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2021 Virginia Tech college football preview: Hokies enter critical season for program’s future

Justin Fuente will enter his sixth season with Virginia Tech, and we may be looking at a make-or-break year regarding his future with the program.

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Tech Hokies did not live up to the standards they have as a program in 2020, but it is certainly fair to be forgiving in a year that hopefully we will never see again. Virginia Tech finished below .500 for the second time in Justin Fuente’s five seasons as the head coach.

The Hokies relied on an incredible running game in 2020 in which they ranked No. 9 in the country in yards per attempt. Unfortunately, running back Khalil Herbert moved on to the NFL, as did left tackle Christian Darrisaw. Quarterback Hendon Hooker was a big part of the running game’s success, and he is now playing for Tennessee. The Virginia Tech defense was a complete mess, allowing 32.1 points per game. If that does not improve, a fringe bowl team is likely the ceiling for this program.

This is certainly a big season for Fuente and the future of this Virginia Tech program. He got off to a hot start with a pair of 9-3 seasons at Virginia Tech, and it would be a surprise if the Hokies reach that win total in 2021.

2020 Season Review

  • 5-6, 5-5 ACC (6th)
  • Scored 33 or more points in seven games, allowed 31 or more six times

2021 Talent

2021 247Sports Composite Ranking: 42
ESPN Returning Production: 68% overall (72nd): 69% offense (71st), 67% defense (76th)
Returning Talent Index: Negative, 12th in ACC
Returning starters: 8/11 offense, 7/11 defense
* All rankings out of 130 FBS schools

Key Player

Quarterback: Braxton Burmeister (Junior)

Braxton Burmeister transferred from Oregon prior to last season, and he was not overly impressive in 2020. The quarterback position dealt with plenty of health issues last season, so it is difficult to forecast what Burmeister can be this season. He completed 56.5% of his passes for 687 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. With Hooker and Quincy Patterson transferring, this is Burmeister’s job.

Offense (non-QB): TE James Mitchell (Junior)

James Mitchell figures to be one of the top tight ends in the country this season and if he meets expectations, this would be a significant development for the Virginia Tech passing game. He is a big-time playmaker and is a matchup problem for defenses. Mitchell caught 26 passes for 435 yards last season with four touchdowns.

Defense: DE Amare Barno (Junior)

Amare Barno is best defensive player on this roster, and his transition from linebacker to defensive end was a major success in 2020. He led the ACC with 16 tackles for loss in his first year at the position and finished with 6.5 sacks on the season. Barno also forced two fumbles and recovered one. The defense needs to make significant improvements this season, and those numbers would go a long way in 2021.

Team Stats Projections

2020 SP+ final: 27th overall: 20th offense, 48th defense, 17th special teams
2021 SP+ projection: 36th overall: 27th offense, 57th defense

Odds from DraftKings Sportsbook

To win national title: +25000
To win ACC: +2500
Win total: 7 (Over +105, Under -134)

2020 Against The Spread: 4-7-0
2020 Point Total: Over 6-5-0

2021 Virginia Tech Schedule

2021 Virginia Tech Football Schedule

Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Date Opponent Time (ET)/TV Spread/Total
Friday, Sep. 3 North Carolina 6:00 pm/ESPN VT +5.5
Saturday, Sep. 11 MTSU 2:00 pm/ACCN
Saturday, Sep. 18 at West Virginia 12:00 pm/FS1
Saturday, Sep. 25 Richmond
Saturday, Oct. 2 Open
Saturday, Oct. 9 Notre Dame VT +5.5
Saturday, Oct. 16 Pitt
Saturday, Oct. 23 Syracuse
Saturday, Oct. 30 at Georgia Tech
Friday, Nov. 5 at Boston College 7:30 pm/ESPN2
Saturday, Nov. 13 Duke
Saturday, Nov. 20 at Miami
Saturday, Nov. 27 at Virginia