Beamer Ball is over. For the first time in nearly 30 years, a new coach will patrol the sideline in Blacksburg. Justin Fuente succeeds Frank Beamer, who retired after winning 238 games at Virginia Tech. The Hokies needed a jolt, however. Tech was 29-23 overall the last four years and a .500 team in ACC play, so a return to prominence might not happen overnight.
Tech hopes it found its bridge to the future with the hiring of Fuente, who took Memphis to new heights with the spread attack. He’ll try and get VT caught up with rest of college football. Fuente has a good track record of success on that side of the ball and the ACC Coastal is unpredictable. Contending for the division title isn’t out of the question.
2015 Record: 7-6 SU, 6-7 ATS, 6-7 O/U
2016 Regular Season Win Total: 6.5
National Championship Odds: +15000
Beamer announced his decision to retire in November, giving the Hokies’ fans several opportunities for the retirement party he deserved. And boy did he get it. The coach was carried off the field after his final home game, experienced one last win over state rival Virginia, and left the field one last time following an Independence Bowl victory over Tulsa.
Tech won four of five down the stretch and went 3-1 following the coach’s retirement announcement to send him out a winner. What happened before, however, set the stage for the end of Beamer’s nearly three decades.
The Hokies much anticipated opener saw them host defending national champion and No. 1 ranked Ohio State. It was a deflating loss and one that seemed inevitable when quarterback Michael Brewer was knocked out with a broken collarbone. The offense never reached the heights most expected and the defense seemed a step slow all season.
Fuente has some big shoes to fill in replacing a legend on the sideline. Defense has always been a staple for the Hokies, but the offense must make strides for the team to be a serious contender. Fuente had Memphis humming offensively last year and JUCO recruit Jerod Evans could provide a spark under center.
It will take some time to build the personnel to fit Fuente’s high-paced style, but there are some impressive pieces in place. Travon McMillian ran for 1,000 yards last year in his first as a tailback, getting a bulk of the carries beginning in mid-October. Tech’s top three pass catchers are as good as any in the ACC with receivers Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips and tight end Bucky Hodges all returning.
The big question is quarterback, where Evans, the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat junior college quarterback has the inside track on the job. He was originally recruited by Fuente and his staff to be Paxton Lynch’s successor at Memphis. He’s considered a perfect fit for the role.
The defense struggled last season with injuries and youth leading to a down year. Coordinator Bud Foster hopes that establishing continuity, re-focusing on fundamentals and incorporating fresh ideas from new assistants has an effect. There is talent on that side of the ball, and Foster has been putting standout units on the field for two decades. It may take some time for the group to jell.
Returning Starters Offense: 8
VT has a full complement of weapons returning on the offensive side of the football, including Hodges, McMillian, All-ACC receiver Ford and four linemen. All the Hokies must do know is settle on a quarterback.
McMillian took over the starting job in October and never looked back. He rushed for 1,042 yards after totaling just 223 over Tech’s first five games. The spread attack has weapons with Ford and Phillips at receiver. Ford had 75 receptions and 11 touchdowns in 2015. Hodges started all 13 games last season, producing 40 catches and six touchdowns.
Returning Starters Defense: 6
Two-year starter Ken Ekanem is back at end. He registered 39 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks. Middle linebacker Andrew Motuapuaka made 11 starts and needs to be more consistent to boost a group that wasn’t too good in 2015.
Cornerback Brandon Facyson, who has 22 career starts, will lead Tech’s secondary. Across from him is Terrell Edmunds, who started eight games in 2015. Edmunds has good size and can play corner or safety.
Week 1: vs. Liberty, Saturday, September 3, 12:30 p.m. ET (ACCN)
Week 2: vs. Tennessee, Saturday, September 10, 8 p.m. ET (ABC)
Week 3: vs. Boston College, Saturday, September 17, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPNU)
Week 4: vs. East Carolina, Saturday, September 24, TBA
Week 5: BYE
Week 6: at North Carolina, Saturday, October 8, TBA
Week 7: at Syracuse, Saturday, October 15, TBA
Week 8: vs. Miami, Thursday, October 20, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Week 9: at Pittsburgh, Thursday, October 27, 7 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Week 10: at Duke, Saturday, November 5, TBA
Week 11: vs. Georgia Tech, Saturday, November 12, TBA
Week 12: at Notre Dame, Saturday, November 19, 3:30 p.m. ET (NBC)
Week 13: vs. Virginia, Saturday, November 26, TBA
|SEC Conference||Big 10 Conference|
|ACC Conference||Big 12 Conference|
|Pac 12 Conference||Big East Conference|
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