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2020 Virginia Tech football season preview

2019 season: 8-5, 5-3 in the ACC (2nd in the Coastal Division)

Head coach: Justin Fuente (5th season)

After a rollercoaster of a campaign in 2019, the Hokies hurtle toward the upcoming season with renewed confidence. Last fall’s tumultuous start, punctuated by an embarrassing loss at home to your very own Blue Devils, led head coach Justin Fuente to insert redshirt sophomore Hendon Hooker under center. The versatile signal caller transformed the offense, as the dual-threat Greensboro native willed Virginia Tech to wins in his first six starts, extending the program’s historic streak of bowl appearances to 27. 

Yet, for all the good in 2019, the Hokies ended their season on a sour note.

The final week of Virginia Tech’s season saw the team squander a potential trip to the ACC Championship in heartbreaking fashion to cross-state rival Virginia, a gut-wrenching loss made no better by the Hokies’ last-second collapse in a 37-30 Belk Bowl loss to Kentucky on New Year’s Eve. Led into an offseason of uncertainty, the Hokies saw serious change on the sideline, with longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster making way for safeties coach Justin Hamilton to take his place. Even Fuente made fans’ hearts flutter when he briefly flirted with the possibility of filling the vacant position of head coach at Baylor.

Nonetheless, Fuente and his team will return 18 of 22 starters from last season as part of what appears to be quite an experienced squad. In his first full season at the reins, Hooker will drop back to pass behind a Christian Darrisaw-anchored offensive line that returns all five starters. With Tré Turner and Tayvion Robinson out wide once again, the biggest question mark for Virginia Tech is on the ground, where graduate transfer Khalil Herbert leads a suddenly-crowded committee that aims to rewrite the narrative that has surrounded this aspect of the offense for the past decade.

On the other side of the football, the Hokies will be without lockdown corner Caleb Farley, who opted out of the fall season due to COVID-19 concerns. Even so, linebacker Rayshard Ashby headlines a unit that ranked fifth in the ACC last season in points allowed, Jermaine Waller seems poised to step up in Farley’s absence in the secondary and the unheralded yet veteran defensive line figures to turn some heads this fall. While all eyes will undoubtedly turn toward Hooker this season, there is no question that this defensive unit is a different beast than in years past.

Virginia Tech has a lot riding on this season: Last year’s hot streak was fun, but the Hokies will most definitely march into 2020 with a burning desire to get the bitter taste of 2019's ending out of their mouths. While the road to the ACC Championship appears to go through Clemson, Notre Dame and North Carolina, the determined, rejuvenated Hokies excel beyond their young star QB. A team that nearly made the AP top-25 preseason ranking, Virginia Tech appears destined to challenge the conference's top powers for the very opportunity it let slip through its fingers last season.

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