Virginia Tech football: Top storylines for 2017

BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech’s football team managed to post the same regular season record as it did in 2016, but it sure had a different feel. There were plenty of empty calories in Virginia Tech’s nine-win season, with seven victories as a double-digit favorite and a fraction of the marquee wins that made coach Justin Fuente’s debut season so memorable. But a 9-4 mark is still pretty good. In fact, in two years, Fuente’s one of only nine coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision who have won 19 games in his first two years at his school, joining notable names like Stanford’s David Shaw, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh and Miami’s Mark Richt. So what were the biggest storylines for Virginia Tech football in 2017? Here are five: 1. ESPN’s “College GameDay” comes back to town, though Clemson spoils the party. It had been over 10 years since “College GameDay” — the real “College GameDay,” with Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso and the full crew — had come to Blacksburg, despite Virginia Tech helping put the show on the map back in the late ’90s. But with defending national champion and No. 2 Clemson coming to town to face the No. 12 Hokies in a battle of unbeatens, there was really no other option for Sept. 30. The show went off without a hitch, a big turnout on Alumni Mall on Saturday morning that reminded the crew how well Blacksburg performs as a stop on the traveling show’s circuit. The game? Not so much. Clemson showed it was still head and shoulders better than Virginia Tech in a 31-17 win that really wasn’t that close. The Tigers built a 24-3 lead, with their defense showing that the Hokies were not quite ready for prime time on offense. Two fourth-quarter Hokie touchdowns made the score respectable, but this game showed Virginia Tech still had a ways to go as a program. 2. Virginia Tech hangs on against West Virginia in the Continue Reading

Camping World Bowl: James Washington sets OSU receiving record as Cowboys knock off Virginia Tech

Photo gallery: See the best images as Oklahoma State closes its season in the Camping World Bowl Camping World Bowl observations: Cowboys survive loss of both starting cornerbacks Camping World Bowl game pulse: OSU QB Mason Rudolph is the player of the game ORLANDO, Fla. — Mason Rudolph faked a handoff, took two steps back, and waited. His head turned toward No. 28 — James Washington, who ran up the left side of the field before cutting across the middle on a post route. Between practices, workouts and the 41 starts Rudolph has made in an Oklahoma State uniform, it’s a route the duo has connected on probably hundreds of times. Only Rudolph and Washington could make a 65-yard bomb down the middle of the field seem familiar, unimaginative, trite. But in the crisp air of Camping World Stadium, as Rudolph heaved the football just as Washington separated himself from the Virginia Tech defensive back, it felt as fun as ever. The throw was on the money. Washington escaped Reggie Floyd’s last-ditch dive at his ankles. The result was six more points in a 30-21 victory that became a celebration of two of Oklahoma State’s most decorated players ever. “Kind of the cherry on top,” Rudolph said. The setting Thursday was not the place where Rudolph, Washington or any of Oklahoma State’s transformative senior class envisioned their final game. Though the matchup with No. 22 Virginia Tech (9-4) was juicy, the Camping World Bowl lacks the glamour, stakes or even the history of the bowls played a few days from now on New Year’s. Even so, the questions about whether Oklahoma State (10-3) would be motivated to play did not seem to make sense for a unit led by a group who accomplished a program first with their win Thursday: The first group of OSU players to produce three consecutive 10-win seasons. “Me and James and these seniors had higher aspirations, obviously, with our goals Continue Reading

Hokies mailbag: How does this recruiting class stack up for Virginia Tech?

Time for the last pre-bowl game mailbag. First, a few things: -- I'll direct you to this link about former Hokies coach Frank Beamer, who talks openly about battling cancer in his latter coaching years. I think it was long assumed that's what he was dealing with when he had throat surgery, but he was always careful to not come out and say it. -- On the signing day front, Hokies ATH commit James Graham ended up signing with Georgia Tech. It sounds like he'll have a chance at being the Yellow Jackets' quarterback down the line. -- I didn't get asked about this, since it came up only yesterday, but I thought I'd point it out. A Reddit moderator found out Florida State might not actually be eligible for a bowl game this year, since one of its wins was against FCS Delaware State, which did not meet the 90 percent scholarship threshold required for that win to count toward FSU's bowl eligibility. Brett McMurphy reported that an NCAA official called this a "monumental oversight." Three other teams that were 6-6 did not go to a bowl game this year. (UPDATE: Florida State has posted its response, saying Delaware State did in fact meet the threshold through other forms of financial aid, so all this appears to be for naught.) Now, plenty of Virginia Tech fans wanting to have the nation's longest bowl streak will take glee in this. My personal thought I'd be careful about throwing stones. The Hokies were 6-6 in 2012, '14 and '15 and played an FCS opponent every year. Nobody really has a clue if those FCS teams were in compliance. And I'm not sure what Florida State really could have done here. It's not FSU's fault Delaware State didn't reach the scholarship threshold. DSU took the money from the buy game, after all. Even though the original report seems to be incomplete and FSU is in the clear, this whole deal is a little comical, since the 'Noles have gone to such great lengths to protect the validity of their 36-year bowl streak. The Hokies sports Continue Reading

