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Sunday June 13th

ACC preview: Virginia Tech looks to rebound defensively

In preparation for the North Carolina football team's season opener on Sept. 3, we've broken down everything you need to know about each team in the ACC. Check out the rest of our previews here.

Coach: 

Justin Fuente (first year with Virginia Tech) 

Record last year: 

7-6 (4-4 ACC)

When they play UNC? 

Oct. 8 in Chapel Hill

Where are they projected? 

Fourth in Coastal Division

How do they play?

A typically defensive-minded team, the Hokies are looking to make big changes this year with Fuente at the reins. It will be Fuente’s first season with Virginia Tech, as he was chosen as Frank Beamer’s replacement in November.

Fuente seems to be placing a large emphasis on revamping how things are operated, adding an up-tempo spread offense to his new implementations.

Who stands out?

Great things are expected of Isaiah Ford. Ford, a junior wide receiver, set a Virginia Tech single-season record for catches in 2015 with 75. The 2015 First Team All-ACC player also set a school record for 11 touchdown catches in a single season. He also became the first Virginia Tech player have more than 1,000 receiving yards in a single season.

Another key piece that returned is redshirt junior Bucky Hodges, who remains one of the nation's top tight end prospects. In two years, Hodges has logged 1,056 receiving yards and 13 touchdowns in his two years with the Hokies. 

This duo will supplement a decent 2016 recruiting class of 21 for Virginia Tech, the most notable addition being quarterback Jerod Evans.

What is their biggest weakness?

Though the Hokies usually emphasize a tight defense, the 2015 season was a huge rough patch. Virginia Tech allowed 26.3 points, 180.7 rushing yards and 369.8 total yards per game. It was the worst set of defensive numbers in over 20 years for the Hokies.

Offensively, the team wasn’t much better. Virginia Tech finished with 2,071 rushing yards — ninth in the ACC — and 2,936 passing yards. Fuente will have his work cut out for him on both ends of the ball going into this season.

Why could they win the ACC?

Fuente has been credited as the coach that fixed the Memphis' program, going 26-23 in four seasons there. Though that record is similar to Virginia Tech’s 29-23 combined record in the past four seasons, a fresh face on the sidelines and at the quarterback position could be just what the team needs.

With the season starting soon, Fuente only recently named Evans the team’s starting quarterback for the Hokies’ first game on September 3. Evans is a transfer from Trinity Valley Community College in Texas, where he led his conference in touchdowns (38) and average passing yards (395.5).

Other choices for the starting position included redshirt-senior Brenden Motley and freshman Josh Jackson. Motley started six games last season, in which he threw seven interceptions and 11 touchdowns.

Fuente has said that he would not be afraid to use multiple quarterbacks in one game and he’s not afraid to change things up, so a little friendly competition amongst the trio can elevate them all to play their best.

@Nicole_Caporaso

sports@dailytarheel.com

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