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Three Things to Watch For Virginia Tech Against Pittsburgh

Malachi Thomas Kaden Moore 1 Fall Camp 2022 From VT

Virginia Tech is looking to find a way to break out of their current two-game losing streak, but their schedule offers no sight of a potential easy win anytime soon as the Hokies head north to take on Pittsburgh. Here's my three things to watch for Tech at Pitt.

1. Will Malachi Thomas Makes His 2022 Debut?

We've been waiting for the debut of Malachi Thomas for weeks now with growing momentum over the past couple of weeks that his return may be imminent. Reports from media members at the weekly open practice each of the past two weeks have also been positive in terms of how available Thomas has been in those availabilities.

Now it's one thing to be good to go for practice, but it's another thing to actually be available to put on the pads and compete in live action where the hits are coming in at full speed is a whole different level of being ready.

Part of this also comes back to the fact that Keshawn King has been very good for the Hokies. When you have someone like King available, you can be more patient than you normally would be on a return.

If Thomas doesn't play, then it may be time to discuss whether Thomas should redshirt and therefore miss the next 2 games against Miami and N.C. State to preserve it. Personally, this would be the hinge game for making a decision front and if I was Tech, I would think heavily about holding him out to redshirt and play in November regardless.

So will Malachi Thomas make his return today? The answer to that may open up some more questions or answer those future ones.

2. Can The Defense Bounce Back Against a Weaker Offense?

After a strong start to the season, Virginia Tech's defense has coming crashing down to earth over their past two games especially against North Carolina where Drake Maye picked them apart worse than what J.T. Daniels and West Virginia did previously.

The good news for Tech is that the only other QBs they'll face that are on or near that level so far this season are N.C. State's Devin Leary and Duke's Riley Leonard (though Tyler Van Dyke and Brennan Armstrong have good history but are struggling mightily this year).

That includes this week against a Pittsburgh offense that hasn't been but hasn't exactly been setting the world on fire either. Kedon Slovis has been solid but not spectacular while the Pitt offense looks more like what you expect from Pitt and not the 2021 renaissance they had. Additionally, the Panthers might be without lead RB Israel Abanikanda which would be a big boost for the Tech defense as Vincent Davis has been solid, but Abanikanda has been their best playmaker and Tech's rush defense has been their strength of their solid defense.

So can Tech's defense find their rhythm after a pair of tough games against very good QBs? This matchup gives reason for optimism on that side.

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3. Will Tech's Youth Movement Grow?

One of the few highlights from last week's game was the youth movement of sorts with a few true freshmen either making their debuts or getting more non-special teams opportunities highlighted by Dae'Quan Wright, Mansoor Delane, Bryce Duke, and Cam Johnson.

One guy who seems likely to play some regardless is Bryce Duke who burned his redshirt last week and has looked like Tech's second best RB so far this season behind Keshawn King not including Malachi Thomas. Tech would be wise to use him more especially if Thomas can't play this week.

Meanwhile, Tech seems poised to use Dae'Quan Wright and Mansoor Delane more after Wright made his debut and Delane received his first significant reps last week. No decision has been made on whether they will redshirt or not but their play last week opens the door for them to play the rest of the way in significant ways.

Tech needs weapons on offense and Wright showed some potential while Delane received strong reviews for his play last week. It wouldn't be surprising to see both have fairly large roles given Tech's search for offensive playmakers and the potential absence of Dorian Strong again at CB.

Of the 4, Cam Johnson seems the most likely to still redshirt given how his role came later on and that he wasn't included in the two-deep this week though Tech may throw him in there if the game gets ugly which opens a door for him to earn more playing time.

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