Virginia Tech football awards, plus a breakdown of the Hokies’ 2018 signing class so far

The Hokies arrived in Orlando yesterday. This particular reporter won't be there for another 36 hours. (Wasn't about to ruin Christmas for this particular bowl.) Follow me on  Twitter  and  Facebook . In the interim, we'll keep the blog rolling. Before they departed for the bowl game, the Hokies handed out their 2017 awards, as voted on by the players. And the winners were: Most Valuable Player – CB Greg Stroman Outstanding Defensive Lineman – DT Ricky Walker Outstanding Linebacker – LB Tremaine Edmunds Outstanding Defensive Back -- Stroman Outstanding Offensive Lineman – LG Wyatt Teller  Outstanding Offensive Receiver – WR Cam Phillips Outstanding Offensive Back – RB Steven Peoples Outstanding Specialist – P Oscar Bradburn You can't really argue with any of those, other than to think the Hokies didn't want to triple up with Stroman as the top specialist too, because he was certainly worthy of that as well. It probably speaks to Tech's revolving door at tailback that Peoples, who nearly missed seven games this year, was voted the top offensive back. Here are the awards the coaches voted for: Outstanding Senior Award: LB Andrew Motuapuaka John William Schneider Award (Athletics, scholarship, leadership) – CB Brandon Facyson Paul Torgersen Award (Hard work and great effort) – C Eric Gallo Williams-Moss Award (Leadership and character) – Stroman Paul Frederick Cobb Award (Spirit) – LB Sean Huelskamp Lawrence R. White Award (Strength and conditioning) – Teller & K Joey Slye Wes Worsham Award (Exceeds expectations) – S/OLB Deon Newsome Edward G. Ferrell Award (Hard work and unselfishness) – LB Anthony Shegog Now for a little bit further breakdown of the Hokies' 2018 signing class as it stands now ... National rankings As I wrote in Saturday's paper, this has the chance to be one of Tech's higher-ranked classes in a while if its current ranking holds. The Continue Reading

Virginia Tech 2018 Signing Day Central

Here's something new for signing day: an early period. Recruitniks who are used to treating the first Wednesday of February as a national holiday have had to alter their schedule this year, with members of the 2018 recruiting class being able to officially sign during a new early period from Dec. 20-22 this year. I wrote about how coaches are playing this first year by ear, noting that Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente is leery of the unintended consequences of going earlier with a signing period, even if it's only by a month and a half.  Virginia Tech has added 24 players to its 2018 signing class as part of college football's inaugural signing period. There's a lot of TBD on this first run at the early signing period. Most recruits should sign, which means Tech could have more than 25 players sign today. Those who don't still can sign in February.  Right now, the Hokies' class is pretty well-regarded, ranked 13th nationally on, 14th in both the 247 Sports-specific and composite rankings, and 16th on ESPN. Keep in mind that Virginia Tech's class is nearly complete. Florida State and USC, for instance, have only nine commitments currently, meaning they'll likely shoot up the rankings if they bring in their usual haul of recruits. Check back on this page frequently throughout the day. I'll keep a running list of who's committed and who the Hokies are still waiting on, with bios of all the players Virginia Tech signs at the bottom, so be sure to scroll down. It's possible several players not on this list could sign with Tech today as well. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Signed NLI ATH DeJuan Ellis, ATH Nadir Thompson, OL John Harris, DB Chamarri Conner, OL Walker Culver, LS Oscar Shadley, DB Jermaine Waller, DB Nasir Peoples, OL Luke Tenuta, WR Darryle Simmons, ATH Armani Chatman, DL Joe Kane, OL Christian Darrisaw, LB Keshon Artis, TE James Continue Reading

After once considering Virginia Tech, QB Mason Rudolph went on to set records at Oklahoma State

