Roth Report: December 2023 – Virginia Tech Athletics

Roth Report: December 2023 – Virginia Tech Athletics

Happy, Hokie New Year. 2024 is Here.

As we turn the page to 2024, Virginia Tech football – from its players and coaches to its passionate fan base – has that very special euphoric feeling of anticipation.

Does it feel like something special is happening again in Blacksburg? You know it.

Of course, the Hokies finished only 7-6, but it’s easy to make the point that not all 7-6 seasons are the same.

After starting 1-3, the Hokies won six of their final nine contests. But what stands out is this: Each of the six wins was by at least three scores. (Cue Dick Vitale voice: Blowout City, Baby!”)

In fact, this past season marked only the 15th time in the program’s history, dating back to 1892, that Virginia Tech won at least six games by 17 or more points in the same season.

(For the record, Virginia Tech won at least six games by 17 or more points in 1993, ’95, ’96, ’98, ’99, 2000, ’01, ’03, ’05, ’06, ’07, ’09, 2010, 2016, and now 2023.)

And with nearly every major contributor returning and a transfer portal haul that seemingly addresses critical areas of need, the ’24 Hokies seemed primed for success.

Or is that “prymed”?

“We have a lot of momentum right now,” Tech head coach Brent Pry told us following the Hokies’ 41-20 win over No. 23 Tulane in the Military Bowl. “We keep moving that needle more and more to be the team we want to be.”

The team we saw in November is the kind of physical team he envisioned when he was hired as Tech’s coach two years ago. A physical, powerful, explosive football team with an elite running game.

Over its last four games, the Hokies averaged 275 yards per game rushing and 7.1 yards per carry. Tech won three of the four.

“Anytime we’ve played well, when we score points, we’re runnin’ the ball,” Pry said. “We have to do that; that’s who we are at Virginia Tech.”

The Hokies ran for 362 yards against a Tulane defense that was No. 7 in rushing defense nationally coming into the game. That’s an all-time bowl record for Virginia Tech.

And as we look ahead to 2024, it all starts at quarterback. The ’24 Hokies return one of the top QBs in the ACC in rising junior Kyron Drones. Against Tulane, Drones became the first player with two passing touchdowns and at least 150 rushing yards in a bowl game since Lamar Jackson for Louisville in the 2017 Gator Bowl (TaxSlayer Bowl). Jackson, however, threw four interceptions in that game against Mississippi State.

This past season, Drones threw for 2,084 yards with 17 touchdowns. More impressively, he threw just three interceptions. Drones’ interception-thrown percentage of 1.05 percent ranked second in the ACC to Florida State’s Jordan Travis and ranks among the top five nationally.

Drones’ 818 yards were the most among all ACC QBs this year, and he rushed for 5 TDs.

He’s emerged as a team leader as well.

“This win over Tulane is a momentum changer, “Drones said. This game. The recruiting is now. Winning these last few. We knew the season would have ups and downs, and it didn’t start how we wanted, but it ended great.”

The Hokies will also return star tailback Bhayshul Tuten, who finished among the ACC’s rushing leaders (863 yards and 10 TDs), and their entire offensive line.

Tech’s ground game was explosive in ’23. In fact, heading into the College Football Playoff, Tech is tied for the national lead with 16 runs of 30 yards or more. The Hokies had three runs against Tulane: 51 and 38 yards by Drones and a 44-yard scamper by Tuten.

Roth Report: December 2023 – Virginia Tech Athletics

On defense, the Hokies lose the interior of their defensive line and linebacker Alan Tisdale, but that’s where the portal comes into play.

The Hokies have commitments from All-ACC defensive tackle transfer Aeneas Peebles from Duke, JUCO DT All-American and Virginia Beach product Kemari Copeland and MTSU middle linebacker Sam Brumfield.

On the back end, the Hokies return one of the best cornerback combos in the ACC in Mansoor Delane and Dorian Strong.

“This year we improved in a lot of areas,’ Delane said. “Whether it’s a win or a loss, you come back on Sunday and treat it the same way. You got to win that week. That’s what 1-0 each week means. We’ve already added a couple of pieces for next year. We’re on the up-and-up.”

Pry and his staff are indeed moving the needle. The team’s winter workouts, which begin in January, and spring ball will be exciting to watch.

Happy New Year, Hokies. 2024 looks like it could be something special in Blacksburg.

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