2011 will mark a season of change for Virginia Tech football.
Adding a new quarterback, new defensive line, and new feature tailback all points to a severe learning curve, and everyone that I have talked to about next year seems extraordinarily nervous.
Yet, not many seniors left last year. Why should everyone be so nervous?
Well, while the core of the senior class was small, their on-and-off the field impact was bigger than anyone could ever imagine.
In 2010, after an 0-2 start, the seniors stood in front of their teammates and demanded that the season not fall any further. It was the seniors who led comeback wins against ECU, N.C. State and Georgia Tech and who played their hearts out in the Orange Bowl loss.
Ah, but fear not readers, there is no reason to panic and I'm here to tell you why.
This 6'6" 243 lb (according to www.hokiesports.com) monster is in line to become VTs new starting QB with huge shoes to fill as Tyrod Taylor leaves Virginia Tech atop all but one quarterback record.
And, for those of you who haven't seen Thomas throw the ball in some of the blowout wins, this might be a little scary for you.
Thomas is a little bit different from the quarterback we've gotten used to over the past four years.
He can actually stand in the pocket and hit a receiver in stride on a streak or a crossing route. And while it seems that we've had bad luck with strictly passing QBs (Sean Glennon and Grant Noel...ewwwww), there's no need to worry...because he's not.
He was a tight end in high school and has been clocked at a 4.4 40, but fast as he is, he isn't as quick as Tyrod is. And don't expect him to be pulling off anything you saw during the ACC championship or the first half of the Orange Bowl. So, with a rocket arm and 4.4 speed, I'd say that's a pretty good combination, wouldn't you?
Ahhh, David Wilson.
When he started playing during the 2009 season, we could all see that big things were to come. After he adjusted to the speed of the games, he could cut and run like the best.
Things got even better this year, after Ryan Williams got hurt, that he split carries with Darren Evans.
This was his chance to shine...and boy did he. I don't think I'm alone in saying that he was one of the most exciting players that I've seen in a while at VT.
Even after Williams returned, he continued to show his versatility at running back, wide receiver and kick returner. With the departure of Evans and Williams, No. 4 has the chance to shine brighter than he could have possibly dreamed of.
After what I've seen this year, it looks like he's ready to take the reigns and lead this offense on the ground. He finished with a net 619 yards rushing (5.5 yards-per-carry) with five touchdowns and a long of 68. He also had 234 receiving yards with four touchdowns and two kickoff returns for touchdowns.
Kyle Fuller is the younger brother of former Hokie and current Tennessee Titan Vinny Fuller.
He's going to play a huge role on next year's team as he replaces Roc Carmichael at field corner in the Hokie's 4-3 defense.
He picked up some valuable playing time when Carmichael was hurt at the end of the regular season. He ended with 32 total tackles, four tackles for loss and six pass breakups in 14 games; starting six.
He had a monster game against UVa with two tackles for loss and two pass breakups. With improved tackling and a little bit more bulk, he could be the perfect compliment to Jayron Hosely at the field corner spot.
Davon Morgan departs the rover spot, and the competition is open between the highly touted recruit from last year, Nick Dew, and the favorite to win the spot, Exum.
Exum played in all 14 games this season and started as the nickleback in five of those games. He seemed to struggle a little against Boise State but played increasingly well as the season progressed and was a huge reason why the Hokies came from 17 points behind to down N.C. State.
If he plays like he did down the stretch, then I think the rebuilt secondary will be great. He ended with 45 total tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, nine pass breakups and a forced fumble. He's poised to have a breakout sophomore year as the starting rover.
J.R. Collins will the top candidate to replace Steven Friday at the defensive end position opposite Chris Drager.
From what I've seen in his reserve action, he's got some great moves and a high motor. He kind of reminds me of a Chris Ellis kind of player...except not as...erm, well, not as rough. Other than that, this kid has a real chance of being the next big defensive end out of Virginia Tech.
If he can play the full 14 games, I don't see why our defensive line won't be a huge upgrade from what it was in 2010. He finished with 25 total tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, with a sack and fumble recovery.
With the talent Virginia Tech has coming back, including newcomers, and the fairly light schedule, I do not see why they should not end the season at a 12-2 mark, accounting for one conference loss and a loss in the bowl game.
The toughest non-conference game on the schedule (at least right now) is ECU, with the others coming from Arkansas State, Marshall and Appalachian State. Barring any breakdown at the beginning of the season, there shouldn't be any reason why the Hokies don't go undefeated in non-conference play. So, Hokie fans, there's no need to worry....yet.