Justin Fuente

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Redshirt freshman Josh Jackson gets starting QB job at Virginia Tech

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One of the first players brought into the Virginia Tech football program under head coach Justin Fuente will now be handed the football as the team’s starting quarterback. Redshirt freshman Josh Jackson has officially been named the starting quarterback for the Hokies in 2017.

Jackson enrolled at Virginia Tech as an early-enrollee in January 2016, shortly after Fuente took over as the head coach of the program after being hired away from Memphis. Fuente’s first season as head coach of the Hokies resulted in an ACC Coastal Division championship and saw a well-respected battle against eventual national champion Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. Fuente’s offensive flair quickly impacted the Virginia Tech football program, and now getting his dual-threat quarterback Jackson into the mix could lead to more success on the football field.

Jackson sat out his freshman season in Blacksburg, meaning he will make his first college start with the Hokies on September 3 when Virginia Tech opens the 2017 season against West Virginia. The Mountaineers will have a new starting quarterback as well, with former Florida quarterback Will Grier expected to lead the Mountaineers.

Saban, Meyer, Harbaugh, Swinney and more among 19 Dodd Trophy watch list candidates

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When you really think about it, a watch list for a college football award is nothing more than a way to keep public relations staffers in college football programs busy this summer. There’s nothing wrong with that, and it is nice to have a number of key players for the upcoming season highlighted whenever possible (unless you are a Big Ten team going to Big Ten media days). But a watch list is generally pretty pointles sin the long run for most awards. This is especially true for a watch list of college football coaches.

The Dodd Trophy watch list was released today with a list of 19 coaches from many of the top programs around the country. Yep, a watch list for head coaches. Silly, right? It really is the easiest watch list to put together.

The award watch list, compiled by the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl, includes four coaches from the ACC, Big Ten, Pac-12 and SEC, two coaches from the Big 12 and one from the American Athletic Conference. You know all of the names, like national championship coaches Nick Saban, Urban Meyer, and Dabo Swinney; household names like Jim Harbaugh, Mark Richt, Bill Snyder, and Chris Petersen; and conference championship coaches like David Shaw, James Franklin.

Some notable names not on the list? How about Jimbo Fisher of Florida State? Fisher has a playoff contender in Tallahassee and is the ACC favorite. He also has a national championship ring. Not having Fisher on a preseason watch list for top coaches seems like a bad oversight. Not having new Big 12 coaches Tom Herman (Texas) and Lincoln Riley (Oklahoma) also feels like a swing and a miss if pulling together a list of potential coach of the year candidates. If we are not going to just list all 130 head coaches in FBS, it seems silly to have such a weird collection of watch list candidates when Butch Jones is on the list.

Five coaches on the watch list are former winners of the Dodd Trophy; Snyder, Petersen, Swinney, Saban, and Paul Johnson. Paul Chryst, Ken Niumatalolo, and Petersen were finalists for the award last season as well.

2017 Dodd Trophy Watch List

  • Paul Chryst, Wisconsin
  • James Franklin, Penn State
  • Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech
  • Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State
  • Jim Harbaugh, Michigan
  • Clay Helton, USC
  • Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech
  • Butch Jones, Tennessee
  • Gus Malzahn, Auburn
  • Jim McElwain, Florida
  • Urban Meyer, Ohio State
  • Ken Niumatalolo, Navy
  • Chris Petersen, Washington
  • Mark Richt, Miami
  • Nick Saban, Alabama
  • David Shaw, Stanford
  • Bill Snyder, Kansas State
  • Dabo Swinney, Clemson
  • Kyle Whittingham, Utah

Ew, Pig Sooie! Virginia Tech scores 35-unanswered points to win Belk Bowl, 35-24

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For one half of football, it appeared as though Arkansas (7-6) could do no wrong in the Belk Bowl against No. 22 Virginia Tech (10-4), but the Hokies roared back from a 24-0 halftime deficit with 35 unanswered points in the second half to capture a wild bowl victory. It may be a tad clichĂŠ, but this truly was a tale of two halves that showed why football games are 60 minutes long.

Bud Foster coached up his defense to tighten things up in the second half, and they responded with flying colors. The Hokies sacked Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen six times in the second half, with Mook Reynolds notching two. Reynolds and Tremaine Edmunds each recorded an interception as well to help turn the game around in Virginia Tech’s favorite. With the defense doing its part to prevent Arkansas from scoring again after taking a short-lived, yet commanding 24-0 lead, the Hokies offense had to do their part as well. And oh boy did they.

The Hokies scored five touchdowns in the second half, starting early in the second half after the defense forced an Arkansas turnover on the third play of the half. Jerod Evans completed 21-of-33 passes for 243 yards and two touchdowns and he led the Hokies on the ground with 87 rushing yards and two more touchdowns. Travon McMillian had 34 key yards as well, including a six-yard scoring run one play after rumbling 21 yards for a big gain. McMillian’s touchdown run was likely the final nail in the coffin for the Razorbacks, who went from being down four points to down 11. Arkansas went three-and-out on their next drive and fumbled the football away on their next offensive series after that.

The play of the game may have been a one-handed touchdown snag by Sam Rogers to help cut the Razorbacks’ lead to 10 points.

The comeback from Virginia Tech goes down as the third-largest comeback in a bowl game over the last 10 seasons. Last year’s Alamo Bowl saw TCU dig its way out of a 31-point deficit against Oregon. Texas Tech also played its way back form a 31-point deficit in the 2006 Insight Bowl against Minnesota, going from trailing 38-7 to winning 44-41 in overtime.

