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Virginia Football Opponent Preview: Virginia Tech Hokies

Virginia’s commonwealth rival is depleted in talent but in better hands under the new coaching staff.

Virginia Tech v Virginia Photo by Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

Virginia Tech has moderate expectations this year. Under new head coach Brent Pry, the process may be more of the focus, rather than the immediate results. The program is always expected to go bowling but their roster does not seem equipped to necessarily compete for an ACC championship.

As usual, the Virginia Cavaliers will play Virginia Tech in the last week of the regular season. If Tony Elliott is able to grab a victory in a series that has still been dominated by the Hokies, he will already have a significant legacy in Charlottesville. Then again, this will not be the first time the ‘Hoos are the better team on paper.

2021 Recap

Record: 6-7

Postseason: Pinstripe Bowl: 54-10 loss to Maryland

The writing was on the wall last season for Justin Fuente. After an opening day victory and impressive defensive performance against a highly touted North Carolina team, some thought his tenure could be salvaged. However, Virginia Tech repeatedly underwhelmed in the rest of conference play and two games before the season even ended, Fuente was fired.

Offensively, Braxton Burmeister carried a majority of the load at quarterback but, outside of a few moments, was ineffective. Perhaps, even more importantly, he was nowhere near the level of Hendon Hooker, who transferred to Tennessee last offseason after seemingly losing Fuente’s trust, to the dismay of many fans.

On defense, they were not awful but certainly inconsistent. The defensive line showed sparks but failed to constantly create pressure. The secondary, which was supposed to be a staple of the roster, was handled by the mass talent of quarterbacks around the conference.

Going into 2022 with Pry, despite being projected to finish fifth in the coastal division, Hokies fans have every reason to feel a lot better about their program.

2022 Preview

Key returners: LB Dax Hollifield, CB Chamarri Conner, CB Dorian Strong

Key departures: WR Tayvion Robinson (Kentucky), TE James Mitchell (NFL), WR Tre Turner (NFL)

Key new faces: QB Grant Wells (Marshall), WR Jaden Blue (Temple), LB Pheldarius Payne (Nebraska)

When it comes to talent, Virginia Tech will not be as equipped as they were, even in the Fuente years. If the Hokies improve immediately, it will be due to more competence on the coaching staff.

After losing their top three receiving targets, Virginia Tech does not have many proven commodities at the skill positions. Pry did utilize the transfer portal, though, adding the experienced Grant Wells under center and the dynamic wideout in Jaden Blue. On the offensive line, the Hokies have a capable starting five but depth appears to be a major concern.

If one thing is for certain, it is that Pry and defensive coordinator Chris Marve will make improvements in the scheme on the other side of the ball. As is evident with Pry’s Penn State teams, as well as the players they are recruiting at Virginia Tech, there will be an emphasis on physical cornerbacks and safeties that can play downhill. They will be aggressive with blitzes and linebackers will often be assigned to the running back, rather than sitting back and reading the play. Conveniently, many of the leftover players from last season fit this philosophy well.

Series History

UVA’s all-time record vs VT: 38-60-5

Last meeting: November 27th, 2021 — Virginia Tech 29, Virginia 24

Not much needs to be said here. Virginia Tech has dominated this rivalry. Given that the Hokies do not always have the better team, it seems that the UVA program has a mental hump to get over as well. Tony Elliott has a major opportunity to prove himself with a road Commonwealth Cup win in year one. Let’s all cross our fingers and toes he doesn’t try throwing the ball to an offensive lineman while trying to do so.