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2019 Virginia Tech football season preview

2018 season: 6-7, 4-4 in the ACC (T-5th in the Coastal Division) 

Head coach: Justin Fuente (4th season) 

On all accounts, the Hokies would rather forget 2018 ever happened. Although coaching magic from Fuente and the emergence of Ryan Willis under center dragged Virginia Tech to its 26th straight bowl appearance, the early goings of last season saw the Commonwealth powerhouse nearly go up in flames. From an embarrassing loss to Old Dominion to countless player dismissals, gruesome season ending injuries and four straight losses in November, there was legitimate doubt that a perennial Coastal Division contender wouldn't even make a postseason appearance. 

Luckily for the Hokies, their season turned on a dime at the last possible moment. 

Willis put together a 199-yard performance against Virginia, giving Virginia Tech the jolt it needed to earn a last-second touchdown in the fourth quarter to send the game to overtime, avoiding a near-spectacular collapse against its in-state rival. Although Willis' quiet development throughout the season wasn't enough to give the Hokies a bowl win, the growth of the walk-on transfer from Kansas sets the table for what could be a season of redemption for Virginia Tech. 

Completing 213 of 364 passes and averaging 3.1 yards per carry last season, Willis is a versatile field general with a solid enough arm to keep the Hokies' offense moving when its anemic ground game began to stall out. Although the now-redshirt senior made his own share of misplays at key moments, another year of development offers Willis the chance to prove himself as a decision maker. With junior tight end Dalton Keene and redshirt junior wide receiver Damon Hazelton returning to drive Virginia Tech's passing attack—the very same offense that torched Duke with 332 yards through the air last year—expect the Hokies offense to be explosive as ever this coming season. 

Although Virginia Tech should rest easy with Willis holding the keys to the offense, the Hokies still have major shortcomings in its ground game on both sides of the ball that must be addressed. 

Time and again last season, Virginia Tech's opponents abused the Hokies' inability to contain strong running backs. Virginia Tech allowed an abysmal 210.3 yards per game on the ground, thanks in large part to very little corner and defensive tackle depth. Conversely, individual Hokie running backs only broke 100 yards twice last season, leading to an offense that was marred with inconsistency. Virginia Tech will look to get a spark in its ground game from Jalen Holston and Deshawn McClease, as well as true freshman Keshawn King. 

After a stellar start to his career leading the Hokies, Fuente suffered arguably the first black mark on his record last season. Only time will tell if he can right the ship and return Virginia Tech to its throne as a perennial ACC contender. 


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