Blue and Gold Illustrated

Oct. 8, 2018*

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 36 of 55 OCT. 8, 2018 37 the preseason has the sixth-best backfield in col- lege football. If it wants to shut down Notre Dame, however, Virginia Tech will need more production from standout tackle Ricky Walker. The talented fifth- year senior had just four tackles and one stop behind the line through three games, after he registered 12.5 tackles for loss in 2017. Advantage: Virginia Tech NOTRE DAME PASSING GAME VS. VIRGINIA TECH PASS DEFENSE One question that must be asked is whether or not Virginia Tech's run defense is as good as its numbers and rankings show, or if it is because teams have had so much success throwing the football against the Hokies. Virginia Tech ranked 123rd nationally through three contests, giving up 319.7 aerial yards per game. It also ranked 104th in yards allowed per at- tempt (8.3) and 105th in yards allowed per comple- tion (13.7). Old Dominion thrashed the Virginia Tech sec- ondary in its monumental upset, completing 30 of 50 passes for 495 yards with four touchdowns. It exposed a Virginia Tech back end that has been rav- aged by offseason injuries and suspensions. The Hokies lost three starters from last season's secondary to graduation or the NFL. It then lost two expected starters — one to injury and another to academics — during the spring, and another during the summer to suspension. To make matters worse, following the loss to Vir- ginia Tech, head coach Justin Fuente kicked defen- sive end Trevon Hill off the team. Hill tied for the team lead with 5.5 sacks in 2017, and was leading the Hokies with 3.5 sacks through three games this season. Notre Dame struggled to throw the ball through its first three tilts, but the insertion of Book into the lineup sparked the Irish passing attack. Book com- pleted 25 of 34 passes for 325 yards in the win over Wake Forest, and 10 different players caught passes. Tight end Alizé Mack grabbed a season-high six passes in Book's first start, and the 6-5 senior is a matchup problem for the inexperienced Hokies secondary. Advantage: Notre Dame SPECIAL TEAMS Notre Dame dominated Wake Forest on special teams, but coordinator Brian Polian's unit still has much to prove, and thriving in this area against the Hokies would be a step in the right direction. Virginia Tech ranked eighth nationally in special teams efficiency in 2017, according to the Fremeau Efficiency Index, while Notre Dame ranked 61st. The Hokies are once again off to a strong start in that phase of the game, ranking fourth nationally after three contests in special teams efficiency, ac- cording to the S&P+ ratings. During that stretch none of sophomore punter Oscar Bradburn's punts had been returned, and redshirt freshman kickoff specialist Jordan Stout knocked 21 of his 22 kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks. Notre Dame ranked 53rd in special teams ef- ficiency by the same measure through its first four games. Advantage: Virginia Tech COACHING Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente went 7-17 in his first two seasons at Memphis (2012-13), which was his first head coaching opportunity. Since that time, Fuente has gone 40-15, including a 21-9 record in his first 30 games in charge of the Hokies. Fuente has gone just 2-4 against ranked oppo- nents, but he took over a Virginia Tech program that posted a 29-23 ledger in the four seasons prior to his arrival. