Georgia Tech 2019 Opponent Preview: Virginia Tech Hokies

BLACKSBURG, VA - NOVEMBER 23: Linebacker Dax Hollifield #4 of the Virginia Tech Hokies reacts following a defensive stop against the Virginia Cavaliers in the first half at Lane Stadium on November 23, 2018 in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images)
BLACKSBURG, VA - NOVEMBER 23: Linebacker Dax Hollifield #4 of the Virginia Tech Hokies reacts following a defensive stop against the Virginia Cavaliers in the first half at Lane Stadium on November 23, 2018 in Blacksburg, Virginia. (Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images) /

The Virginia Tech Hokies are coming off a tough and disappointing 2018 season but the 2019 season holds a lot of promise for Justin Fuente’s program.

Virginia Tech Hokies

6-7 (4-4) – Justin Fuente (4th season – 25-15)

Lane Stadium (Blacksburg, VA)

The 2018 season was not what the Virginia Tech football program had in mind for Justin Fuente’s third season. From the start, it was a tough and long season for the Hokies. After getting off to a 2-0 start including a 24-3 season-opening victory over Florida State, the Hokies fell to the Old Dominion Monarchs on the road in a shocking 49-35 loss that also saw starting quarterback Josh Jackson go down with an injury that would end his season. From there, the Hokies would lose five of their next six games before winning their final two games against Virginia and Marshall (late scheduled) to get to bowl eligibility. They would go onto play in the Military Bowl against Cincinnati, where they would lose 35-31.


Last season, the Virginia Tech offense was slightly above average to say the least. The Hokies averaged just 29.8 points per game which ranked 61st best in the country last season. They had most of their success come through the air with 253.8 passing yards per game compared to 174.3 rushing yards per game. Overall, 428.2 yards per game isn’t horrible but to average just 29.8 points per game when your defense was allowing 30+ just won’t get the job done on a weekly basis.

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The Hokies look for bigger things in 2019. The Hokies return a great deal of talent in 2019 on the offensive side of the ball and eight offensive starters. First and foremost, they return starting quarterback Ryan Willis, as the Kansas transfer had a quality 2018 season. He completed 58.5% of his passes (213-for-364) for 2,716-yards and 24 touchdowns. He also only threw nine interceptions on the season, just over 2% of all passes he threw last season.

The good news for Willis is most of his offensive weapons also return in 2019 as well. However, he did lose leading running back Steven Peoples who had nearly 1,000-yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns last season. Stepping in for Peoples this season will be running back Deshawn McClease who rushed for 433-yards on 96 carries last season. He had a total of 528 yards from scrimmage on the season. Backing up McLease will be Jalen Houston who carried the ball 57 times last season for 281-yards.

Willis will also see the return of three of his top four wide receivers. The only top-four receiver not to return to the Hokies in 2019 is Eric Kumah as Kumah transferred from the program and is now enrolled at Old Dominion. But they do return Damon Hazelton Jr. (51 receptions, 802 yards, eight touchdowns), Hezekiah Grimsley (31 receptions, 382 yards, one touchdown), and Tre Turner (26 receptions, 535-yards, four touchdowns). Those three wideouts will without a doubt cause havoc for opposing defenses and is one of the most dangerous wide receiver trios in not just the ACC but the country. Tight end Dalton Keene also returns after a 28-reception, 341-yards, and three touchdown season in 2018.

The Virginia Tech offensive line also returns most of their starters in 2018 and there’s a lot of buzz around the Hokies line entering 2019. A massive group of linemen, they’ll look to improve upon the 2018 numbers that saw them rack up 174.3 rushing yards per game and allowing 2.15 sacks per game. There are high expectations surrounding this group in 2019 and if the Hokies want their offense to take a step forward in 2019, there will be a lot of pressure on the Hokies o-line in 2019.


It’s safe to say that last season was a pitiful performance out of Virginia Tech’s defense and it’s still hard to believe it was a Bud Foster coached defense, however, that’s now the past and the Hokies must look forward to 2019. Like the Virginia Tech offense, the Hokies’ defense also returns a ton of talent including all eleven starters from last season. While that could be bad news, seeing they allowed 31 points per game and nearly 450-yards per game, it’s also good news as it means the starters have had a full season and now offseason to work on their chemistry and game which means the Hokies defense should take a step back towards their standard in 2019. Of course, the 2019 defense will now have a little bit more to play for as Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster recently announced that 2019 would be his final season with the program.

The biggest place to watch on the Virginia Tech defense in 2019 will be up the middle, a place they struggled immensely in 2018. Last season, the Hokies allowed over 200 rushing yards per game due to poor play from their defensive line and linebackers in the rush defense. They’ll need to tighten up their front seven in 2019. The leader of that front seven will be linebacker Rayshard Ashby who had 105 tackles last seaon including 9.5 tackles for a loss. Dax Hollifield will be another leader of the front seven after a strong freshman campaign that saw him rack up 62 tackles including eight tackles for a loss.

Special Teams:

The Hokies special teams in 2018 were solid and should be even better in 2019 with all their major starters returning,  they will need to improve in placekicking but overall have a quality special teams heading into 2019.


Justin Fuente isn’t on the hot seat yet but he’ll need to be careful in 2019. The Hokies, last season were flat out bad and it was really a shocking season. Things haven’t been going smooth this offseason in Blacksburg either, making matters worse. There’s a lot of pressure for the Hokies to perform in 2019 and while everyone seems confident in the defense returning to form, will the offense have enough power to pull out those games in 2018 that they struggled to win? Fuente better hopes so or he’ll be entering next season on the hot seat.

What to expect on November 16th:

Georgia Tech has had the Hokies number each of the last two seasons. Last season, Tobias Oliver scorched Virginia Tech on the ground all night en route to the Jackets defeating Virginia Tech 49-24 in a game that was never really the close. However, Geoff Collins’ first game against the Hokies may not go as smooth.

The Hokies should be and will be sizeable favorites in this game. The Jackets will have the home-field advantage for the game but the Hokies should be improved in 2019 and the Yellow Jackets may just not have enough to beat the Hokies for a third straight season.

Season Outlook:

On paper, the Hokies at the least should win eight games in 2019. They open the season with a rather easy stretch of Boston College, Old Dominion, Furman, and Duke. Boston College on the road will be the toughest of the seasons first four weeks and while Old Dominion defeated the Hokies last season, Virginia Tech will be better prepared in 2019. Games on paper that could be tough following their first four weeks include Miami (FL), Notre Dame, and Virginia. Right now, we’ll predict an 8-4 or 9-3 record for the Hokies in 2019.