Who will be the most important to getting the Justin Fuente era off to a good start? As we've done the previous three seasons at our previous home, we've counted down the players we believed were most important to Virginia Tech's success. And this season is no different, as we've compiled the top 16 for 2016.
Each of our staff members compiled a list of who they believed were the 16 most important players for the Hokies this season. Each player then earned a score based on where each staff member ranked them (16 points for a first place vote, 15 points for second place, 14 points for third place, etc.) and the points were added up for a true staff ranking. Tiebreakers included most higher votes and most overall votes.
For each of the next 16 days, we'll reveal each of our top players. Be sure to chime in on our message board with your thoughts and who you think should be the most important players this season.
No. 3 Jérod Evans
Jason Stamm, Publisher
The mismatch is obvious. At 6’7” there aren’t too many defensive backs who can come close to matching up physically with Hodges. And the linebackers that have Hodges’ size can’t move like he can.
There have been too many times to count over the past two seasons when Virginia Tech has either reached or come close to reaching the red zone and it being hard to believe that the Hokies didn’t lob up a pass to Hodges. You don’t want to wear that option out, but as he showed at Ohio State two seasons ago and a handful of times since, Hodges’ size can prove to be a big weapon.
If there is one weakness, it’s been that Hodges has had too many drops. Of course now, the other question becomes, how does he fit into coach Justin Fuente’s new spread offense? The offense doesn’t have a ton of use for the traditional tight end, instead deploying as many as five wide receivers.
Of course, Hodges isn’t a traditional tight end. Not many can run seam routes deep for huge gains. And Hodges still being an important weapon was definitely a selling point Fuente made that factored into his decision to forego the NFL at least one more season.
This season, Hodges wants to show that he can be an even bigger receiving threat. Right now, Hodges looks like a surefire draft pick next spring, though how high of a pick will depend on how he masters the offense and how Fuente adjusts to him as well. There’s a pretty good bet Virginia Tech won’t have many, if at all, tight ends like Hodges in the future.
Max Esterhuizen, Editor
Junior tight end Bucky Hodges’ value to the team is almost without words. He’s considered one of the best tight ends in college football. He was recently named to the Mackey Award watch list, which is given to the nation’s best tight end each season.
In what could be his final year in Blacksburg, look for Hodges to see even more targets down the field in 2016. In 2015, he had 530 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Hodges started all 13 games for the Hokies. He will be a big playmaker opposite of star wide-receiver Isaiah Ford and could be finish second on the team in receiving yards in the 2016 season.
Doug Bowman, Senior Writer
Hodges came back for his junior season, spurning the payday of the NFL for probably one more season in Blacksburg. He’s going to line up all over the field in Justin Fuente’s offense and catch a ton of passes this season. I expect to see him split out in the slot and out wide way more than as a traditional tight end, which will help create mismatches against smaller corners and slower linebackers.
If teams want to throw a safety over there to help out too, it only opens up that much more space for the rest of Tech’s skill position players. When combined with Ford and Phillips’ production, Hodges’ skill set (six feet seven inch athlete) makes those three a really dangerous trio to game plan for.