The Virginia Tech Friday Q&A: How To Win Football Games In 2022

Virginia Tech
Grant Wells must protect the football for Virginia Tech in 2022. (Jon Fleming)

1) How will VT win football games in 2022? With a perceived lack of playmakers on offense, and inexperience on special teams, how will VT win football games in 2022? – Hokie Hammer

Chris Coleman: I’ve heard that Brent Pry has told people off the record that while he likes his team and his players, he’s deeply concerned that Virginia Tech doesn’t have enough playmakers on the roster. Playmakers turn otherwise even games into victories, and there have been times recently where the Hokies didn’t have enough of them on the offensive side of the ball.

There have been other times where the Hokies had plenty. In 2020, Tech had Hendon Hooker, Tre Turner, Tayvion Robinson, Khalil Herbert and James Mitchell, but they lacked a defense. In 2021, it had a quarterback who could really run, but his injuries limited their ability to get the ball to Robinson and Turner, and to top it off, the best playmaking running back (Raheem Blackshear) didn’t get enough touches.

Unfortunately, Tech’s defense wasn’t quite good enough in 2020 to take advantage of an offense that didn’t have trouble scoring, and while that defense improved in 2021, it was still pretty average.

There have been times where the Hokies had fewer playmakers than they had the last two seasons, but they managed to win more games. In 2017, they had exactly one playmaker – Cam Phillips. Yet, that team still won nine games because they had a dominant defense and were good on special teams. Obviously, your best bet is to have playmakers on offense and also have a good defense (2016, for example).

I think Grant Wells has the chance to be a very good quarterback. However, his playmaking ability through the air is going to be dependent on his wide receivers. Can any of those guys make plays, break tackles and gain yards after the catch? Kaleb Smith and Jadan Blue are more possession guys. Da’Wain Lofton and Connor Blumrick offer the best chances to “make plays,” in my opinion.

At running back, Jalen Holston is more of a plugger than a playmaker. Malachi Thomas was good as a true freshman last season and broke off some long runs against Syracuse. Those long runs were more about vision than speed, but they still count. He’s probably the best bet for a playmaking running back in 2022.

I would love to be able to say that Virginia Tech has a dominant defense, which would mean that as long as the offense was mediocre, the result would be a lot of wins. However, we can’t say that. I think it could potentially be better than last year’s defense, but we don’t know that it will be. What if some of these guys don’t end up being great fits for the scheme? Combine that with an offense that lacks playmakers, and Tech could struggle to grind out wins.

I know this sounds absolutely boring, but probably the best chance for Virginia Tech to win a lot of games this year is by winning the field position game. They need to take advantage of shorter fields offensively, while making the opposition drive the length of the field. And, of course, turnovers will be critical. Tech must protect the football.

Yeah, I know I sound like Frank Beamer and Justin Fuente on Tech Talk Live, but I think that’s how Tech has to win this year. I don’t know that we’ll see an exciting brand of football on the field this season. That doesn’t bother me in Brent Pry’s first season, as long as he and his staff are pragmatic about the situation