Four Offensive Predictions for Virginia Tech Football in 2019
Virginia Tech football has traditionally been built around defense but in 2019, this team seems poised to once again be an offense-first team with a passing attack that could be one of the most exciting in the country.
Here's five predictions for the Virginia Tech offense in the 2019 season.
1. Ryan Willis Will Break At Least 1 Virginia Tech Single-Season Record.
After the offseason-long, forgone conclusion of Ryan Willis being the Hokies' starting QB was made official recently, we can now talk more openly about how Willis is poised to break at least one school record this fall.
The senior quarterback had 24 touchdowns, 6 away from breaking VT's record, despite starting only 10 games last season. Willis returns this season with his receiving corps in tack with lots of All-ACC talent including Damon Hazelton, Tre Turner, and Dalton Keene. On a team that has questions in the backfield, the Hokies' passing attack is what will be the driving force this fall and has the playmakers to be one of the best passing attacks every at Virginia Tech.
While the passing touchdown records seems very likely to go, it isn't the only record that could be vulnerable. Given the big play potential that Hazelton and Turner bring along with Willis' gunslinger mentality, don't be surprised to see a lot more big plays through the air this fall for the Hokies along with an offense that may be a little more open with Willis having a full offseason after his first season as a starter for most of it.
The passing yard record could also be in danger with Willis having just over 800 fewer passing yards last season than the record set by Jerod Evans despite not starting in the Hokies' first three games while Evans started 14 games in his season at VT. Combine that with an offseason to grow as a passer, a strong receiving corps with All-ACC talent, and a weak schedule that includes two FCS teams and Willis has a strong chance to break that record as well.
Ryan Willis is in a great position to break some Virginia Tech passing records this fall with at least one appearing almost certain to break it on paper before the start of the season.
2. Keshawn King Will Be the Starting Running Back by Mid-Season
This may seem bold to say that a true freshman will be a starter on a talented offense like this but in a backfield looking for a consistent, explosive playmaker, Keshawn King looks like the one to fit the mold for years to come.
King has ready lots of praised throughout fall camp and looked the part in high school of a running back who not only could be a star but also an instant contributor. At this point, the Hokies seemed poised to go with a three-back rotation of King, Deshawn McClease and Jalen Holston.
No one should be surprised to see Holston and McClease at the top of the opening depth chart as it would take a lot for a true freshman to start at any position in an opener against an ACC team with Christian Darrisaw being the exception last season.
The thing with King is the fact that not only does he look like an explosive playmaker, he also is a more well-rounded back with the potential to be a threat both in between the tackles and on an edge. That well-rounded skill set helps project King as a potential star by the end of the season with McClease and Holston being able to provide the Hokies with a change-of-pace back and a short-yardage power back to work with King.
Virginia Tech has their best running back since at least David Wilson in Keshawn King who is ready to take over the Hokies' backfield for years to come with King's time coming sooner rather than later.
3. Doug Nester Will Redshirt in 2019.
Yes, offensive line rotations can be unpredictable and yes, Doug Nester is a very unique talent but given the Hokies' depth on the interior, don't be surprised to see Nester redshirt this upcoming season.
The new redshirt rule will give Vance Vice the opportunity to get true freshmen like Nester and Bryan Hudson experience in garbage time which should help their development. However, the Hokies have no reason to worry about playing Nester this season because of an interior offensive line that looks as strong as ever.
Lecitus Smith has the left guard spot locked down while the Hokies have TJ Jackson, Tyrell Smith, John Harris, and Austin Cannon among the guys battling at right guard in addition to either Brock Hoffman or Zachariah Hoyt depending on who wins the starting center job.
Even with Nester making the first depth chart, it's very possible that Nester could transition out if Brock Hoffman receives eligibility as he more than deserves to receive. That depth gives the Hokies the ability to give Nester some early experience against weaker competition to keep him ready in case of injuries without burning his eligibility.
Doug Nester has all the skills and potential in the world to be a starter for years to come, but this year provides the Hokies with the opportunity to redshirt him and help his transition to the college game.
4. Virginia Tech Will Have At Least 1 All-ACC 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Teamer At Every Offensive Position Group Except Running Back.
I'm not sure if this would be a first for Virginia Tech since joining the ACC but outside of running back, the Hokies have All-ACC talent at quarterback, wide receiver, tight end, and on the offensive line who will earn recognition this year.
Willis enters the season as the third best QB in the conference behind Clemson's Trevor Lawrence and Virginia's Bryce Perkins with that trio being the clear frontrunners to receive the 3 All-ACC spots led by Lawrence. Given the Hokies' expected passing emphasis with their offensive personnel, Willis seems poised to not only have a big season given his experience, but also in a position to put up the big numbers that will earn him plenty of All-ACC Second and Third Team votes behind Lawrence and alongside Perkins.
One of Turner and Hazelton seem likely to earn an All-ACC First Team spot while the pair are definitely two of the ACC's nine best receives and should be able to put up the numbers that can put them in position to both receive All-ACC honors regardless of whom is the top target for the Hokies which could change week-to-week depending on the matchup.
At tight end, Dalton Keene may be listed as an "OR" with James Mitchell on the depth chart, but that's because of Mitchell's versatility and improvement. If anything, the Hokies will use both on the field a lot and with Keene's well-rounded skill set, he returns as one of the league's top tight ends alongside Miami's Brevin Jordan. At this point, it's more than reasonable to expect Keene to earn All-ACC honors with a reasonable chance to earn a spot on the first team.
On the offensive line, Christian Darrisaw showed lots of promise last season and definitely could be poised to build on his experience last season to become an All-ACC player this year. Darrisaw looks like a future NFL offensive tackle and should be a fortress on the Hokies' blind side for the rest of his collegiate career.