At the halfway point of the season, the Virginia Tech Hokies have found themselves at a respectable 4–2 record despite early-season struggles. This Saturday, the Hokies will face a potentially threatening North Carolina team at home with hopes to reestablish themselves as true ACC Coastal contenders. Virginia Tech has seemingly found a spark with new quarterback Hendon Hooker and will look to capitalize on its momentum going into this week’s matchup.
Head coach Mack Brown has created a confounding program during his first year in Chapel Hill. The highly decorated coach has a truly talented young team that has held its own against ACC powers such as Clemson and Wake Forest and has good wins against South Carolina and Miami. Yet, the team has been largely inconsistent, embodied by a week-four loss to Appalachian State.
Offensively, this team is led by a scorching quarterback and wide receiver duo in true freshman Sam Howell and sophomore Dyami Brown. Howell is having a freshman season reminiscent of quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Trevor Lawrence’s first years in the ACC. Howell’s rocket arm and Brown’s speed and route running combine for a passing attack that puts fear in the hearts of defenses.
On the other side of the ball, the Tar Heels are led by the intimidating Aaron Crawford. The graduate defensive line has racked up 6.5 tackles for loss and three sacks on the season and continues to be a force in both the pass and the run game. The Hokies’ first priority offensively must be to double team him or he will create havoc all day.
Crawford is backed up by a talented group of linebackers and safeties in Chazz Surratt, Jeremiah Gemmel, Myles Wolfolk and Myles Dorn. Their speed as a unit is a real asset in pass defense, as all of them consistently fly around the field. However, they are also a very aggressive unit and have been consistently beat this season by counters and play action.
In order to beat North Carolina, the Hokies must consistently run the ball. Justin Fuente must capitalize on the Tar Heels’ lack of discipline as a young team with counters and play action passing. Keshawn King, Deshawn McClease and Dalton Keene will once again be a key to success against North Carolina.
Defensively, a Cover 3 scheme may be the most effective way to stop the Tar Heels. Caleb Farley, Jermaine Waller and Chamarri Conner have been dominant in recent weeks, and Reggie Floyd should help stop the run game of North Carolina. If Farley and Waller can match Brown’s athleticism, Virginia Tech may have a chance to slow down Howell and this offense.
Saturday should be a tough game for the Hokies, but it is not an impossible win. If Virginia Tech’s veterans can out-discipline the Tar Heels’ young talent, Virginia Tech should be in this game the whole way. If not, the Hokies could end up getting roasted on homecoming weekend.