Justin Fuente came to Virginia Tech with a strong background as an offensive coach. His time at Virginia Tech has been a mixed bag when it comes to the offensive side of the ball. His offenses struggled to run the football and he’s had suspect Quarterback play. That hasn’t really been the case this year as Fuente has settled on a Quarterback while also becoming one of the best rushing teams in the country.
Virginia Tech has had some absurd issues when it comes to managing the issues around the pandemic. I don’t think they’ve had a full team yet and they’ve had multiple games where coaches haven’t been able to be with the team. One player that missed multiple games was their Quarterback Hendon Hooker. Hooker became the starter late last year but there were still questions about who would be the guy to start this year. Hooker has been the guy since he returned and he has been pretty solid for the most part.
Hooker is a tall and athletic signal caller who has shown a great ability to run the ball and to make plays with his arm. He hasn’t been consistent as a passer as he’s only hitting on about 57% of his passes but he has been really good at managing the game. Hooker only threw two interceptions last year but he did throw three this past weekend against Wake Forest. Where Hooker is most dangerous is running the football. He makes sound decisions on option plays and he also does well to make guys miss in the open field. Tech is a run first team this season so UofL has to force Hooker to beat them with his arm.
The star of this offense is Khalil Herbert at Running Back. Herbert is a transfer from Kansas who ran for 187 yards against Boston College last year before deciding to sit out the rest of the year so he could transfer. I watched him play twice at Kansas but I didn’t anticipate him being as dynamic as he has been for Tech. Herbert is averaging 8.75 yards per carry and he leads the nation in all purpose yardage. VT knows what they have in him and they do a good job of getting him the ball. He’s at his best on the edge because he has good speed that he mixes with a strong lower body. He can run away from guys while also running through arm tackles and it’s working out pretty well so far this year.
Louisville has improved on defense over the last two weeks but they have allowed more rushing yards while shutting down the passing game. I’m not sure that works so well with the two guys mentioned above. Herbert is a threat to score any time he finds space and Hooker is a more than capable runner himself. UofL will have to have a plan to contain them like Wake was able to do last week. Keeping Herbert under control is a key.
Fuente has had some real issues with attrition since taking over at VT and Wide Receiver is a position where he’s been hit hardest. Tre Turner returned this year but the Hokies have lost a handful of receivers each year which has led to some depth issues. Turner hasn’t been able to break loose for a big game yet but James Mitchell has been a consistent option as a hybrid Tight End/Wide Receiver. Tayvion Robinson is the other option out of this group and I expect Louisville to take these guys away like they’ve done the last two weeks.
Tre Turner is a real concern for the Louisville defense because he has shown in the past that he can take the top off of a defense and he can make impressive catches. UofL has been playing very aggressive against outside receivers and it has worked out really well so far. I’m not sure that they’ve seen a player with Turner’s talent recently, though. I think it’s a good strategy to force Hooker to be accurate and consistent, but Turner could make them pay.
The Virginia Tech Offensive Line has been pretty impressive this season but they gave up a few sacks last weekend to Wake. They’ve done a great job of creating running lanes for the running game but I do wonder how they handle long yardage situations. Wake got them there and Hooker didn’t always make quick decisions. If UofL can cover like they have recently, they might have some success with their pass rush. They will still have to find a way to slow down this running game which starts up front for the Hokies.