Let’s say that you are a portfolio manager and you have to buy stock in college football players. You are required to buy 3-5 stocks from every ACC team. Who are you buying from Virginia Tech?
Obviously, Hokie fans have to buy stock in new head coach Brent Pry. How can we not be happy with him so far? He is the anti-Fuente…open, enthusiastic, inclusive, and he’s in tune with the history and culture of the program. So clearly, his is the first stock to buy.
And what about the OL coach Joe Rudolph? Coming from Wisconsin, his stock is already high, but wouldn’t it be great if he developed Wisconsin-esque linemen in Blacksburg? Mike linebacker Dax Hollifield is another with a higher stock price. He is the emotional leader of the defense – and maybe of the team. Dax absolutely LOVES being a Hokie, pouring his heart and soul into the defense. He led the team in tackles last year with 92 – let’s hope that under Pry’s tutelage, he cracks the century mark in his fifth and final year at Lane Stadium.
Those are some of the well-known Hokies to watch. The blue chippers. But where are the movers and shakers? Who is going to have a meteoric rise like GameStop? Where are those diamonds in the rough?
If I were a portfolio manager seeking maximum growth, there are a few Hokies whose stock I would buy. Here are three of them:
Offensive Coordinator and Tight Ends Coach Tyler Bowen
The previous OC for Tech ran quarterbacks out of the program like Paul Johnson ran the football at Georgia Tech. There’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Tyler Bowen will refocus that running energy on the running backs (and not so much on the quarterbacks, cough, cough, previous staff).
At Penn State, Bowen was elevated to Offensive Coordinator for the Cotton Bowl after the 2019 season. In the bowl game, Penn State rushed for 396 yards, the second most in Cotton Bowl history. Their five rushing touchdowns tied a Cotton Bowl record.
During his time as offensive coordinator at Fordham, Bowen’s offense led the Patriot League in rushing offense with 229 yards per game, which was 12th in the nation at the FCS level. A strong running game appears to be in the plans at Virginia Tech.
Under Bowen, the tight ends should become weapons. While at Penn State, Bowen coached Pat Freiermuth as a true freshman where he finished second among FBS tight ends with eight touchdowns. Freiermuth averaged over 11 yards per catch while at PSU, eventually becoming a second round NFL draft pick after his junior season.
Bowen spent last year as the tight ends coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he learned how the NFL utilizes their tight ends.
Bowen now has plenty of options at Virginia Tech, and Hokie fans should be excited about this. Nick Gallo is a big target who can block and catch, and Drake De Iuliis is another big guy with a lot of experience. Fans should look to see their production in the passing game increase. Both young men played in all 12 regular season games last year, but they only had 14 receptions and one touchdown combined. Bowen will improve upon this!
The future of the tight ends looks good too, as three talented freshmen are afforded the opportunity to learn behind two seasoned veterans in Gallo and De Iuliis. Bowen, who is the offensive coordinator AND the tight ends coach, has to be happy about what’s in the tight end toolbox!
And in case anyone missed it, Bowen is a former 247Sports “30Under30” rising stars nominee. He is in position to re-establish Virginia Tech’s identity as a tough team with a strong running game and show that his inclusion on that list was indeed a sign of good things to come! I’m buying his stock!
Receiver/Athlete Connor Blumrick
Connor Blumrick, how can we use thee? Let me count the ways. As a receiver, as a runner, as a passer. In the slot, out wide, as a tight end, as an H-back, as a tailback, under center. Running a bubble screen, a quick slant, a wheel route, the jet sweep, the “Wild Turkey,” the Philly Special. Oh, the possibilities are endless!! And that should make Hokie fans excited about how Blumrick can help this year’s team.
When Justin Fuente was fired last year, it appeared as if Blumrick’s days as a Hokie quarterback were numbered. When Pry took over, he confirmed that. However, Connor Blumrick turned his back on the transfer portal and agreed to a position change. How can Hokie fans not root for this kid?
The 6’5” 222-pound Blumrick will likely be a hybrid tight end who can be a matchup problem for smaller defensive backs. And as we know from last year, he can run, giving him a speed advantage over linemen and linebackers.
