Hot takes. They are highly opinionated. They can be rather polarizing. And after Virginia Tech fell to Miami in a game that the Canes tried to give away, Hokie Nation has a lot of opinions to share. Virginia Tech’s losing streak has grown to four, and the Hokies sit at 2-5 entering their bye week. Here are five hot takes as the team regroups over the week off.
Hot Takes: #1 – Grant Wells is the QB of the Now and of the Future
Yeah, no jabs to start. No stick and move, like Apollo Creed told Rocky. I came right at you with a roundhouse. Grant Wells is and should be the quarterback of the Hokies. Now and in the future.
I know this is going to be hotly contested. That’s why it’s called a hot take.
Wells’ problems are not all his. And most of those that are on him are also correctable.
As a first-year starter, Wells has had to shoulder way too much than he should. The poor guy has had little to no run support all year. And last week he was pressured a lot – six sacks, one hurry, and several scrambles. Can we blame him for making bad throws because they are too early or on the run?
Also, as many have pointed out, the offense is too predictable. Defenses thus have an easier task in scheming against the Hokies. And when the receivers are not getting separation, that makes it even worse for the quarterback in a vanilla offense.
Speaking of receivers, they drop way too many catchable balls. I’ve seen Wells’ passes bounce off his receivers’ hands, chests, and even facemasks. On Saturday, Da’Wain Lofton dropped a deep ball that hit him in the numbers. He was behind two defenders that took themselves out of the play. Catch that and he walks thirty yards into the end zone. Remember, Virginia Tech lost by six. If Lofton catches that pass and the Hokies win, is anyone calling for Wells to be benched right now?
Later in the game, Wells led Jalen Holsten on a pass in the flat. Holston did not have his body situated properly and awkwardly turned to catch a pass that was properly leading him. If he catches it, he has a lot of green in front of him and he gets the first down. Maybe that drive turns into something?
Yes, Grant Wells has thrown some bad balls this year. Quite a few in fact. And yes, he often zips his throws like a power pitcher. He is often more like “Wild Thing” Ricky Vaughn instead of Greg Maddux. But putting touch on the ball can be coached. Reading defenses can be coached. He has the arm strength and he has the running ability as a complement. Give him support in the ground game and a better performing set of receivers and he will improve.
Making a quarterback change now to a senior does not bode well for the future. Switching to a freshman or sophomore with far less skill and experience is a big gamble. And it is not likely that Tech will be able to sign a more talented, young quarterback out of the portal this offseason.
And as I wrote in a preseason article, the Hokies desperately need consistency at the quarterback position. Most of us remember the frustrations of the Fuente-era quarterback carousel. Just look at Hendon Hooker as our reminder of what could have been.
Get used to it Hokie fans, Grant Wells is our guy for the foreseeable future, as he should be.
Hot Takes: #2 – The Hokies Will Struggle Again Next Year
I have to credit my good friend Scott for this one. “It will get worse before it gets better.” Hokie fans, I’m sure you have a similar group of friends. That group where all you do is talk Tech sports, especially via text message. Well, Scott was the one in my group who said this first. I was more optimistic to start the season, but now I am starting to think that he was right on the money all along.
This has been a rough year for Virginia Tech. But looking ahead to next year, there are a lot of questions. Tech graduates key players on defense. Dax Hollifield, Chamarri Connor, Tyjuan Garbutt, and Norrell Pollard are defensive leaders who will be replaced mostly with sophomores and freshmen next year.
Offensively, the same is true at the line of scrimmage. Silas Dzansi and Johnny Jordan will graduate and the guys behind them are very young and inexperienced. The line has not produced to expectation this year – it will only get younger and greener next year.
Defensively, there has been a lot of rotation with the younger guys. That does provide hope. However, on the offensive line, very few snaps have gone to anyone outside the starting five. That is a concern for next year.
Another worry for next year is in the receiver room. If Kaleb Smith foregoes his Covid year of eligibility, then Tech will have no proven receivers returning. Who will the Hokies count on in the passing game?
As if that is not enough to worry about, next year’s schedule isn’t exactly easier. There will be no more Coastal division, so in 2023 Tech plays a tougher ACC slate that includes Pitt, North Carolina State, Wake Forest, and Syracuse at home. Then the Hokies visit Florida State, Louisville, Virginia, and Boston College, a venue that has not seen good results recently. The non-conference schedule includes Purdue at home and a road trip to Rutgers. Those two are not world-beaters, but they will still provide quite a challenge, especially with so many young Hokies.
There is hope for improvement, but right now it is just hope. With key losses, young and green players stepping in, and a tougher schedule, it is not likely that the record will be any better next year.
Hot Takes: #3 – The Hokies Should Sign Wisconsin Lineman Logan Brown out of the Portal
Normally, I would NEVER suggest bringing in a guy who was kicked off his team for fighting with teammates. However, redshirt junior Logan Brown can help the Hokies immediately. Virginia Tech offensive line coach Joe Rudolph recruited this former five-star lineman to Wisconsin and coached him as recently as last season. Rudolph can reach out to his contacts who are still coaching in Madison. He can talk to Brown and his parents. He can do his own investigation then discern if this really is a character issue or if the Wisconsin locker room is just that bad after Paul Chryst’s sudden firing – a move that wasn’t necessarily supported by the players.
