stay the same throughout the season, Virginia Tech has a very good chance at being successful.
Look for at least 3 sacks combined between these two, while keeping in mind that the more that number goes up, the more likely Virginia Tech walks away from FedEx Field with a win.
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