The 2021 college football season is here which means it's time for our bold predictions for Virginia Tech entering the sixth year of the Justin Fuente era.
Tim Thomas (Part 1): Hokies Will Have Multiple All-ACC First Teamers
Whether Virginia Tech ends up being a contender in the ACC Coastal remains to actually be seen, but the Hokies have some star talent that will shine regardless of the record with multiple Hokies earning All-ACC First Team honors this year.
James Mitchell is the clear first pick as the best tight end in the conference who will be featured aplenty and put up some big numbers establishing himself not only as one of the best tight ends in the country but also as a first two day NFL Draft prospect.
However, Mitchell won't be alone as the Hokies will have at least one other All-ACC First Teamer with multiple strong candidates.
Amare Barno tops the list after having a breakout season with 16.5 tackles for loss including 6 sacks. Get ready for Barno to once again contribute at a high level and potentially break the 20 tackles for loss this season including a double-digit sack season.
While Barno may receive some increased attention, Tech also has its strongest defensive line in a couple seasons which will help balance that out especially with Clemson DT transfer Jordan Williams who I think could have a huge year now that he has a chance to be a focal defensive player.
Meanwhile, a healthy Jermaine Waller is one of the best cornerbacks in the conference and is absolutely a top contender to earn one of the All-ACC First Team cornerback spots.
Offensively, Lecitus Smith may not be the biggest name on the offensive line, but he's one of the most underrated offensive guards in the country, and don't be surprised if he has a big season that gets him rewarded for his play both with All-ACC First Team honors and a boosted NFL Draft stock.
Andy Loce: Virginia Tech Will Be in a Tight Battle for the ACC Coastal Crown
In years’ past, there have been some disappointing seasons for Virginia Tech as they always seem a step or two away from returning to a shot of glory in the ACC. Looking back at 2019, the Hokies were in a position to return to the ACC Championship in Charlotte and a clear shot at a New Year’s Six game, but a tough loss to Virginia took them out of the ACC Championship before a loss to Kentucky brought a distasteful conclusion to the year.
Flash forward to 2021, and the scene in Blacksburg does not look too solid at the time being. Rumors have been swirling around stating that Justin Fuente is on the hot seat with the Hokies, and it’s a make or break campaign for his future in Blacksburg. It’s noted that if Fuente, who is heading into his sixth season at the helm, does not bring the Hokies to successful placement in the ACC, he could be shown the door.
With that being said, it’s not all bad news for the Hokies for their chances in the ACC. The season-opening matchup against North Carolina will be able to capture the narrative of what the Hokies can truly accomplish in 2021.
If the Hokies are able to prevail, they will most likely be able to say they took down their toughest ACC opponent in the first game of the season. The schedule will give the Hokies some bumps along the way; including big road games against Boston College on Nov. 5 and Miami on Nov. 20, but outside of those contests, the Hokies will be the favorable side against the opposition.
If Virginia Tech is able to go 2-1 in those big ACC matchups and adapt to the grueling five-game stretch to end the season, I truly believe that the Hokies will have a great shot at returning to Charlotte for the ACC Championship in 2021.
Tim Thomas (Part 2): Tayvion Robinson is an All-ACC All-Purpose Player
After showing lots of promise as a freshman as a returner, Tayvion Robinson's success was limited to offense in 2020 as he struggled significantly on punt return with Tech churning guys in and out.
During fall camp, Justin Fuente and others have been encouraged by what they've seen from Robinson to bounce back and I'm buying that Robinson can find that form again and become an All-ACC All-Purpose Player on the first three teams.
There's no doubt that Robinson is a playmaker at receive who could be an All-ACC guy there this season after leading the Hokies with 38 receptions for 592 yards last season. However, he showed in 2019 that he can be one of the best punt returners in the country with 185 yards on only 13 punt returns, an impressive average well into the double digits that even earned him Pro Football Focus All-American honors as a punt returner.
Last year was undoubtedly tough for Robinson as a punt returner but he's shown the potential to be a dynamic punt returner. I believe that potential becomes reality in 2021 with Robinson breaking out as a top punt returner nationally while continuing to be an offensive playmaker on his way to earning All-ACC honors as an all-purpose player.