Virginia Tech opens their season on the road this Saturday at Chestnut Hill as they take on Boston College. These three matchups will be important to watch as the Hokies look to start their season with a victory.
Virginia Tech Defensive Line vs. AJ Dillon
The Hokies are going to have their work cut out for them on defense in this season opener. All-ACC running back AJ Dillon is “everything they’re writing about,” as Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster put it this week.
The main unit that will need to stop Dillon is Virginia Tech’s defensive line. They are a whole lot more experienced now as three of the four starters started at least 5 games last season. Even the one newcomer, JUCO transfer Dashawn Crawford, seems prepared to help the Hokies take a big step forward. Still, they have a lot to prove as a unit after a less than stellar 2018.
Virginia Tech gave up a total of 3,501 yards on the ground last season. That included a whopping 210.3 yards per game, as well as 5.5 yards per carry average for their opponents.
Even worse, the defense gave up 200 yards or more in six of their 13 games, including two games in which their opponents exceeded 460 yards. That’s a lot of room for improvement.
Despite these numbers, the Hokies seem confident that they are poised for a big turnaround in 2019. As senior defensive tackle Jarrod Hewitt said, the line is ready to open with a run-heavy offense and show their improvement.
“That’s kind of a like a gut check for us,” said Hewitt. “We weren’t too good in the run game last season, so what better opponent to start out than Boston College to see where we’re at.”
Boston College Cornerbacks vs. Virginia Tech Wide Receivers
Last season, the Eagles had one of the best secondaries in the country. They were tied for fifth in the nation with 18 interceptions as a team, and Hamp Cheevers was tied for the most interceptions by a single player with 7.
This year, however, looks a lot different for the Boston College defensive backs. Cheevers declared for the draft, and the Eagles saw both starting safeties make their way to the NFL in Lukas Denis and Will Harris. According to BC Interruption, the only returning player in the secondary who started at least half of Boston College’s games last year is Brandon Sebastian, who started seven.
On the other side of the ball, the Hokies return all three starting receivers in Tre Turner, Damon Hazelton, and Hezekiah Grimsley. They have another experienced backup on the outside with Phil Patterson, and freshman Tayvion Robinson has turned heads with his skill set in the slot.
Grimsley says the Hokies are not focused on taking advantage of the inexperience from the Eagles. Instead, they are confident against anyone they play.
“Whoever steps in front of us, they’re going to get the same amount of Tech football,” said Grimsley.
In any case, the Hokies’ experienced wide receivers will be a unit to watch in this game.
Anthony Brown vs. Jovonn Quillen/Jermaine Waller
While the Hokies may have an advantage in the passing game on offense, Anthony Brown and the Eagles will look to pick on whichever left cornerback starts for Virginia Tech.
On the depth chart, senior Jovonn Quillen and sophomore Jermaine Waller are listed as co-starters at that spot. While Fuente declined to name an official starter between the two, he said that both we see significant time in the game.
Quillen is obviously the older of the two, but he has only started in 2 games over his three year career. Waller appeared in 12 games last season but did not start in any. In short, whoever the Hokies put out there is not going to have a lot of starting experience.
As a redshirt junior, Anthony Brown certainly knows that. He will certainly be looking to that side of the field throughout the game.
Brown threw for 2121 yards and 20 TDs last season. While his 55.4% completion rate was nothing to write home about, he racked up an impressive 134.8 quarterback rating for the season.
As far as receivers for the Eagles, they return just one experienced wideout. Junior Kobay White caught 33 passes for 526 yards last season. Outside of him, receiver is a bit of a question mark for Boston College.
Brown is certainly skilled enough to target the inexperience in the Hokies’ secondary. The question is, will he have receivers that step up and make plays, or will Quillen and Waller be able to hold their own and limit his production? Only time will tell.
In summary, both Virginia Tech and Boston College have areas of expertise in this game. The Hokies’ wide receivers are more experienced than the Eagles’ defensive backs, but Tech has questions themselves at corner.
AJ Dillon is an All-ACC running back, and Virginia Tech has a lot to prove if they are going to stop him. They need to show that they have improved upon last year’s lackluster run defense.
All these factors could potentially lead to a high scoring game. Both teams have problems on defense, and both return some key starters on offense. Fans can watch just how it all plays out this Saturday.