After a disappointing season that brewed up a lot of controversy among the players, the Hokies look to kick off their 2019 season with a victory against the Boston College Eagles on Aug. 31. Last season, when these two teams matched up, the Hokies lost 21–31 due to a lack of a running game and an overall defensive breakdown. However, with a new season comes new expectations and high hopes.
Over the offseason, a multitude of players entered the transfer portal and departed from Virginia Tech. Eighteen players either transferred or are still in the transfer portal, three of which were receivers. Although several players transferred, the Hokies still show promise going into this season with new faces and a strong core of players such as star receiver Damon Hazelton. The redshirt junior recorded 51 receptions, 802 receiving yards and eight receiving touchdowns and was the 10th ranked wideout in the ACC this past season. The Hokies also have a revamped backfield on offense led by redshirt junior Deshawn McClease and junior Jalen Holston as well as freshmen Tahj Gary and Keshawn King. The running back combination of McClease and Holston could be trouble for the Eagles in this upcoming matchup.
On the defensive side, the key players to look out for this in matchup are junior linebacker Rayshard Ashby and senior safety Reggie Floyd. These two players were single-handedly the most consistent and impactful players throughout last season as both ranked near the top in the ACC for solo tackles — Ashby eighth with 57 and Floyd ninth with 56. In addition, both ranked in the top 15 in the ACC for total tackles — Ashby fourth with 105 and Floyd 13th with 88.
However, on the defense, there are some concerns about the supporting cast of defensive backs. The Hokies hoped to address this as they hired safeties coach Justin Hamilton, a former Hokie player himself, to help the group. Though he was brought in as a safeties coach, Hamilton also brings a diversified coaching background to the table as he had previously coached linebackers and special teams. His expertise in several areas will help aid defensive coordinator Bud Foster in his final season with the Hokies.
X-Factors for the BC Game:
For the offense, the X-Factor for this game has to be the starting quarterback, redshirt senior Ryan Willis. Statistically, Ryan Willis had a solid season this past season as he recorded 2,716 passing yards, 24 passing touchdowns and nine interceptions. Willis had his bright spots, but he occasionally made costly mistakes. Ultimately, he must be the leader of the offense this season; if he can improve upon last season’s performance, he can point the Hokies in the right direction.
For the defense, the X-Factor for this game is the defensive line. Last season, the Hokies struggled against the run in multiple games, including those against Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech and Boston College. The first line of defense against the run is the defensive line; if they can keep the run game at a minimum and force the pass to be the focal point of the Eagles’ offense, the Hokies can come away with a win.
Prediction: 28 Virginia Tech, Boston College 24