ORLANDO, Fla. — In an alternate universe, Mason Rudolph might be wearing orange and maroon at this week’s Camping World Bowl. It’s odd to think of the Oklahoma State senior quarterback in anything but black and orange as he concludes a record-setting career, but when he was a high schooler coming out of Rock Hill, South Carolina, in 2014, Virginia Tech was definitely in the mix. “It was pretty serious,” Rudolph said Tuesday. “I was probably down to them and two other schools, Oklahoma State being one of them. It was like a four-hour drive from Rock Hill. I liked [then-Tech assistant] Scot Loeffler at the time, and obviously Coach [Frank] Beamer. I felt comfortable with the staff. I enjoyed my visits and enjoyed my time there. “Just felt more of a connection in Stillwater.” The Cowboys, who square off with the Hokies in Thursday’s Camping World Bowl, are thankful he did. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Rudolph has gone 31-9 in just over three years as a starter, throwing for 13,267 yards and 90 touchdowns and breaking more than 50 school records. He leads the Football Bowl Subdivision in passing this season (4,553 yards), winning the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award. He was a finalist for the Davey O’Brien Award. “He’s big, has a live arm, very accurate,” Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “He’s strong. He’ll stand in the pocket against the rush. But I think the NFL guys will like him a lot because he’s in that 6-4, 6-5 range and he’s that drop-back guy.” Given his accomplishments and his NFL draft stock (ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. ranks him sixth of the draft-eligible quarterbacks), it’s amazing that he got out of the Southeast back when he was being recruited to the 2014 class, but that’s what happened. Underrecruited — most likely because he didn’t move to quarterback until he transferred to Northwestern High School as a Continue Reading

JUCO CB Jeremy Webb picks Virginia Tech

The Hokies graduate two senior cornerbacks this year, but they picked up some help at the position for next season from a junior college transfer Friday. Jeremy Webb, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound cornerback from ASA College in Brooklyn, announced on Twitter that he'll sign with the Hokies next week. He'll be able to play right away and has two years of eligibility remaining. Follow me on Twitter and Facebook. Webb picked Virginia Tech over offers from West Virginia, Iowa State, Nebraska, Tennessee and Ole Miss, among others. 247 Sports' composite rankings list him as a four-star recruit and the No. 11 junior college player nationally in the 2018 class. He's originally from East Mims, Florida, though he played high school ball in Illinois. He earned first-team Northeast Football Conference honors last fall with ASA College. His arrival should help ease the departures of senior cornerbacks Greg Stroman and Brandon Facyson. Junior Adonis Alexander may have an NFL decision to make in the next month as well. Webb's the second scholarship player to commit to the Hokies on Friday, joining Big Stone Gap tight end James Mitchell. Virginia Tech also got a walk-on commitment from Webb's ASA College teammate Corey Thomas, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound tight end who is a Chantilly High product. Brian Mitchell was Webb's primary recruiter. Here is Webb's sophomore year highlight video: Webb is the 25th commitment in the Hokies' 2018 class. Here's an updated list:  DE Eli Adams, 6-0, 235, Rock Hill, S.C. (South Pointe) LB Keshon Artis, 6-0, 230, Chesapeake (Oscar Smith) RB Coleton Beck, 6-1, 185, Blacksburg (Blacksburg) ATH Armani Chatman, 6-0, 180, Virginia Beach (Bishop Sullivan) DB Braxton Clark, 6-3, 180, Orlando, Fla. (Dr. Phillips) S Chamarri Conner, 6-0, 183, Jacksonville, Fla. (Trinity Valley Academy) DB D.J. Crossen, 6-2, 180, Greensboro, N.C. (Dudley) OL Christian Darrisaw, 6-5, Continue Reading

Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians got his start at Virginia Tech