The ACC’s impressive bowl season continues

With Virginia Tech’s victory over the Razorbacks, the ACC improved to 5-1 in the bowl season. No other conference has won more than four games so far in the bowl season. The ACC’s lone bowl loss so far was suffered by Pitt in the Pinstripe Bowl (the Panthers lost to Northwestern of the Big Ten). The ACC has winning records against the SEC (2-0) and Big 12 (1-0), is even with the Big Ten (1-1) and owns a victory over the AAC champion (Wake Forest beat Temple in the Military Bowl). The ACC is close to clinching a winning record this postseason with six postseason games to go (seven if Clemson advances to the College Football Playoff National Championship Game).

The SEC drops to 1-4 this bowl season after South Carolina and Arkansas each lost today. The SEC still has a very good chance to see Alabama win a national championship and there are still six additional games to be played to turn things around this bowl season, but this is a bit of a sloppy start to the bowl season for the SEC.

Looking ahead

So, where do we go from here? At Virginia Tech, the Hokies will go into the offseason very positive about the future of the program under the leadership of Justin Fuente. In Fuente’s first season on the job, Virginia Tech won 10 games to capture the ACC Coastal Division and gave Clemson a good battle in the ACC Championship Game, and it all ends with a victory over an SEC school in a bowl game. The 2017 season will commence in Landover, Maryland against former Big East rival West Virginia from the Big 12 on September 2, 2017. The Hokies will play an ACC schedule that includes a home game against Clemson in addition to North Carolina and Pittsburgh and road games against Miami and Georgia Tech. The Hokies should be one of the teams to watch in the ACC once again in 2017 as Fuente’s offense continues to come together in year two.

Arkansas will go back to the drawing board and contemplate just how this season went so up-and-down and ended the way it did. The Razorbacks will still be a team worth paying close attention to and not take for granted in 2017, and if they can find any positive consistency next fall they should be at least a mnild factor in how the SEC West plays out. They won’t be likely to de-throne Alabama, of course, but they can mess with teams like LSU, Texas A&M, and Auburn. Of course, Arkansas will only play Auburn at home, while Alabama and LSU will be played on the road and Texas A&M will be played in AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Arkansas begisn the 2017 season at home against Florida A&M on September 2, 2017 in Little Rock, and the Razorbacks host TCU of the Big 12 on September 9, 2017 in Fayetteville.

Saban, Harbaugh, Meyer among Maxwell Football Club coach of the year semifinalists

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Alabama head coach Nick Saban, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer are among 16 remaining candidates for the George Munger Collegiate Coach of the Year Award presented by the Maxwell Football Club.

Saban is the only coach from the SEC listed as a semifinalist, and he has never won the award that was first presented in 1989 to Michigan’s Bo Schembechler. Gene Stallings is the only Alabama coach to win the award, doing so in 1992. Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen was the first SEC coach since 1998 (Tennessee’s Philip Fulmer) to win the award, in 2014.

Meyer and Mike Leach are the only semifinalists to previously win the award. Meyer won the award in 2004 at Utah and Leach took the award in 2008 with Texas Tech. Penn State’s James Franklin could become the third Penn State coach to win the award, joining Joe Paterno (1990, 2005) and Bill O’Brien (2012).

The remaining semifinalists for the award are Mike MacIntyre (Colorado), Bobby Petrino (Louisville), Neal Brown (Troy), Ken Niumatalolo (Navy), Scott Frost (UCF), Kyle Whittingham (Utah), Justin Fuente (Virginia Tech), Chris Petersen (Washington), Dana Holgorsen (West Virginia), P.J. Fleck (Western Michigan) and Paul Chryst (Wisconsin).

Finalists for the award will be announced on December 12 and a winner will be named on December 29. The winner will be presented with the award on March 10, 2017 in Atlantic City, New Jersey at the annual Maxwell Football Club Awards Banquet.

Report: Virginia Tech fills CB coach vacancy with WVU’s Brian Mitchell

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West Virginia’s loss will be Virginia Tech’s gain. Cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell is reportedly leaving the Mountaineers for the Hokies, according to Mike Casazza of The Charleston Gazette-Mail.

Mitchell will join Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente and work under defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who is one key holdover from Tech’s former staff under Frank Beamer. This will be the first time Mitchell has worked with either Fuente or Foster. He will replace former cornerbacks coach Torrian Gray, who has moved to take on the same role at Florida after it appeared Fuente had his first Virginia Tech staff all glued together. Now it will be West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen looking to fill a vacancy on his staff with little time to spare before opening spring football practices in Morgantown. This is especially crucial because the Mountaineers are losing some fixtures in their defensive secondary, including safeties Karl Joseph and K.J. Dillon.

West Virginia ranked 83rd in the nation against the pass last season with 23 touchdowns allowed and an average of 237.8 yards allowed through the air, but the Mountaineers were among the leaders in total interceptions to help make up for it. West Virginia picked off 23 passes from opposing quarterbacks last season, which was good for a second-place tie with San Diego State and just three off of Arkansas State’s nation-leading 26 interceptions. It should also be kept in mind how often opposing offenses West Virginia faced tend to take to the air. Opposing quarterbacks had a 117.20 passer rating, ranking West Virginia 32nd in the nation. Virginia Tech ranked 37th. The Hokies also picked off just 10 passes last season.