The 2017 campaign has been anything but smooth sailing for Tech baseball, and the Jackets will wrap it up by hosting No. 8 Virginia in their final weekend series, a Thursday-to-Saturday series ahead of next week’s ACC Tournament. Virginia has gone 39-12 this season thanks to one of the most productive and disciplined lineups in the country. Led by outfielders Adam Haseley and Cameron Simmons, the Cavaliers lead the ACC in on-base percentage and are second in runs scored, and they are the only team in the conference to record more walks than strikeouts at the plate this season. The Jackets should be able to put up runs against a decent Virginia pitching staff, but the series will ultimately hinge on whether Tech’s own staff can avoid issuing walks and keep Virginia’s bats in check.
The expanded ACC Tournament format ensures that 12 of the league’s 14 teams will qualify, up from the 10-team format used for the past three seasons. Tech is currently tied for 10th with a 10-17 conference record, with Virginia Tech trailing at 9-18 and Boston College and Pitt in the cellar at 8-19. The Jackets would clinch a tournament berth with two wins against Virginia, but as long as they win at least one game this weekend, they should be safe.
One of the biggest gambles of the 2016 NFL Draft was the Denver Broncos’ selection of Adam Gotsis with the final pick of the second round. It wasn’t unreasonable to call it a reach at the time; while the Australia native was a tremendously productive lineman at Tech, he was still a somewhat undersized lineman who was just six months removed from a torn ACL. Gotsis provided immediate returns, though, as he worked his way into the rotation as a rookie and played in all 16 games as a reserve defensive end in Denver’s 3-4 front. His impact was a bit limited, but given that he was a rookie who was playing with a brace on his still-recovering knee, immediate stardom would have been a bit much to ask.
As he enters year two, Gotsis has worked on adding muscle and has shed the knee brace. His teammates have taken notice of his recent efforts, christening him with a new nickname in hopes that he can match the impact of starting defensive end Derek Wolfe in the years ahead. Gotsis has plenty of work to do to become a star in Denver, but his senior year at Tech—particularly the Florida State game—showcased just how disruptive he can be when he plays to his potential.
When the New Orleans Saints first brought Justin Thomas in for a tryout, they had yet to decide whether they wanted the former Tech QB at cornerback or wide receiver. They’ve chosen the latter, so Thomas will remain on the offensive side of the ball as he begins his pro career and attempts to crack the Saints’ Week 1 roster. He has a long road ahead, to say the least. Thomas is one of several undrafted rookie receivers that the team signed—to say nothing of the veteran receivers who were already on the roster—and unlike the others, Thomas will have to learn route running, blocking, and every other facet of playing wide receiver while also learning the details of the Saints’ offense.
A few things are working in his favor, though. First, he proved a quick learner in the Tech offense, and his high football IQ (to borrow an overused scouting term) will be a huge boon here. Second, the Saints are looking to replace Brandin Cooks, a small but fast receiver who was especially dangerous out of the slot—a role that Thomas might be able to fill if he develops nicely. Finally, Ken Sugiura notes in the linked article that Thomas will wear #88. He wouldn’t be the first Tech product named Thomas to wear #88 as an NFL receiver, and... well, the last guy to do it went on to have a nice little career.