Know Your Notre Dame Football Enemy: The Virginia Tech Hokies

BLACKSBURG, VA - OCTOBER 28: Cornerback Greg Stroman
BLACKSBURG, VA - OCTOBER 28: Cornerback Greg Stroman /

The trip to Blacksburg appears to be one of the more daunting obstacles on the 2018 Notre Dame football schedule.

We are taking a quick look at all 12 teams on the 2018 Notre Dame football schedule with the intent of familiarizing you with what the Irish are up against.

Next up: The Virginia Tech Hokies

2017 Synopsis

The Hokies finished their season with a 9-4 record and a 30-21 loss to Oklahoma State in the Camping World Bowl. It was head coach Justin Fuente’s second season at the helm, and all signs point to an upward trajectory for Virginia Tech moving forward.

Who did they lose?

The Hokies lost some significant star power on defense. Outside linebacker Tremaine Edmunds was one of the most physically gifted players at his position in the nation last year. He was drafted 16th overall by the Buffalo Bills in the 2018 NFL Draft. His brother — safety Terrell Edmunds — was taken 28th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers. They also lost dominant defensive tackle Tim Settle and cornerback Greg Stroman to the draft.

Who do they return?

After an academic issue/scare earlier in the year, it does look like quarterback Josh Jackson will return under center. Jackson is one of the more dynamic dual-threat quarterbacks in the country — though he is a better passer than runner. He is without a doubt a what makes Fuente’s offense go. They’ll also return an offensive line full of upperclassmen and two of their three leading receivers.

Defensively, linebacker Mook Reynolds and cornerback Adonis Alexander will lead a relatively inexperienced unit. The wild card will be freshman linebacker Dax Hollifield. He spurned Clemson to join Bud Foster’s defensive unit and has the look of a guy who will be a household name before he leaves Blacksburg.

Why should Notre Dame be worried?

There are few homefield advantages like the one the Hokies have at Lane Stadium. The crowd is always insane, but welcoming the visiting Irish will only boost their intensity. It will be an environment unlike most player on Notre Dame’s roster have enocuntered. Aside from that, Bud Foster’s defense — regardless of the personnel plugged in — is predicated on constant backfield disruption. Brandon Wimbush will need to be as focused as he’s ever been.

Why should Notre Dame not be worried?

Outside of Jackson’s talents, the Hokies struggle to move the ball on the ground. There’s no indication that any of that will change in 2018. This will allow Clark Lea to possibly spy Jackson with Drue Tranquill and focus on eliminating big plays through the air.

When the Irish have the ball, they’ll be looking at a defense with a lot of question marks at linebacker and secondary.

Key Player for Virginia Tech

Ricky Walker — Virginia Tech’s most talented defensive lineman will need to be a force all day in order to help limit the damage the Irish offense can do — especially on the ground. If Notre Dame can make him a non-factor, it could be a long day for the Hokie defense.

Next: Are The Irish Serious Contenders?

Key Player for Notre Dame

Drue Tranquill — As mentioned, Tranquill will likely draw an assignment to keep a constant eye on Josh Jackson. Keeping Jackson in the pocket will be key to ensuring the Hokie offense stays one-dimensional. If Tranquill is not up to the task, all bets are off.