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Will Locklin's Virginia Tech Football Midseason Takeaways

Defensive Huddle 2 VT ODU HT
Will Locklin | @locklin_will
Writer/Basketball Analyst

There was much excitement and anticipation going into the 2022 Virginia Tech football season. Sure, most of the fan base knew the end result would be the same. No coach can overhaul a roster in year one of their tenure. However, Brent Pry inspired hope with his charisma and connection to the traditions and pride of Hokie nation. It seemed like he understood what it took to rebuild the program back on its feet and have then competition for ACC championships again.

Five games into the 2022 season and that sentiment very well could end up becoming true in the coming years. What is for certain is that the process will take time and the scope is way bigger than what most fans realized. Meanwhile in the here and now, Virginia Tech has faltered the last two weeks and stumbled their way to a 2-3 start. The offense has looked anemic in a few ways while the defense has been taken down to earth the last two weeks. Zooming in closer, let’s diagnose some overarching takeaways on both sides of the ball for this Hokies football team.

Plentiful Penalty Issues

While this past Saturday's contest against the Tar Heels saw the Hokies only muster up three penalties for 22 yards. Penalty yardage still cost Virginia Tech in their other two losses. Virginia Tech has allowed themselves to rack up 43 total flags on the season which comes out to 345 total yards. That number is the worst in the ACC and so is their average of 69 penalty yards per game.

A week one road performance against Old Dominion of 15 penalties covering over the length of the entire football field is one thing. But to allow 15 penalties for 132 total yards at home in a rivalry game is a symptom of something greater. As it stands, Virginia Tech football is undisciplined and it shows in the flag numbers.

It’s hard to pinpoint if flags are on the players altogether or a result of poor coaching. However, it’s clear this version of Virginia Tech football isn’t well versed enough on the playbook and snap counts to play clean football consistently. Miscommunication is what it boils down to which should ultimately fall to the coaches ability to adequately prepare the players for their role come game time.

Changes are clearly trying to be made with a 40-yard sprint per penalty yard policy being implemented so we'll see if that helps Tech resolve their penalty issues with the UNC game at least being a sign of hope for improvement in this regard.

Offense needs a shot in the arm:

Through five games, the Virginia Tech offense has been absolutely abysmal with little signs of improvement. The total offense lags behind at 12th in the ACC in points at 18.2 per game. They rank 12th in total yardage as well as 13th in both rushing and passing yards. There’s no juice or rhythm to this scheme Tyler Bowen has implemented. Certainly starting QB Grant Wells has been more part of the problem than the solution.

However, he can’t be solely faulted for the lack of talent in front of him on the offensive line and the lack of depth at the skill positions. It’s a combination of lackluster talent compared to their competition that has gone along with poor coaching from top to bottom that’s led to Tech’s offensive kerfuffle.

It was clear Virginia Tech’s offense was never going to be the strength of this team. Too many position groups were lacking in talent when Pry took over to make an overnight change.

But progress was expected from a play calling perspective when Tyler Bowen was brought in to replace Brand Cornelson. Wells was supposed to be a far improved version of Braxton Burmeister. You could definitely argue both have been upgrades respectively but the gap isn’t as big as we’d expected given the team’s offensive output.

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Defense has come back to earth:

After Virginia Tech bounced back from their opening loss to ODU against Boston College and Wofford, there was hope in the Hokies for one main reason. The defense was playing its tails off and ranked highly in the hierarchy of the ACC and nationally. Tech boasted the league's top scoring defense and by yards allowed through week three.

However, in the last two games, Tech has faced the high powered offenses of West Virginia and UNC, and the results versus both weren’t promising.

VT gave up 33 points and 421 total yards to the Mountaineers. The following weekend, the Hokies gave up 41 points and 527 total yards to the Tar Heels. This knocked their ACC YPG (yards per game) average down to 310 which still ranks third in the ACC. But the scoring defense has gone down to 22.2 which ranks seventh.

The lunch pail defense has wilted to great QB play in the last two games. First, it was JT Daniels who cooked the Hokies for 206 yards and a touchdown. Then, redshirt freshman Drake Maye continued his impressive early collegiate career by breaking the record for most total yards (436) against the Hokies by a freshman in school history.

Staff didn’t bring in the right pieces:

Over the summer long recruiting and transfer portal process, the coaching staff brought in plenty of new transfers to attempt to overhaul the roster. The Wells experiment hasn’t gone to plan so it’s fair to label him as a disappointment thus far. Fellow signal caller Jason Brown is unknown but may see real time soon if the offense doesn’t improve soon.

Jaden Blue has made an impact but not enough to garner real traction and to make a difference on the team’s output. The same can be said about Stephen Gosnell who has yet to make more than a minor imprint on the wide receiver room.

More patience is certainly required for this coaching staff. They need a few cycles to overhaul the roster and bring in the right players to cover each position group. However, the immediate returns aren’t what Hokies fans had hoped for which has caused a bit of restlessness.

Signs and flashes of a brighter future is all the Virginia Tech faithful can ask for in Pry’s early days as head coach. But those positive signs have been a lot more few and far between than most expected coming into the season.

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