With the recent Virginia Tech football turnaround and the success that has come with it, Hokie Nation is excited about the possibilities of this season. What was a dismal start that had most forecasting a bleak outcome has turned into a team that has given its fans hope for a bowl game.
While mathematically it is possible for Virginia Tech to finish second in the conference, Hokie fans should know better than to start talking about the conference championship. Instead of thinking of wining the next five, take a page out of head coach Brent Pry’s book and focus on going 1-0.
Virginia Tech hosts Syracuse Thursday night, and the Orange have won the last two meetings and four of the last five. In their most recent matchup in 2021, the ‘Cuse came into Lane with their current quarterback Garrett Shrader, who lit up the Hokie defense to the tune of 236 yards of passing and an incredible 174 yards of rushing.
The Hokies need to forget about any talk of Charlotte and instead focus on stopping Shrader.
If they do and emerge victorious, Virginia Tech will move to 4-4 overall and 3-1 in conference with a real chance to win six games this year. And if the Hokies can continue their improved play and win a few of the next few games, there will be added benefits besides the wins and a bowl game.
Here are three not-so-obvious potential outcomes of the recent turnaround:
Benefit #1: Improved Chances to Land the Big Recruit
In early September, Virginia Tech lost out on a top in-state talent, Chris Cole, who goes to school nearby in Salem, Va. Pry and his staff recruited hard, even taking a helicopter to one of Cole’s games, but alas, the highly-touted recruit committed to Georgia.
No one can blame Cole for joining the two-time defending National Champions, especially when the Hokies were coming off a historically inept 3-8 season and had just lost to a bad Purdue team (the Boilermakers are 2-5 with several blowout losses). But it still hurts to lose a player from Tech’s own backyard.
However, if Virginia Tech can continue their recent success and finish with six or even seven wins and a bowl berth, recruits can see proof of progress and be more likely to want a piece of the action.
With a resurgent Virginia Tech program, maybe next year’s Chris Cole will think otherwise and be that prized recruit that Pry covets? There is momentum on the recruiting trail, but the Hokies need that big fish, that Cornell Brown, that Michael Vick kind of in-state player.
Honestly, though, that type of recruit is not likely to come to Blacksburg until Tech builds a little. The Hokies recently lost a commitment from three-star defensive tackle Eric Mensah when he flipped to Ohio State. And now, Hokie Nation is holding its breath as four-star defensive back Marcellus Barnes is being wooed by Georgia. Tech MUST continue to win now to improve its shot of landing – and keeping – bigger recruits.
Another target is four-star defensive back Faheem Delane, a class of 2025 recruit from Maryland. If the name sounds familiar, it is because he is the younger brother of current Tech cornerback Mansoor Delane. The younger sibling has an impressive list of schools that are recruiting him, but he is exactly the type of “big fish” recruit that the Hokies need.
And why not Tech? The history of brothers playing for the Hokies is deep – from the Edmunds and Hopkins brothers to the Fullers, Vicks, Adibis, and Washingtons; to the current siblings like the Gosnells, McDonalds, and even Nick Gallo (whose older brother Eric was a Tech lineman)…there is a long history of family members playing at Virginia Tech.
Faheem Delane is the third-ranked safety in the nation who can go anywhere, but he does have a brother in Blacksburg, and sometimes that is the best sales pitch.
However, he won’t go to Tech if they are still lingering as an ACC also-ran. The Hokies need to keep this momentum going then build on it next year and become relevant again.
Benefit #2: Better Kickoff Times
Tech’s next game is a Thursday night ESPN prime time start. So far, Tech is 2-0 in home night games and 3-1 at home (with that weird five-hour rain delay against Purdue as their only loss). If the Hokies can beat Syracuse and maybe even upset Louisville (which is a 3:30 road start), it could result in better television times for their remaining games.
If North Carolina State visits Lane Stadium on a Saturday night, it gives the Hokies a great advantage. Hokie Nation has been showing out this year, and if the Wolfpack are in Lane for a night game, you can expect another raucous crowd!
The Hokies are seeking revenge for NC State’s comeback victory last year, and an electric atmosphere will only add to the home field advantage.
And if the Hokies can beat Syracuse then win either at Louisville or at Boston College, then an NC State victory will secure a bowl bid.
Another home night game is not only good for the football game, but it is also vital for recruiting. Think about it…high school recruits will be on the field for the greatest entrance in college football – in front of a packed house at night. That alone sells itself.
So yeah, getting another home night game is just a tad bit important!
Benefit #3: Bowl Games Equate to Extra Practices
If Virginia Tech can carry their momentum through the end of the season and make a bowl, they will be rewarded with three extra weeks of practice. That is the real prize for this young team, not the actual bowl game.
At 6-6, there is nothing prestigious about hoisting a Fenway Bowl trophy or beating an AAC team in the Military Bowl. No, the game won’t matter.
What does matter are the three bonus weeks for this very young team to practice. The offensive line continues to be a work in progress, and they would greatly benefit from almost an extra month of working together. The same is true for the young linebackers.
Also, consider the future of the offense. We do not know their intentions, but wide receiver Ali Jennings and tight end Nick Gallo, both seniors, are likely candidates for medical redshirts should they pursue that option. If they both return, then the ENTIRE OFFENSE will return for next year.
Think about the added benefit of three extra weeks of practice for everyone on the offensive unit. And I am not talking about just the starters – I am talking about the ENTIRE offensive unit, starters and backups in the two-deep (transfers notwithstanding – there is no way to predict that!)
With Covid years of eligibility still on the table, this offense can return a lot of experience next season, and an few more weeks of practice will only help their development.
Final Thoughts on the Recent Virginia Tech Football Turnaround
To steal a favorite line from one of my favorite ESPN anchors, God rest the soul of Stuart Scott, the Virginia Tech football team is like butter – because they are on a roll.
But whilst it is easy to get caught up in the excitement, there is still a lot of work to do. The Hokies face a stiff challenge in stopping the ground game of Syracuse. Then they travel to Louisville to face a team that beat Notre Dame in that very stadium.
These next two games will tell a lot of where this team will finish. If the Hokies keep their momentum and split – or even win both – then they will likely make a bowl game, which is a significant improvement over last year and a tremendous turnaround from September.
And with that bowl game should come the aforementioned fruits of their labor. The program’s trajectory should rise.
However, should the Hokies stumble these next two weeks, the season is not lost, but the uphill climb to the postseason will be steep.
This is college football. Anything can happen. Let’s hope it is an unlikely running of the table by the Hokies!
That all starts Thursday night on ESPN. Virginia Tech was the face of Thursday night football for so long, going 11-3 in their first 14 home Thursday night games. Unfortunately, they are 1-4 at home on Thursday since 2012. It’s time to turn that around!
Cue Corey Moore:
“Welcome to the Terrordome!”
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