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Ken SugiuraKen Sugiura

Tech opponent preview: Virginia Tech

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We resume our Georgia Tech opponent preview (Sorry for the interruption. ACC Kickoff and the three dismissals got me a little sidetracked.). Today’s preview of Virginia Tech comes courtesy of Norm Wood, ACC writer at the Daily Press in Newport News, Va. You can read his stuff here and follow him on Twitter here. The Yellow Jackets will play the Hokies Sept. 20 at Lane Stadium in the first Saturday meeting between the two teams since 2009 (which, coincidentally, was the last time the Jackets beat the Hokies). Thanks to Norm and his always insightful contributions.

Q: With the departure of Logan Thomas, who’s the next Virginia Tech quarterback to haunt the Yellow Jackets?

A: At this relatively late date, there’s still no clear answer, but incoming, immediately-eligible transfer Michael Brewer has a legit shot. Brewer, who will be a redshirt junior after graduating from Texas Tech, was in line to make a run at Texas Tech’s starting quarterback role last year before an offseason back injury forced him to sit out until October. At 6-foot-0 and 202 pounds, Brewer represents a far more diminutive physical presence in the pocket than the 6-6, 250-pound Thomas, but Brewer has a reputation for having a strong arm.

He’ll have to compete with senior Mark Leal and sophomore Brenden Motley, neither of whom ran away with the job in the spring, but are still very much in the running to be the Hokies’ first quarterback on the field in the season-opener against William & Mary. Incoming freshmen Andrew Ford, who enrolled in January and participated in spring practices, and Chris Durkin need more time. With a primetime road game at Ohio State on tap in the second week, Coach Frank Beamer and Co. will need to get this position squared away as soon as possible. Of course, Georgia Tech comes to Lane Stadium before the end of September (Sept. 20), too.

Q: Is it fair to say that the Hokies’ recruiting class was, at the least, the best on paper in a long time? What gives?

Yep, that’s fair, but that’s not to say Virginia Tech didn’t miss out on some key targets. Defensive tackle Ricky Walker from Hampton, Va. and linebacker Melvin Keihn from Baltimore, Md. were prized signees, but Tech didn’t get everything it wanted in terms of defensive line and linebacker recruits.

Missing on some recruits has influenced the way Virginia Tech has attacked its 2015 recruiting class. Eight of Virginia Tech’s first nine commitments for the ’15 class have come from defensive players. Virginia Tech did a great job fortifying many of its skill positions – quarterback, running back and wide receivers – and the offensive line (success of offensive line recruiting was due to the efforts of former offensive line coach Jeff Grimes, who left to take the same job at Louisiana State after just one season in Blacksburg).

Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler, associate head coach and running backs coach Shane Beamer and defensive backs coach Torrian Gray have all proven themselves to be dynamic recruiters, along with tight ends coach and recruiting coordinator Bryan Stinespring, a long-time established recruiting presence in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia.

Q: Do you have any thoughts on this being the first ACC game for both teams?

A: It seems like it’s shaping up to be an interesting test for Virginia Tech’s front seven, which will feature at least five new starters. As usual, staying disciplined and recognizing assignments while playing against Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson’s option will be essential, and that’s always a concern with a group of defensive linemen and linebackers that haven’t faced much of the offense as a unit.

Virginia Tech has won four in a row, and six of the last seven meetings, against Georgia Tech. Yet, despite the lopsided balance in the win-loss columns, five of the last seven games have been determined by seven points or less. There’s a pretty strong chance this season’s matchup will be another hotly contested affair, but with the Coastal Division being wide open heading into the season, a victory could end up being enormous for either team.

Q: What are the Hokies’ two strongest and weakest position groups?

There’s no doubt Virginia Tech’s secondary, featuring cornerback Kendall Fuller (six interceptions, 17 passes defended last season as a freshman) and safety Kyshoen Jarrett (71 tackles last season), is the best group on the team. It rivals Florida State for the best secondary in the ACC, and one of the best in the nation.

On the flip side, while there are questions about which of the running backs are best equipped to carry the load for a Virginia Tech ground game that struggled mightily last season, there’s plenty of depth at the position (healthy Trey Edmunds, J.C. Coleman, Jerome Wright, Joel Caleb, Chris Mangus and incoming freshmen Marshawn Williams, Shai McKenzie and D.J. Reid). Instead, the weakest unit is probably the offensive line, which never seemed to get settled in the spring and saw a lot of shuffling of position. Getting a better push up front than it did last season will be essential to reviving Virginia Tech’s running game.

Q: What’s your guess on when Frank Beamer will retire, and will Bud Foster ever be a head coach?

A: Beamer’s retirement date is still an issue shrouded in mystery. He’ll be 68 years old in October, and he’s under contract through the 2016 season. He’s always said he’ll continue coaching as long as his health is good and the team shows promise, but after two straight seasons where the program has slipped just a bit, it’s hard to get a read on whether his opinion of his future has changed.

Might the completion of Virginia Tech’s long-awaited indoor practice facility (due to be ready Aug. 2015) rejuvenate Beamer? Could a trip to play at Notre Dame in a few seasons excite him? Those things certainly can’t hurt. As for Foster, who will be 55 on July 28, he seems to be more and more content with the idea that his best opportunity to land what he wants (a head coaching job at a top-notch or on-the-rise power conference program) has probably come and gone.

There’s zero indication that there’s a behind-the-scenes coach-in-waiting situation going on at Virginia Tech. Of course, earning over $550,000-a-year and the promise of an $800,000 annuity that matures Jan. 1, 2015 if he’s still the defensive coordinator at Virginia Tech, makes the prospects of spending the foreseeable future as an assistant coach in Blacksburg pretty decent for Foster.

Tech opponent previews

Wofford, Aug. 30

Tulane, Sept. 6

Georgia Southern, Sept. 13

Next up: Miami

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