2014 CFN Preview - Virginia Tech Hokies
Virginia Tech S Kyshoen Jarrett
Virginia Tech S Kyshoen Jarrett
Posted Jun 22, 2014

CollegeFootballNews.com Preview 2014 - Virginia Tech hit a lull, but is this when everything turns back around? (Getty Images)

Virginia Tech Hokies

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2014 Depth Chart & Unit Rankings To Come This Summer/span>

By Rich Cirminiello

Head coach: Frank Beamer
27th year: 224-109-2
Returning Lettermen
Off. 20, Def. 23, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 21
Ten Best VT Players
1. DT Luther Maddy, Sr.
2. CB Kendall Fuller, Soph.
3. CB Brandon Facyson, Soph.
4. ROV Kyshoen Jarrett, Sr.
5. DE Dadi Nicolas, Jr.
6. RB Trey Edmunds, Soph.
7. C David Wang, Sr.
8. FS Detrick Bonner, Sr.
9. WR Demitri Knowles, Jr.
10. WR Willie Byrn, Sr.
2014 Schedule

Aug. 30 William Á Mary
Sep. 6 at Ohio State
Sep. 13 East Carolina
Sep. 20 Georgia Tech
Sep. 27 Western Michigan
Oct. 4 at North Carolina
Oct. 16 at PItt
Oct. 23 Miami
Nov. 1 Boston College
Nov. 15 at Duke
Nov. 22 at Wake Forest
Nov. 28 Virginia

Now that Frank Beamer has fallen, can the Hokies help him get back up?

The school that won at least ten games during an eight-year period from 2004-11 is 13-11 against FBS teams the last two seasons. Tech went 8-5 a year ago, looking in the second-half like a program whose best days just might be in the rear view mirror. Plus, the gap with Florida State and Clemson has widened dramatically, and most of the Coastal Division has caught up as well, creating justifiable uneasiness around Blacksburg.

The Hokies continue to endure a familiar and frustrating dichotomy—the defense is championship-caliber, yet the offense is painfully inept. Even with a senior, Logan Thomas, at the controls in 2013, Virginia Tech still scored less than 20 points in seven games. For starters, Tech can't average 119 rushing yards a game, as it did a year ago. The production of Frank Beamer's running game has slipped in each of the last four seasons, a trend that needs to be halted and reversed in 2014. And then there's the quarterback quandary.

Yeah, Thomas was wildly inconsistent, but he had experience and the ability to bully opponents on the ground. No such player exists on the current roster. Senior Mark Leal is the veteran, but if he was an answer, the staff would have tried him during one of Thomas' many erratic stretches. Sophomore Brenden Motley's upside is tempered by his inexperience. Maybe Texas Tech transfer Michael Brewer can shake things up when he arrives in the summer.

Venerable defensive coordinator Bud Foster is facing a few more holes than usual, but he always finds a way to have his kids ready to go. While Blacksburg will be home to one of the country's best defensive backfields, led by precocious corners Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson, the front seven is a work-in-progress. Three starting linemen and two starting linebackers have graduated, leaving DT Luther Maddy to serve as the foundation on which the rest of the front seven will be built. While Tech won't be as stingy as it was in 2013, it'll still house one of the best defenses in the ACC.

Virginia Tech is swimming in unfamiliar waters. Back-to-back disappointing seasons. A trophy case that's beginning to collect a thin layer of dust. Beamer needs to deliver the kind of season that quiets the chatter that he's lost the magic, because the Hokies are in danger of drifting deeper into the Coastal Division pack.

What to watch for on offense: Rookie Marshawn Williams. The true freshman from Hampton, Va. has further muddled an already congested backfield in Blacksburg. He participated in spring drills, and immediately impressed his new teammates with his toughness and power between the tackles. In all likelihood, Trey Edmunds starts and J.C. Coleman is first off the bench. But the points-deprived Hokies are putting out APBs for quality options out of the backfield. And if the 220-pound Williams continues to warrant touches, it's going to be tough for the staff to keep him on the sideline.

