Inside The Lunch Pail Mailbag 10/9/19

Inside The Lunch Pail Mailbag 10/9/19
Tim Thomas

Tim Thomas | @TimThomasTLP

TLP: Editor
Oct 09, 2019

The mood and optimism of Hokie Nation has improved greatly after Virginia Tech surprised many and beat Miami 42-35 in a roller coaster game. That has led to this week's Inside The Lunch Pail mailbag focusing mostly on stuff that doesn't revolve around the head coach, offensive coordinator, or QB position. As a reminder, you can send us your questions by tweeting them to us or emailing us at

With that said, here is this week's edition of the Inside The Lunch Pail mailbag.

Anonymous Q: Why did we need negative national exposure for the coaches to play Hooker?

I don't agree with the notion that the quarterback change was because of negative national exposure. Even if the Hokies have seem overly hesitant to make a QB change previously, Justin Fuente has made a bold change before when he made a young Paxton Lynch the starter over a popular senior QB who was loved by fans and the Memphis community as a whole.

Here's the thing, it was becoming a situation where Ryan Willis was struggling so much that almost any change was worth it even to just try to get Willis to calm down and refocus. Of course, that opened the door for Hendon Hooker and as we saw, Hooker took hold of the starting job with a solid debut performance.

Going forward, Hooker seems to have a fairly strong grasp on the job, but I don't think Justin Fuente will be afraid to make a change if Hooker starts to have struggles similar to Ryan Willis given the increased pressure. The greater willingness to make changes may be the one way where the heightened negative exposure and pressure could manifest itself.

While some may believe that the negative national exposure from ESPN to Yahoo may have caused the QB change, Willis' struggles on their own made it hard for Fuente to not make a change and try something else to fix an offense that not only had regressed from last year, but also was regressing week to week.

Well first, it's about time that the Hokies take advantage of having the most talented group of tight ends in the ACC.

The fact that Virginia Tech hadn't used Dalton Keene and James Mitchell much at all was coaching malpractice. The excuse that they wanted to use wide receivers when they were behind never really held up as their passing game looked as effective as it has all season with the tight ends having a major role.

I do think that Hendon Hooker's mobility had an effect on creating opportunities for the tight ends but not in a big way. One small way is on the early rollout play where Dalton Keene's route took him into the space on the other side of the field. Put Ryan Willis in position to run that play and Miami could have easily left a defender behind given the lesser running threat Willis is.

However, the bigger reason is simply the fact that Virginia Tech actually tried to use their strong tight end room to their advantage. VT used Keene as a checkdown and gave him space to operate the open field and take good angles to make it hard for the defense to take him down, something he has done quite well. Meanwhile, Mitchell was used as the Dallas Clark-like slot receiving tight end that he fits the mold of well as shown on his long 60+ yard reception with a well-run route being important to the success of the play.

If the Hokies are going to have their offense come alive, they are going to continue to need to use their tight ends whether it's Keene as a checkdown or Mitchell as a slot guy who has a impressive route tree for a tight end.

There's a few things here but the first thing is this, Dax Hollifield isn't going to the transfer portal. Whether he holds on to a starting backer job or not, Hollifield is going to play a lot over the next few years and is poised to be the starting mike linebacker, his ideal position, in 2021 after Rayshard Ashby's graduation.

Now on the main part of it, I think you'll see Hollifield and Alan Tisdale rotating in and out a lot with Hollifield even sliding to mike at times to give Rayshard Ashby more rest. Part of this could come down to the opponent as well as Tisdale's greater athleticism will fit well against more open spread attacks while Hollifield could see the lionshare of playing time against pro-style offenses.

Long term, Tisdale's development is something to monitor as he is more built for the backer spot whereas Hollifield has put in work to try to adapt to the position but isn't natural at that spot. That's where Tisdale could continue to push throughout the season for more playing time and claim the job by the end of it similar to how Hollifield took it from Dylan Rivers last season.

Overall, if you're Justin Fuente, you have to be happy with the linebacking corps that is not only helping this year's defense improve from last year, but also will be a strong, foundational piece for a future defensive coordinator.