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is looking to produce the program's first back-to-back 10-win seasons since 1992-93. Since losing to Virginia Tech in the final home game of the 2016, Kelly has led the Irish to a 17-4 record over the next 21 games. Under Kelly, the Irish have gone 14-7 against ACC opponents since starting an ACC-heavy schedule in 2014. Advantage: Notre Dame INTANGIBLES Virginia Tech will enter this contest feeling that it is capable of beating the Fighting Irish, which it did two seasons ago inside Notre Dame Sta- dium. Being at home is another advantage for the Hokies, who are 11-2 on their home turf under Fuente. Lane Stadium is known as a loud and raucous environment, and the Irish have struggled the last six seasons when playing true road games. Going back to 2013, Notre Dame is just 7-12 in games played on the campus of the opponent. Working in Notre Dame's favor is that it is 4-1 in its last five true road games. Virginia Tech has also struggled at home against ranked opponents. Its last home victory over a top-10 opponent came on Sept. 26, 2009, against Miami. Since that victory, the Hokies have gone just 9-18 against ranked foes, including 1-8 versus top-10 squads and 0-6 at home against ranked opponents. Advantage: Even GAME PREVIEW: VIRGINIA TECH Offense Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. WR 14 Damon Hazelton 6-2 222 R-So. 8 Phil Patterson 6-2 202 R-So. LT 77 Christian Darrisaw 6-5 295 Fr. 60 Silas Dzansi 6-5 315 R-Fr. LG 61 Kyle Chung 6-3 310 5th-Sr. 54 Lecitus Smith 6-3 313 R-Fr. C 75 Zachariah Hoyt 6-5 308 R-So. 79 Tyrell Smith 6-3 305 R-Jr. RG 74 Braxton Pfaff 6-5 315 5th-Sr. 62 D'Andre Plantin 6-5 315 R-Jr. RT 69 Yosuah Nijman 6-7 314 Sr. 71 T.J. Jackson 6-6 333 R-So. TE 29 Dalton Keene 6-4 246 So. or 85 Chris Cunningham 6-2 245 R-Jr. WR 6 Hezekiah Grimsley 6-0 185 So. 15 Sean Savoy 5-9 192 So. WR 83 Eric Kumah 6-2 225 Jr. 11 Tré Turner 6-2 187 Fr. QB 5 Ryan Willis 6-4 223 R-Jr. 2 Hendon Hooker 6-4 225 R-Fr. RB 33 Deshawn McClease 5-9 197 R-So. or 32 Steven Peoples 5-9 222 Sr. Defense Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Cl. LDE 11 Houshun Gaines 6-3 235 R-Jr. 35 Zion Debose 6-1 250 R-Fr. NT 55 Jarrod Hewitt 6-1 282 R-So. 43 Xavier Burke 6-3 285 R-Jr. DT 8 Ricky Walker 6-2 300 5th-Sr. 99 Vinny Mihota 6-5 297 5th-Sr. RDE 40 Emmanuel Belmar 6-2 250 R-So. 45 TyJuan Garbutt 6-1 245 R-Fr. OLB 44 Dylan Rivers 6-1 232 So. 4 Dax Hollifield 6-1 243 Fr. MLB 23 Rayshard Ashby 5-10 230 So. 38 Rico Kearney 6-0 228 R-Fr. WHIP 9 Khalil Ladler 5-11 192 R-So. 7 Devon Hunter 6-0 225 So. FS 17 Divine Deablo 6-3 220 R-So. 18 Tyree Rodgers 6-1 187 R-So. ROV 21 Reggie Floyd 6-0 222 Jr. 22 Chamarri Conner 6-0 206 Fr. LCB 5 Bryce Watts 6-0 177 So. 28 Jermaine Waller 6-1 182 Fr. RCB 3 Caleb Farley R-Fr. 6-2 202 26 Jovonn Quillen Jr. 6-0 187 VIRGINIA TECH DEPTH CHART Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. K 93 Brian Johnson 6-1 185 R-So. 92 Jordan Stout 6-2 197 R-Fr. P 91 Oscar Bradburn 6-1 211 So. 92 Jordan Stout 6-2 197 R-Fr. KO 92 Jordan Stout 6-2 197 R-Fr. 93 Brian Johnson 6-1 185 R-So. H 91 Oscar Bradburn 6-1 211 So. 86 C.J. Carroll 5-8 173 5th-Sr. Pos. No. Name Ht. Wt. Yr. LS 97 Oscar Shadley 6-0 235 Fr. 64 Sam DeLuke 5-10 235 Fr. KR 3 Caleb Farley 6-2 202 R-Fr. or 24 Terius Wheatley 6-0 197 R-Fr. PR 86 C.J. Carroll 5-8 173 5th-Sr. or 14 Damon Hazelton 6-2 222 R-So. Special Teams

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