How did the Underclassmen Recruits fair against Pittsburgh?
The game that fans saw the Hokies play against Pittsburgh was nothing short of embarrassing. A lot of jeers from the fans made it seem that there are no positives from that game, but that isn't true. Some of the performances we saw from the 2020/2021 recruits proved that there might be hope in the future. Today, we take a deeper look into who performed well against Pittsburgh.
Class of 2020:
OL Kaden Moore: Back on the top is freshmen offensive linemen Kaden Moore. Last week, Moore struggled a bit with an experienced Notre Dame defensive set. However, it was a nice change-up to see him back in the rotation this week. And although his time was limited, he proved to the coaching staff that he should indeed be a starter.
At face value, Kaden Moore managed to sneak himself into the top seven for all categories that are relevant to him. PFF gave the young linemen a total offensive grade of 65.1. This, compared to some of the other veterans, was a great showing by the linemen. And it even turned out to be his second-best performance all year. If we dig deeper and look into how Moore performed compared to other linemen for both pass and run blocking, he slipped into the top five for both.
P Peter Moore: It is always nice to hear the words "Beamer Ball" when discussing Virginia Tech's special teams unit. And under the leadership of Coach Shibest, the special teams units have been great this year. But the head honcho running the show has got to be punter Peter Moore, who has been named to the Mid-Season Freshmen All-American list.
When looking at Moore's stats, it is astounding to see how often and how far he ended up punting. Nonetheless, credit is due to freshmen punter who managed to net 308 yards altogether against the Pittsburgh Panthers. He also showed that his strong leg hasn't gone anywhere, with a second career-long punt at Virginia Tech with a 57-yard punt. Special Teams has been able to hold it down thus far this season, with thanks to Moore.
Possible New Names: To put it simply, there were not many other names this week that lived up to their potential. Much like last week, with Notre Dame, it seemed that some of the younger players are stuck in the mud. However, this doesn't mean they are never going to bounce back, it means quite the opposite. I expect players like CB Dorian Strong, S Keonta Jenkins, and OL Parker Clements to show they can play at an elite level.
Class of 2021:
WR Da'Wain Lofton: It is hard to talk about some of the young stars on this team and to not mention wider receiver Da'Wain Lofton. In not even his full year yet at Virginia Tech, the Texas native has shown that he can ball at a high level.
The class of 2021 recruit got to play twenty-five snaps for the Hokies this past weekend. The ball was thrown his way twice, with one of them being caught. In his one catch, Lofton pulled out a 29-yard gain to show for it. And when he was used in the run block game, the wide receiver accounted for the best PFF blocking grade by a wide receiver at 61.9. And although his time is limited at the moment, I do believe we start to see Lofton take this year as a stepping stool into next season.
RB Malachi Thomas: What a game by the freshmen running back. Not only did we see Thomas be used more in this rotation, he actually out-performed the other running backs. At first, the playing time by Thomas seemed more of a test drive than the actual thing, but we were wrong.
On his eight snaps taken in the backfield last game, Thomas put up a PFF run game grade of 66.6, which was the highest of all the running backs. And before you think it is a padded stat, the young back took the second-most snaps at the position all day. He also allotted for 33 yards total and managed to average 5.5 yards a carry. Now that type of early production with such an older group of running backs at the coach's disposal is very impressive.
Possible New Names: As mentioned before, it isn't out of the ordinary for young players, especially those who were enrolled in high school the previous year, to not get a ton of playing time. Some of the names who we have seen though, such as DL Cole Nelson, S Jalen Stroman, and WR Jaylen Jones are all poised to develop fast and early. I think we will continue to see contributions from these young players, and it will show in some of the grittier conference games.