Folks who knew Bruce Arians at Virginia Tech are not surprised he became a successful coach. Arians is the coach of the Arizona Cardinals, who will visit the Washington Redskins on Sunday. He has won two Super Bowl rings and two coach of the year awards during his long history in the NFL. He began his coaching career at Virginia Tech, where he once played quarterback. He spent eight seasons at Tech in the 1970s, including three as an assistant. “Bruce knew all along what he wanted in the future,” ex-Hokie and Blacksburg resident Phil Rogers said in a recent interview. “You could tell he had it in him.” In his autobiography “The Quarterback Whisperer,” which was published earlier this year, Arians wrote in detail about his time at Tech and his NFL career. As an NFL assistant coach, Arians tutored quarterbacks Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck. “He was the same at Virginia Tech — he was a quarterback whisperer,” former Hokies running back and assistant James Barber said. “He knew how to take the quarterback that was there and turn him into something — and that was just as a grad student.” Second chances and trust Arians, 65, grew up in York, Pennsylvania. As a senior, he was kicked out of his Catholic high school after he was caught drinking beer during a school retreat. The late John Devlin, then a Tech assistant, was the only coach who continued to recruit him. When Arians became Temple’s coach, Devlin joined his staff. He is one of four people to whom Arians dedicated his autobiography. “Coach Devlin, I would’ve never got to Virginia Tech without him,” Arians said Wednesday on a teleconference. “I owe him everything.” He is grateful for a lie that Devlin told. “[Devin] told the rest of the Hokie staff that I switched schools simply to take a more advanced math class at the public school,” Arians wrote in his book. “That Continue Reading

Camping World Bowl preview: Oklahoma State vs. Virginia Tech

Sizing up the Camping World Bowl between Oklahoma State (9-3) and Virginia Tech (9-3).Time, TV: Dec. 28, 5:15 p.m. ET, ESPNSite: Camping World Stadium, Orlando AnalysisMike Gundy is still the head coach at Oklahoma State, not at Tennessee.Justin Fuente is still the head coach at Virginia Tech, not at Florida State.There has been plenty of big talk and lots of nervousness among the fan bases, but the main men are still in place for two programs that have been just good enough to get close, but not quite able to knock off the big guys.No. 22 Virginia Tech was supposed to be rebuilding, but instead came out hot with a 7-1 start. But for all the positives, including a 23-10 win against Boston College, the Hokies hit a wall against the better teams.They battled late against Clemson, but were never really in it in a 31-17 loss. They were outclassed in a 28-10 loss to Miami and couldn’t slip past Georgia Tech. Now it’s time to see if they can keep pace with an offense as dangerous as any in the country. BOWL SCHEDULE: The complete postseason lineup for 2017-18 STAFF PICKS: USA TODAY Sports experts predict the winners for every bowl The No. 17 Cowboys had the same problem as Virginia Tech – they couldn’t come up with that one big win they had to have.They battled hard in an epic shootout vs. Oklahoma, but were on the short end of the 62-52 stick. They lost shootouts to Kansas State and Iowa State, too, but it was still a wild season with 555 points scored, and now it’s time to close to finish with a 10th win.Can the Hokies keep up? The defense carries them but that’s unlikely here. This is the chance to open it up and see what the playmakers can do.It’s a pride game for two teams that could use a big win, and for two coaches who appear to be sticking around for a while. Players to watchQB Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State: The Johnny Unitas winner is an NFL prototype, throwing for Continue Reading

Boise State’s shot at reaching BCS title game slim, despite wins over Virginia Tech and Oregon State

Oregon, which blasted Stanford, 52-31, Saturday night in Eugene, leapfrogged Boise State in both the AP and the coaches' polls this week. It's not that the Ducks' win wasn't impressive - it was - it's that Boise State rolled to a 59-0 victory over winless New Mexico State, and the carnage could've been much worse if coach Chris Petersen hadn't pulled star quarterback Kellen Moore and the rest of the starters in the third quarter. Petersen, to his credit, has refused to get dragged into the ongoing debate over whether the Broncos (4-0) - due to their weak WAC schedule - should be considered a national-championship caliber team. He would prefer to wait until all the data is in two months from now before he weighs in. Even if the Broncos finish 12-0, it might be impossible for them to get a legitimate shot at the BCS title game because the BCS is a closed-end system designed to protect the power conferences, which insulate themselves in scheduling by limiting chances for comparisons. No wonder WAC commissioner Karl Benson, a Boise State alum, is calling for reform in the coaches' poll, which does not make the voting public. Benson this week speculated some coaches already were voting Boise in "double digits." USA Today responded to Benson's comments by admitting one coach voted Boise 10th and another had the Broncos eighth. Boise - which has won 18 consecutive games and 14 straight true road games - had a chance to make its case the first month of the season. The Broncos traveled to beat Virginia Tech, a perennial ACC contender, 33-30. That win looked impressive until the Hokies lost to James Madison the next week. Three weeks later, Boise defeated Oregon State out of the Pac-10, 37-24, on the blue turf, but actually dropped in the polls after that, since the Broncos won by only 13. Due to their conference schedule, which has games against Toledo, San Jose State, Louisiana Tech and Hawaii, the Broncos are not likely to generate much love from the BCS Continue Reading