Virginia Tech made some news earlier this week when longtime Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster announced that he would be stepping down at the end of the season.
Having long been a thorn in the side of the Yellow Jackets, it’ll be interesting to see what kinds of tricks Foster has up his sleeve for his final season. But we’ll get there later!
Justin Fuente, who is more well-known for his offenses, has had a bit of a tough time getting the offense going in his first three seasons in Blacksburg. It hasn’t really been that the offense has been bad; really, it’s just been fine.
Coming into this season, it’s very much a make-or-break season for Fuente’s offense. The offense loses leading rusher Steven Peoples and a couple of offensive linemen, but is setting up to be actually kind of decent this year.
Now a senior, quarterback Ryan Willis is the leader on offense. He played pretty well last season, connecting on just over 58 percent of his passes. He finished with 2,700 yards, 24 touchdowns and only nine interceptions. Willis can also be a solid threat on the ground. He was second in rushing touchdowns for the Hokies last season with four.
Willis will get some good help at receiver with junior Damon Hazelton returning as the primary target. Joining Eric Kumah, the Hokies have a solid set of receivers. Those two receivers alone brought in 15 receiving touchdowns.
With Peoples gone, junior running back Deshawn McClease looks to step into that starting job. He was solid as Peoples’ back-up last season, rushing for 4.5 yards/carry and a couple touchdowns.
Back to Bud Foster! Foster has been up in Blacksburg pretty much forever, at least longer than I’ve followed college football. Almost every year, he’s brought a pretty good defense. That seemed especially true during the Paul Johnson era. Who could possibly forget the game where he decided to line one of the Fullers up at inside linebacker to jump the snap EVERY. SINGLE. PLAY.
Under Fuente, the defenses haven’t been quite the strength they used to be. The offense scored just over 30 points a game last season. The defense gave up nearly 30 points a game, though. That doesn’t make for a successful season. A lot of these struggles came from inexperience, though.
From Bill C’s Virginia Tech preview:
Foster is a damn institution. He was promoted to Tech coordinator when TLC’s “Creep” was the No. 1 song in the land, and he’s put together a Hall of Fame-deserving résumé without ever serving as a head coach. But even he wasn’t able to overcome the spectacular turnover Tech had to deal with last season.
The top five linebackers were gone, and the top returnees, Dylan Rivers and Rayshard Ashby, missed three games between them.
Five of the top six defensive backs ended up gone, and safety Devine Deablo and corner Bryce Watts missed time.
The line was stable by comparison but still lost nose tackle Tim Settle (planned) and end Trevon Hill (unplanned).
Turnover in the secondary is especially impactful when it comes to your year-to-year Def. S&P+ rankings, and Tech’s changed a lot. A lot. The Hokies fell from ninth to 77th, and while their efficiency ratings were decent (59th in success rate, 38th in stuff rate, 74th in sack rate), when they suffered a glitch, it was a pretty spectacular glitch: in marginal explosiveness, they were 125th on standard downs and 123rd on passing downs.
Based solely on the fact that Bud Foster is arguably the best defensive coordinator of our generation and the Hokies didn’t lose much from last year, it’s a safe bet that we’re going to see some improvement on this defense.
Bill C. really hits the nail on the head in his article. It’s a make-or-break year for Justin Fuente. He’s got some good pieces in place and Bud Foster as his defensive coordinator. If he doesn’t do well this season, then defensive coordinator won’t be the only position the Hokies will need to replace next season.