This year, he will have the advantage of keeping the defense guessing. Unlike last year, when EVERYONE in the stadium knew that Blumrick was running the ball, he now has the opportunity to catch, run, and who knows, maybe even throw through some trickeration! And with Tyler Bowen’s likelihood of utilizing the tight ends that he coaches, as well as the opportunity to be creative with a guy like this, Blumrick stands to benefit. He will definitely make defenses feel his presence and he will help this team. He is a freak athlete who chose to stay despite the coaching and position changes – let’s hope he reaps many rewards from that decision! His stock won’t soar, but he will add value to this offense.
Quarterback Grant Wells
Wells is the transfer from Marshall where he aired it out for 5623 yards in two years as a starter. He threw 34 touchdowns for the Thundering Herd. However, he also threw 22 interceptions in that time, and that has plenty of Tech fans worried. If he is throwing that many picks in the Sun Belt conference, how can he be successful against the Power 5 defensive backs in the ACC?
The answer to that is simple. The coaches will put him in position to be more successful. They will be more balanced, and they will help him be a good game manager who can also stretch the field. As mentioned above, offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen will likely look to establish the run, use his tight ends, and then maybe use that to set up play action over the top.
The other coach that will influence Wells heavily is the passing game coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brad Glenn. Coach Glenn has a good track record of developing his quarterbacks at his previous schools, particularly Georgia State, Western Carolina, and Appalachian State. That is exactly what Tech wants – and NEEDS – a quarterback who can play multiple seasons and develop. I would expect Bowen and Glenn to know this. They also know that Wells has a lot of interceptions in his career. They will want to see that change for sure. Look for them to put their quarterbacks in better position to be successful and plan their offensive attacks accordingly. And look for Joe Rudolph’s line to provide good protection for their passer. This should all result in immediate success for Wells – so buy his stock!
Others to Watch
There are a few other players who have the opportunity to have surprisingly good years. However, those players have greater challenges or obstacles to overcome. But don’t be surprised if you see one or more of the following “stocks” emerge this season:
Malachi Thomas – In the three games last year in which his carries were double digits, his yards per carry were 4.1, 5.4, and 7.2. In two of those games, he toted the rock over 20 times and racked up over 100 yards. With Bowen’s expected emphasis on the run game, Thomas stands to benefit and see his production go up. And since no one in the running back room is really lighting it up, the RB1 job is up for grabs. Thomas’ durability is a concern, but if he can stay healthy, he has a great chance to be Tech’s leading rusher.
Bryce Duke – Right behind Thomas on the RB depth chart is sixth year senior Jalen Holston. However, Holston has never gained more than 281 yards in a season, so there has to be some question if he can be “the guy.” The rest of the depth chart includes unproven players. Bryce Duke is only a true freshman, but he is versatile, averaging 8.86 yards per carry and 15.1 yards per catch as a senior in high school. He has a good burst, is agile, and has speed. If Thomas is not healthy and Holston is not productive, Duke could see the field this year and significantly boost his stock price.
Jaden Keller – The current battle at Will linebacker is getting intense. Redshirt senior and incumbent Alan Tisdale has played in 35 career games, starting 18 of them. His 85 tackles last year were fourth best on the team, and his 7.5 tackles-for-loss were second best. He is a very good athlete and should improve under coaches Brent Pry and Chris Marve.
However, the redshirt freshman Keller is pushing Tisdale. Both are 6’3″ and close to 225 pounds, and both are fast. Keller has made some impressive plays in camp so far. He caught the eye of the previous staff – former linebackers coach Jack Tyler said that Keller will be a star. He is getting notice by this staff too. And his teammates. Middle linebacker Dax Hollifield praised the youngster for his work in the weight room, saying that Keller “is a ‘dude’.” He probably won’t start in September, but he has the chance to play a lot this year and could be a starter by year’s end if he can overtake the senior.
The O-Line – Joe Rudolph. ‘Nuff said, right? There is a lot of experience among the starters on the line. It’s exciting to think of how good they can be with the former Wisconsin O-line coach teaching them. If they can stay healthy, they can be a highly effective group! Collectively, their stock could soar.
The so-called experts believe that Virginia Tech will finish with five or six wins. If the players and coaches named above can deliver, then there is no reason the Hokies can’t win eight games. And that would be an incredible return on the investment in first year head coach Brent Pry! Here’s hoping for a bull market in Blacksburg this fall!
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