Brown is certain to want to improve his draft stock. Coming out of high school, he was projected as a future first rounder and compared to Tennessee Titans tackle Taylor Lewan. Currently, however, he is projected as an unsigned free agent. And this recent incident does not help. Won’t he want the opportunity to right his own ship and prove that this was an extraordinary circumstance?
And if the character issue checks out, this is easily a situation where a square peg fits in a square hole. Virginia Tech lacks experience at tackle. The current backups are young and need to develop. Brown could plug a hole while providing that extra time for the young guys to get better. Plus, he has the chance to excel under his former coach.
The fact is, there are very few quality offensive linemen in the portal each year. And this guy will play college football next fall. Why can’t it be in Blacksburg?
PS – While we are at it, why not look at some of those Wisconsin receivers that are in the portal?
Hot Takes: #4 – Virginia Tech Students Need to be Better
I’ll start this with a compliment…the Virginia Tech students do an EXCELLENT job getting into the stadium early and making “Enter Sandman” the greatest entrance in all of college football.
However, lately, they have been bailing way too early. During the third quarter of the West Virginia game, the student section was very thin. On Saturday, it was practically empty after halftime.
— The Tech Lunch Pail (@TechLunchPailD) October 16, 2021
Yes, it has been a difficult season. And at times, the team has been difficult to watch. But we are fans, and as such, we are supposed to support the team no matter what. It’s like a marriage – we need to love the Hokies in good times and in bad.
“Enter Sandman” is quite a spectacle to experience. But it has become just that – a spectacle. Lane Stadium is hardly a difficult place to play anymore. To get back to that “Terrordome” environment, we need the students for the entire game. 66,000 screaming lunatics is far more intimidating that when only 50,000 are yelling and jumping in the second half. As we have all seen, it can affect the outcome of the game.
Think about how great it could have been in the fourth quarter Saturday. As the Hokies were making their comeback, maybe the crowd causes a false start on the last Miami series, forcing a punt. Maybe they cause an early snap that turns into a fumble. Maybe a receiver does not properly hear an audible and runs the wrong route. This is football – we never know what can happen on any given play. That is why we need the fans to be in their seats until the final whistle.
Besides, how do those empty seats look to all those recruits that were in Lane Stadium Saturday?
Hot Takes: #5 – Virginia Tech Will Not Play in a Bowl This Year
Ok, so this one is more of a lukewarm take. There are some who still drink the Cool-Aid and think Tech will win four of their last five games. After all, NC State lost their quarterback, then we get Georgia Tech, Duke, Liberty, and Virginia. We can do that, right?
Well, yeah, we can. But has anyone seen enough from the team this year to feel confident that the Hokies WILL do that?
This is one of those that, as a fan, I hope like heck that I am wrong. However, I share the sentiments with many that it is difficult to EXPECT the Hokies to win any of those five games. Tech is either making too many mistakes or not blocking well or not getting pressure on the quarterback…yada, yada, yada. There have been glimmers of hope, but that is not enough to expect a four-game winning streak. Heck, it’s not even enough to expect a two-game winning streak!
The Hokies rank 114th or worse in three major offensive categories: rushing yards, total yards, and points per game. Virginia Tech is only 94th nationally in passing yards per game (see chart below from The Football Database). At 19.1 points per game, Tech is at its lowest average points per game since 1989! Until this team starts to move the ball and score, it is difficult to predict any more wins.
Hokie fans will hope for improved play coming out of the bye week, but at this point it looks like a run at a 1992 repeat (2-8-1) is closer to reality than a bowl berth (6-6)
Bonus Take – Fans Need to Tone it Down on Social Media
It is ridiculous to make judgements of the staff and players now. Head Coach Brent Pry is not the guy? OC Tyler Bowen should be fired? Quarterback Grant Wells should be benched? Sit the seniors and play the freshmen? That is a bit extreme. None of us are in the locker rooms, none of us are at the practices. We only know what we see and what we read. And we also know that this is a rebuilding process. It will take time.
Did Duke turn it around from last year’s abysmal 0-8 ACC record? Yes. But did they turn over their roster? Not like the Hokies.
Think about that Pinstripe Bowl last December. Tech was playing with a depleted roster. Between the transfers and opt-outs, the team had lost a lot of players in its two-deep. Fast forward to today – Tech only brought in five players from the portal (and one, Pheldarius Payne, has not played – and will not – because of injury). Our roster is essentially the same as that Pinstripe team that was taken behind the woodshed by an average Maryland team.
We are very young. Pry is trying to build something. He is at the foundational level, and it will take time. Fans, let’s accept that and support it. Anything else is counterproductive.
We all know that Miami had 17 penalties Saturday and still won the game. At one point in third quarter, Miami’s penalty yards were almost the same as Virginia Tech’s total yards!
The “I knew it was bad when” moment of the Miami game happened way too early. Specifically, it occurred with 13:01 left in the second quarter. At that point, the highlight of the game was pausing the TV, then rewinding to take a photo of the guy with the handlebar mustache jumping around behind Mario Cristobal. That’s Aaron Feld, the Miami strength and conditioning coach who came over from Oregon with Cristobal. He’s quite a character on the sidelines!
Enjoy the bye week…I’ll have a fun reflection next week to bring some positivity back to the season.
Virginia Tech has now held the Commonwealth Cup for 678 consecutive days!
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