What to watch for on defense: Nicked Vandyke. Junior ‘Whip' Ronny Vandyke is still recovering from shoulder surgery related to a torn labrum that cost him all of 2013. The Hokies need him to finally become the breakout star that the team has been waiting for since he arrived. The linebacker corps was decimated by graduation, leaving first-time starter Chase Williams as the closest thing to a sure-thing in the middle. It's why the staff is cautiously optimistic that Vandyke can remain healthy to advertise his explosiveness and ability to drop into coverage.

This team will be far better if … the ground game absorbs heat from the new quarterback. Virginia Tech is not designed to succeed in a year that it averages 119 yards rushing a game and 3.2 yards per carry. The offense just doesn't get enough support from the quarterbacks to survive without a potent running game. When the Hokies were competing for ACC hardware, the backs set the tone for the entire offense. It's absolutely no coincidence that Tech has struggled to pound the ball during these past two uncharacteristically difficult years for the entire program.

The Schedule: After starting out against William & Mary, it's rough sledding for a while going to Ohio State, dealing with a strong East Carolina, and kicking off ACC play against Georgia Tech. Fortunately, four of the first five games are at home, but then come the nasty battles at North Carolina and Pitt to start out October. There's a week off between the two games, and for good and bad, there are two straight Thursday night games facing the Panthers before hosting Miami. Back-to-back road games at Duke and Wake Forest might not be that awful, but there are only six days between the Demon Deacons and finishing up the regular season against Virginia.

Best Offensive Player: Sophomore RB Trey Edmunds. The Hokies desperately need to run the ball better this season. And Edmunds is being counted on to address some of that desperation in 2014. He has 1,000-yard potential at a school with no obvious playmakers on offense. Edmunds has the size of a feature back to go along with the quickness to ignite one of the ACC's worst attacks. The sophomore missed the spring as he recovered from last November's broken fibula, but he'll be ready for contact in the summer.

Best Defensive Player: Senior DT Luther Maddy. The Hokies have lost a ton of D-line talent to graduations. Now more than ever, the defense will need Maddy to spearhead a unit needing to replace the production of tackle Derrick Hopkins and ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins. Maddy is an interior lineman, who plays with the speed and the mentality of an edge rusher. Big enough to stuff the run and quick enough to pressure the pocket, he's set to receive the attention and the accolades that have largely eluded him the past two seasons.

Key players to a successful season: The offensive linemen. The Hokies lack scary offensive talent, especially behind center. And that won't change between now and the opener. But everyone, from the new quarterback to a receiving corps with potential, will be more effective if the line plays up to its experience level this season. Tech struggled at the point of attack in 2013, yielding 33 sacks, which blocking for one of the ACC's worst running games. However, with five seniors jockeying for jobs, there's hope that this could be the Hokies' most assertive and mistake-free line in years.

The season will be a success if ... the Hokies win the Coastal Division. This is still Virginia Tech, so why should the bar be set any lower? Even with the offensive struggles and the rebuilding that needs to be done on the front seven, the Hokies have as good a chance as anyone in the division to appear in the ACC title game. Miami still has a long way to go, and no disrespect to Duke, but the Blue Devils are the defending Coastal champ. In other words, it ain't the Atlantic Division.

Key game: Oct. 23 vs. Miami. The Hokies will get two highly visible opportunities to make statements this season. The first, at Ohio State on Sept. 6, isn't likely to end well. This visit from the Hurricanes, though, on a Thursday night could catapult Tech into November, when the tightly-packed Coastal Division will be sorted out. The Hokies are always tough at night at Lane Stadium, and by this point of the season they ought to have a better handle on who's leading the offensive backfield.

2013 Fun Stats:
- Yards per rush: Virginia Tech 3.2 – Opponents 3.2
- Third Down Conversions: Virginia Tech 32% – Opponents 30%
- Sacks: Virginia Tech 39 - Opponents 33

- 2014 Virginia Tech Preview - What You Need To Know & Top Players