When the calendar turns to October, the first opponent on the Notre Dame football schedule will be the Virginia Tech Hokies on their home field in Blacksburg. The clash will mark only the second meeting ever between the two teams, with the Hokies emerging with a tight three-point win in South Bend two years ago in game where the Hokies got away with several shots to the head of then Irish QB Deshone Kizer .
Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente is beginning his third year and hopes to improve on his 9-4 record from 2017. Just one week before the the Irish watched the national title hopes collapse in Miami, the Hokies met the same fate in a 28-10 defeat. Tech fans should be happy that another possible challenge for ACC supremacy and more is possible this season.
Virginia Tech Offense: Crossing Fingers
How successful the Hokies are largely depends on whether quarterback Josh Jackson will be able to take the field. Academic issues are clouding his status, with his absence a potentially devastating blow after throwing for just under 3,000 yards and connecting on 20 touchdown passes. In addition, he ran for 324 yards and crossed the goal line six times.
There’s enough depth in the Tech running game that Jackson may be able to focus his energies on the passing attack. The tandem of DeShawn McClease and Steven Peoples will power much of the attack, with McClease having led the team in rushing and Peoples providing bulk for the tough carries.
Grinding things out might be the best course of action, given the question marks that exists among the receiving corps. The hope is that the duo of Eric Kumah and Sean Savoy, can fill the hole left by the departure of Cam Phillips. Damon Hazelton arrives to challenge the wideouts after transferring from Ball State.
The offensive line is missing two starters from last season, though one of the returnees is massive tackle Yosuah Nijman. At 6-foot-7 and 325 pounds, Nijman is the type of personnel to keep Jackson safe. The key issue will be making sure that the middle of the line has been properly fortified, with center Zahariah Hoyt the key component in keeping things humming.
Virginia Tech Defense: Plenty of Holes to Fill
The defensive line is an area that’s usually able to keep opposing quarterbacks on their toes, with Ricky Walker at tackle the key player His numbers were almost identical to Tim Settle, who left for the NFL, with Walker finishing last year with 4.5 sacks and 12.5 stops behind the line.
The linebacking situation is cause for concern, if only because of the unknown. Most of the players who will start this season have little experience, with true freshman Dax Hollifield in a situation where he can immediately earn a spot in the lineup. Based on their special teams work from last season, the duo of Dylan Rivers and Rayshard Ashby are good candidates to see plenty of time on the field, while Mook Reynolds probably possesses the most experience.
The secondary has usually been a strong point, but injuries and academic matters may blow a huge hole in that strength. Caleb Farley and Divine Deablo are two players coming back from injuries who will need to step up and deliver this season.
Virginia Tech Special Teams: Kicking is Up in the Air
Replacing Joey Slye at kicker will be the chief problem in this area, with the battle between Jordan Stout and Brian Johnson during training camp determining who will be his replacement. Punter Oscar Bradburn is the centerpiece of a unit that provided shut-down coverage in this department. On the return front, C.J. Carroll will be the central figure to watch.
The Last Time Notre Dame Played Virginia Tech
In the only other other meeting prior to this year’s date on the Notre Dame football schedule, the 2016 squad was busy wallowing in a miserable 4-8 season when this game took place. Two 17-point leads in the first half were indicative of how that season spiraled out of control. A 17-0 lead gave every indication that a victory was forthcoming, but after holding a 24-7 lead, they saw their offense shut down for most of the second half before losing. 34-31.