2013 SEASON IN REVIEW: It was a season of what could have been for Virginia Tech in 2013, as the Coastal Division crown was there for the taking. However, Frank Beamer's squad failed to deliver when it counted the most, losing to Duke, Maryland and Boston College as the favorite in each game, settling for a second-place finish in the league at 5-3.
The season started with a monumental task, taking on top-ranked Alabama on a neutral field, but the result was not favorable for the Hokies in a 35-10 loss. Beamer's squad shook off the loss however, and went on to win six straight games, including jumping out to a 3-0 start to ACC play with wins over Georgia Tech (17-10), North Carolina (27-17) and Pittsburgh (19-9).
However, Virginia Tech's momentum was halted with back-to-back losses to Duke (13-10) and Boston College (34-27). The team closed out the regular-season with a win at nationally-ranked Miami-Florida (42-24), a narrow loss at Maryland (27-24 OT) and a win at rival Virginia (16-6).
With eight wins, Tech earned its 21st straight bowl bid (second-longest streak in the nation), but was overwhelmed in the Sun Bowl by nationally-ranked UCLA in a 42-12 rout.
OFFENSE: Quarterback Logan Thomas failed to deliver on his enormous potential in Blacksburg, as the strong-armed, athletic signal caller never really put it all together. Thomas threw for just under 3,000 yards, with 16 touchdowns against 13 interceptions in 2013 and added four more scores on the ground.
Improved play under center is a must this season considering Tech QBs threw 32 interceptions over the last two seasons (the most in a two-year span in school history).
The hope is that "free agent" Michael Brewer can turn things around. The 6-1, 185-pounder has already graduated from Texas Tech, but comes to Virginia Tech with two years of eligibility remaining. Top backup Mark Leal (6-1, 204) is in the mix as well.
The good news for whoever is under center is the return of Tech's top three receivers from last year in Willie Byrn (51 rec, 660 yds, 2 TDs), Demetri Knowles (45 rec, 641 yds, 3 TDs) and Joshua Stanford (40 rec, 640 yds, 1 TD)
Once a staple in Blacksburg, the rushing attack has struggled of late, including a meager 119.8 yards per game a year ago to rank a distant 13th in the ACC. Still there is reason for optimism, as tailback Trey Edmunds had a solid freshman campaign in 2013, leading the way with 675 yards and 10 TDs. Edmunds broke his leg in the last game of the season, but should be on pace to get on the field when the season begins.
The offensive line has depth and returns three senior starters and a super sophomore in left tackle Jonathan McLaughlin (6-5, 314), who earned freshman All-America honors last year.
DEFENSE: On the surface, it looks like a rebuilding year on defense, as only five starters return to that side of the football.
However, Beamer has a secondary that could rival any in the league and what could be an very underrated front seven.
The strength comes in the defensive backfield, where star power comes in the form of sophomore cornerbacks Kendall Fuller (58 tackles, six INTs) and Brandon Facyson (27 tackles, five INTs), who both earned freshman All-America accolades in 2013. Senior safety Kyshon Jarrett (71 tackles, two INTs) was a third-team All-ACC member.
Filling the holes of departed linebackers Jack Tyler and Tariq Edwards and departed ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins won't be easy. Senior tackle Luther Maddy (55 tackles, 6.5 sacks) will be the player to keep an eye on up front, as will junior linebacker Deon Clarke (6-2, 221) in the middle of the field.
Maddy accepts his new role up front as a leader this season.
"I've been kind of a second-tier guy the past three years because we had so many older guys in front of me, but now that I came back my senior year, it's definitely my time to step up and be the leader. I've taken that role. I think I've been doing a pretty good job, trying to lead by example, getting all my reps during workouts and doing things right to those guys can follow me."
SPECIAL TEAMS: The kicking game was a mess last season, with a collection of players missing a combined 11 field goals, the most ever under Beamer. Freshman Joey Slye (5-10, 216) will get a crack at stabilizing that area this year. Punter A.J. Hughes returns after a sophomore season in which he averaged 44.1 yards per attempt, with 24 punts placed inside the 20-yard line.
OUTLOOK: Playing in the less stacked Coastal Division gives the Hokies a shot at the ACC Championship Game each and every year. Despite the need for players to step up on both sides of the ball, the forecast looks good for Tech in 2014.
The non-conference schedule once again possesses a monster in a Sept. 6 road trip to Ohio State, but other non-league games feature William & Mary, East Carolina and Western Michigan all in Blacksburg.
The Ohio State game is something Beamer is certainly looking forward to.
"Yeah, that's a great trip, Ohio State, great program, nationally known. Our fans I know are looking forward to it. Our players are looking forward to it. They come back to Blacksburg the year after. Personally we've played those type of games a bunch at Virginia Tech. I think you gain a lot from it. I think you find out a lot about what your football team is all about, where they are when you play a good, good team like that."
The Hokies benefit from a favorable league slate, that has the team avoid the Atlantic Division's big three (Florida State, Clemson and Louisville). Home dates with Georgia Tech, Miami-Florida, Boston College and Virginia are countered with road trips to North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Duke and Wake Forest.
Double-digit wins are there to be had for Virginia Tech, as is a division crown.