Virginia Tech Football: The State of the Program After 2013 Season
When you win at least 10 games per year for eight seasons in a row, success is measured differently. That's why folks around Blacksburg, Va., have become frustrated with the Virginia Tech Hokies.
Last season's 7-6 debacle of a campaign was viewed as an aberration by most. Changes on the offensive coaching staff would fix things, and the Hokies would be right back in the Top 10.
Not so fast.
Tech finished 2013 with an 8-4 record, but it was who the Hokies lost to that bothered fans the most. The Hokies lost conference home games to Duke and Maryland. No, folks, this isn't basketball. Yes, Duke was a great story this season, but Virginia Tech should never lose to Duke in football—especially in Lane Stadium.
So, on the surface, 8-4 is a good record. Some schools would be happy playing UCLA in the Sun Bowl. Not Virginia Tech, nor should it be.
Here is a look at the state of the Virginia Tech program as we near the end of the 2013 season.
A look at the current Virginia Tech depth chart indicates the Hokies will have eight starters on offense return in 2014. This is great news, right? Well, considering the Hokies finished No. 98 in total offense, many would be fine with a complete overhaul. That's just not how things go in college football.
Quarterback Logan Thomas will depart and leave with many of the school's offensive records. The Hokies may struggle to replace Thomas early next year, but it should force the offense to become more balanced. If Tech got into trouble on offense, it would force Thomas to carry the ball 15-20 times per game. That philosophy needs to, and presumably will, change.
Receivers Demitri Knowles, Willie Byrn and Joshua Stanford should be a solid group for whoever plays quarterback next season. Three members of this season's starting offensive line return, too.
Virginia Tech finished this season No. 4 overall in total defense. The bad news for the Hokies is that they will lose seven starters. However, two of those starters, cornerbacks Antone Exum and Kyle Fuller, missed large portions of this season, and the Hokies found young, capable replacements in Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller.
Chase Williams should step in for Jack Tyler at middle linebacker next season. Ronny Vandyke will return to play whip linebacker, and this year's team had outstanding depth on the defensive line. Defensive tackle Luther Maddy should return for his senior season and could potentially be an All-American in 2014.
Safety Kyshoen Jarrett is one of the better safeties in the country but doesn't get a lot of publicity because of how good the cornerbacks are. He will be a senior in 2014.
The Hokies hit a rough patch in their recruiting this summer when the nation's No. 4 prospect, according to 247sports (subscription required), Da'Shawn Hand, thought to be a Virginia Tech lean, eliminated the Hokies from his recruitment. Also, in a span of two weeks, quarterbacks David Cornwell and Jacob Park chose other schools.
The Hokies rebounded nicely, picking up a verbal commitment from Pennsylvania QB Andrew Ford and several other talented prospects. VT still has a few spots open for players they'd love to add to next season's class.
Defensive Tackle Derrick Nnadi
VT missed out on Hand, Jalyn Holmes and Andrew Brown, all top defensive line prospects in the state of Virginia, but secured a verbal from Ricky Walker. Next, the Hokies must sign Nnadi. He is an outstanding defensive tackle prospect and a good pass-rusher on the interior. He is the Hokies' top remaining target.
Running Back Shai McKenzie
The running back from Western Pennsylvania tore his ACL early in the season and missed the majority of his senior year. That didn't keep several schools from putting the full-court press on him. Pitt and Florida State appear to be the Hokies' primary competitors for McKenzie.
For whatever it's worth, he said the Hokies were on top of his list earlier in the season. McKenzie would be an excellent addition to a position the Hokies are wanting to restock.
Wide Receiver Javon Harrison
Harrison has already given Virginia Tech a verbal commitment, but other schools, such as Florida, have continued to recruit Harrison after a good senior season. Harrison is viewed as a good prospect who will continue to improve each year. The Hokies need to close the deal on Harrison in February.
Stars of the Future
Wide Receiver Joshua Stanford
If you don't believe in Stanford, look at the play above. In this play, he not only shows his hands but displays breakaway speed, the ability to break tackles and excellent run-after-catch ability. The season started slowly for Stanford, but he got more time as the season progressed. He is a future star.
Offensive Tackle Jonathan McLaughlin
McLaughlin started his first career game against Alabama, protecting the blind side of his senior quarterback. He acquitted himself quite nicely. McLaughlin had some moments this season he'd like to forget, but the experience he gained was invaluable. He is extremely athletic but needs to improve in run blocking. He could be a four-year starter for the Hokies on the left side.
Cornerbacks Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller
Kendall Fuller's big season was expected. The fourth and final Fuller brother was one of the nation's top prospects, and he delivered on that promise immediately. Fuller intercepted six passes and displayed a tremendous knowledge of the defense for a player so young. His presence helped ease the loss of his older brother, Kyle, and Antone Exum to injuries.
Facyson, the 6'2", 185-pound corner from Georgia, impressed coaches last spring. That experience helped earn him playing time early in the season, and he never looked back. Facyson finished second on the team with five interceptions, and with his size and the coaching he gets from Torrian Gray, he will be a future star along with Fuller.
Expect the Hokies to be quiet on the coaching front this season. Head coach Frank Beamer has always been hesitant to make changes but did so last season amid fan backlash over former long-time offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring.
Stinespring wasn't fired; he was just reassigned to tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator.
The three new coaches last season, offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, offensive line coach Jeff Grimes and receivers coach Aaron Moorehead, will have a full offseason with the team and should improve in 2014.
On defense, there is always the threat that someone will swoop in and steal Bud Foster from the Hokies. The long-time defensive coordinator has always resisted overtures from other schools, and Beamer hopes that will continue to be the case. Can you imagine the Hokies without Foster? It wouldn't be good.
Keep an eye on secondary coach Torrian Gray. The former Hokies safety was a finalist for the Broyles Award, given annually to the nation's top assistant coach. Position coaches are rarely finalists for the award, so it is big praise for Gray. Expect other schools to start noticing Gray's stellar work soon.
Look no further than all of the Virginia Tech defensive backs who have played in the NFL over the last decade.
Virginia Tech fans won't have Thomas to kick around any more next year. So who will play quarterback next year? Rising senior Mark Leal will get the first crack at the job in spring practice. Rising sophomore Brenden Motley, redshirt freshman Bucky Hodges and true freshman Andrew Ford, who is expected to enroll in January, will all compete for the job.
The offensive line should be improved with an influx of new talent into the program and full offseason with Grimes coaching the group.
Trey Edmunds, J.C. Coleman, Chris Mangus and Joel Caleb all return at running back. Having Coleman healthy for an entire season will help. Edmunds should be fully recovered by the summer, and the Hokies should find a way to get Caleb involved more in the offense.
Expect the defense to take a step back losing players such as James Gayle, Derrick Hopkins, Jack Tyler, Exum and Kyle Fuller. With that being said, several outstanding players return. Defense is never a problem in Blacksburg and will not be in 2014.
One area where the Hokies must improve is at kicker. Beamer has generally always had a reliable kicker—until this year. Expect that to be a priority for the Hokies on the recruiting trail.