2014 VT Preview: What You Need To Know
Virginia Tech CB Kendall Fuller
Preview 2014 - What You Need To Know About Virginia Tech (Getty Images)
2014 Virginia Tech Preview
What You Need To Know...
Virginia Tech Preview
2014 Depth Chart & Unit Rankings To Come This Summer
What You Need To Know About The Offense: Last year was a big one for then-rookie coordinator Scot Loeffler. This season is downright crucial for the coach and his assistants. The Hokies were again dreadful on offense, slumping to 22 points per game, the third straight year that their output dropped. Of greater concern is the reality that the quarterback situation is on the verge of going from bad to worse. While Virginia Tech is adding Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer to holdovers Mark Leal and Brenden Motley, there's little confidence any member of the trio can solve the program's passing game woes. The running game, which produced 3.2 yards per carry in 2013, isn't much better, though Trey Edmunds and Marshawn Williams bring powerful legs—and hope—to the backfield. And Loeffler is determined to run the ball better in 2014. The winner of the quarterback derby will have access to last season's top three pass-catchers, as well as TE Ryan Malleck, who's back from injury. All of the skill positions will be banking on the veteran front wall to leverage all of its experience and control the line of scrimmage for a change.
What You Need To Know About The Defense: The Hokies have lost a lot of talent from last year's fourth-ranked defense. But as long as Bud Foster remains the coordinator, there's a sense that things will be just fine on D. Foster is an institution in Blacksburg, with a track record of rolling out suffocating defenses that swarm all over the field. Even after losing most of the front seven to graduation, this season doesn't figure to stray from the script. The coach will build around linemen Luther Maddy and Dadi Nicolas, and a secondary that will again stand among the stingiest in the country. Cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson both earned All-ACC recognition as true freshmen, and will continue to improve this fall. If Tech is going to approach last year's results, it'll need certain linemen and linebackers to flourish in expanded roles. Former role players, such as DE Ken Ekanem, DT Corey Marshall, LB Chase Williams and Whip Ronny Vandyke, hold the key to this unit's 2014 ceiling.
Players You Need To Know
1. DT Luther Maddy, Sr.
Maddy is the latest in a long line of disruptive Tech tackles, who create chaos in opposing backfields. He is extremely sudden off the snap, shooting the gaps before blockers have a chance to square him up. Maddy is only 6-1 and 291 pounds, but he uses his leverage, as well as his quick hands and feet, to create mismatches with his man. The veteran of 29 career starts was named Third Team All-ACC a year ago, making 55 tackles and team-highs with 13.5 stops for minus yards and 6.5 sacks.
2. CB Kendall Fuller, Soph.
The 5-11, 195-pound Baltimore native immediately showed why he was one of the most coveted East Coast recruits, earning ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year and a spot on the all-league second team in 2013. A starter in all but one game, Fuller made 56 tackles, a team-high six picks and 17 passes defended. His versatility was crucial when the Hokies suffered injuries, starting seven games at corner and five as a nickel back. Beyond just his physical ability, Fuller's knowledge of the game and football IQ are at the level of fifth-year seniors.
3. CB Brandon Facyson, Soph.
The Hokies looked to be in a bind last fall when starting CB Antone Exum was injured in the preseason. But Facyson helped bail out the defensive backfield with an unexpectedly solid debut. He became the first true freshman corner of the Frank Beamer era to start an opener, setting the stage for a Third Team All-ACC first season. Facyson, whose 6-2, 191-pound frame will help neutralize the ACC's longer receivers, advertised his instincts and ball skills with five picks and 13 passes defended.
4. ROV Kyshoen Jarrett, Sr.
The ever-important rover position will once again be the domain of Jarrett, who has started 26 consecutive games in the secondary. One year after finishing second on the team with 83 tackles, he ended up third with 71 stops in 2013. Jarrett is a confident and multi-dimensional 5-11, 191-pounder, who roams around the defensive backfield with vicious intentions. His range from centerfield will cause wide receivers to short-arm throws in order to brace for impact.
5. DE Dadi Nicolas, Jr.
Now at the halfway point of his Hokie career, Nicolas is close to becoming a consistent threat off the edge. He's only 6-3 and 218 pounds, which is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, he works too hard and gets off the snap too fast for opposing tackles to neutralize. On the other, he can be a liability on straight-ahead running plays. Nicolas began to approach his potential in 2013 with 32 tackles, seven stops for loss, four sacks and 13 hurries. If he can add weight without sacrificing any get-off, he could be an All-ACC performer.
6. RB Trey Edmunds, Soph.
Edmunds showed enough flashes as a rookie, such as the 77-yard explosion in the Alabama opener, to be considered as the favorite to spearhead the running game in 2014. Despite being predictably erratic, he still wound up leading the team with 675 yards and 10 touchdowns on 166 carries before suffering a broken fibula in the regular-season finale with Virginia. Edmunds is loaded with physical upside, from a physical 6-1, 217-pound frame to the extra gear needed to pull away from defensive backs.
7. C David Wang, Sr.
When Wang is healthy, he's one of the better interior linemen in the ACC. Unfortunately, the Hokies have rarely gotten the 6-2, 298-pounder for an entire season. Last year was a welcome exception. A longtime guard, he started every game at center in 2013 to earn honorable mention all-league recognition. Wang is physical at the point of attack, yet he also possesses the quickness and athletic ability to support the running game at the second level.
8. FS Detrick Bonner, Sr.
Bonner will bring his brand of versatility and experience to the Hokie secondary for one final season. The veteran of 30 career starts has settled in at free safety after playing multiple positions in the early stages of his career. He's been especially durable over the past two seasons, participating in more than 800 snaps each year. The 6-0, 194-pound Bonner had 48 tackles, two picks and seven passes defended in 2013, while showing off his speed and coverage skills.
9. WR Demitri Knowles, Jr.
Now that Knowles has laid a foundation, it's time for him to build upon it with better routes and fewer dropped balls. In 2013, the flanker started six games, while finishing second on the team with 45 receptions for 641 yards and two touchdowns. Knowles is 6-1 and 178 pounds, with excellent speed and acceleration, so his measurables won't be an issue. He just needs to become the type of target quarterbacks can rely on during key moments in a game.
10. WR Willie Byrn, Sr.
Byrn emerged in 2013 as one of the unlikely offensive playmakers for the Hokies. After being virtually unused in his first three seasons, he bloomed into the team's top pass-catcher with 51 receptions for 635 yards and two touchdowns. The 5-10, 183-pounder isn't going to school defenders with his size or speed, but he's quick in the open field and he knows how to get open. Byrn, who's in a fight with Demitri Knowles for the flanker job, is a quarterback's best friend on third downs.
11. OT Jonathan McLaughlin, Soph.
McLaughlin enjoyed an auspicious debut in Blacksburg, becoming the first true freshman of the Frank Beamer era to start a game at left tackle. In fact, he started all 13 games in 2013, testament to the staff's confidence in his ability and his maturity. No doubt, there's room for growth and evolution as a pass protector. But the Hokies love the fire and the competitiveness of their 6-5, 314-pounder, especially now that he has 929 snaps of experience under his belt.
12. WR Joshua Stanford, Soph.
Yeah, Stanford needs to smooth out some of the wrinkles in his game, but the coaching staff really likes his current trajectory. While injuries kept him off the field as a true freshman in 2012, he was healthy enough last year to catch 40 balls for 640 yards and a touchdown. Once the split end's overall consistency matches his speed and explosive tendencies, he'll be one Tech's premier go-to weapons. The 6-1, 196-pound Stanford has good size to go along with the wiggle to pick up yards after the catch.
2014 Virginia Tech Preview