Fall camp is history and football is finally here. Finally. No more media prognostications about where teams will finish. It will now be settled on the field.
For the Virginia Tech Hokies, a new season brings a fresh start. The Hokies could use a fresh start, having lost a combined 11 games over the last two seasons for the first time in over 20 years.
Can the Hokies eclipse the eight wins they had in 2013? It won't be easy, but a soft schedule outside of Ohio State does help things.
Predicting a team's record can sometimes be monotonous, so we decided to take a fun look at five bold predictions for the 2014 Virginia Tech Hokies.
Isaiah Ford Will Be a Star
If you've followed the Hokies throughout fall camp, this will come as no surprise. Ford has been terrific all camp, and it led to the true freshman's placement at the top of the depth chart for this week's season opener against William and Mary.
Former starter Demitri Knowles has battled an ankle injury this summer, allowing Ford to seize his opportunity. It's rare a freshman receiver is as polished as Ford. Yes, Ford is a dynamic athlete with game-breaking ability, but he also runs sound routes. That is what earns the trust of quarterbacks.
Look for the Hokies to try and find ways to get Ford the ball in space early in the season. He also possesses the ability to change games on special teams. The question is if head coach Frank Beamer wants Ford returning punts if he's also a starting receiver.
Ford, also a basketball player, wants to play hoops at Tech, too. He has the blessing of the legendary head coach, per Andy Bitter of The Roanoke Times:
"There’s been a lot of football guys that have wanted to play basketball. But he’s the first one I ever thought that ever could play basketball too. And he’s just a gifted athlete, got a great head on his shoulders and is smart and keeps everything in perspective. So I think he’s the real deal."
Get used to hearing Ford's name.
Defense Dominant Again
There are certain things in life you come to expect. Virginia Tech—under longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster—playing great defense is one of things.
The Hokies are coming off one of their best statistical seasons defensively in several years. Tech was No. 4 in total defense and near the top in sacks and takeaways.
However, they lost six starters and two more injured stars—Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum—who were starters before their seasons ended.
So, is Foster worried?
Probably not. He's faced these issues before and came back even stronger. In 2008, after losing seven starters to the NFL, Foster engineered Tech to another top-10 finish in total defense.
With all of the issues on offense in recent years, it's tough to imagine how many games VT would have lost if not for Foster and his defense.
Expect more of the same in 2014. This group has its hands full in Week 2 when it travels to Columbus to face Ohio State. On the bright side, at least it won't be against Braxton Miller.
Michael Brewer Won't Finish the Year as Starting Quarterback
It's really unfair to say Brewer, the Texas Tech transfer who was named starter last week, won't make it through the season as the starting quarterback.
But there are several reasons to assume it will be difficult for Brewer to start all 12 regular-season games.
Remember, Brewer's time at Texas Tech essentially came to an end once he got hurt last summer. Yes, he came back and played, but his chances of starting were gone. That's just one injury, but it was a back injury.
Then there is Brewer's size. At 6'0", 200 pounds, he isn't the biggest guy. Sure, Michael Vick was of similar size when he played for the Hokies, but that's not a fair comparison. While mobile, Brewer will not remind anyone of Vick, Tyrod Taylor or Logan Thomas.
And behind an offensive line with some question marks, he will likely get hit—a lot.
There will be an adjustment period for Brewer, too. He just started practicing with the Hokies this summer, so he is learning his receivers. If he struggles will Beamer, will he quickly pull the plug and go with his fifth-year senior Mark Leal?
Brewer has a fairly strong arm and accuracy is his biggest asset. However, offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler cannot run Brewer frequently or he won't make it past the first month.
Keep an eye on freshman Chris Durkin and sophomore Brenden Motley. Both are big, athletic signal-callers.
Virginia Tech Will Win the Coastal Division
Who else did you expect? Virginia?
Seriously, Duke was a nice story last year and David Cutcliffe has that program on the right track, but the Blue Devils aren't built to compete with Virginia Tech or Miami on the football field on an annual basis.
The Hurricanes are a program on the rise, but they, too, have quarterback issues. From a talent standpoint, the 'Canes and North Carolina may be the top teams in the Coastal. But when was the last time you could trust UNC football?
This division, as it has several times before, will come down to Virginia Tech and Miami. Only this year, people are sleeping on the Hokies. Many media folks believe in the Hurricanes and the Tar Heels.
In the end, it will be the Hokies, led by a strong defense and surprisingly efficient offense, who will represent the Coastal Division in the ACC title game.
Kendall Fuller Will be a First-Team All-American
Virginia Tech's most-hyped recruit in years, Kendall Fuller didn't disappoint in 2013. From the very first game against defending national champion Alabama, where he locked up with Amari Cooper, Fuller more than held his own. He was outstanding.
He finished his first year on several freshman All-American teams and picked off three passes in the Duke game. He had six on the season, good for the second in the ACC. He also finished with 58 tackles, showing a willingness to play physically. He is poised for even bigger things in 2014.
Now, Fuller's older brother, Kyle, and Exum are in the NFL, and Kendall is ready to take the next step. Not only can he be a dominant cover corner on the outside, he can move inside and play the slot. His strong tackling ability also enables him to line up at "Whip" linebacker on occasion.
Alongside fellow sophomore Brandon Facyson, this could be one of Tech' better cornerback tandems. And that's saying something. The pair they just replaced were pretty good, too.
Fuller will make an impact on a weekly basis, just don't look for him to intercept six passes again. Quarterbacks will know better than to throw in his direction.
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