football Edit

Clark: Given VT's dismal offseason, opener becomes even more critical

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Willie Taggart's first game will be against a depleted Virginia Tech squad.
Gene Williams/Warchant

When we first learned that Florida State would be opening up with Virginia Tech on Labor Day night, we all understood it was going to be a challenge -- especially once the Seminoles underwent a coaching transition.

Yes, it would be at home. But the Hokies seem to be on the rebound with Justin Fuente at the helm -- they're 19-8 the last two seasons -- and they have one of the best (certainly one of the most accomplished) defensive coordinators in America in Bud Foster.

Add to that the element of the unknown that comes with it being Willie Taggart's first game, and certainly it's understandable if some FSU fans are worried that the Seminoles might start the new era with an L and a thud.

But now that we're into July, and Virginia Tech defenders keep disappearing like they're camp counselors in a horror movie, well, this game has become completely and utterly winnable for Florida State.

More than that, it's almost become a must-win. Not just because the Seminoles will likely need a victory over the Hokies to compete for any sort of championship in 2018, but because of what it would say to the fan base if their new offensive-minded head coach can't take advantage of a suddenly depleted defense.

Of course, I realize it's one game. And it's a first game. A win or a loss won't make or break Taggart's career in Tallahassee by any means. But man, you'd sure like to see the new guy get out of the blocks fast. And if he can't do it against this thinning Hokies unit, well, that won't exactly bode well for the rest of the season.

If you missed the news on Monday, Virginia Tech announced that starting defensive back Mook Reynolds (70 tackles in 2017) was dismissed from the tesm. Also gone is fellow projected starter Adonis Alexander, who was ruled academically ineligible and has since declared for the NFL supplemental draft.

Another projected starting defensive back, transfer Jeremy Webb, tore his ACL in the offseason. Combine that with six other starters from last year's defense who are no longer with the team -- three graduated and three were early entries in the NFL Draft (including first-round picks Tremaine Edmunds and Terrell Edmunds) -- and the Hokies will be taking the field at Doak Campbell Stadium with very few defensive players who have made a serious dent at the Division-I level.

Not only that, but there's also been turmoil on the coaching staff. Assistant coach Galen Scott, who was promoted to co-defensive coordinator in January, left the program during the spring when it came to light he was having a long-term extramarital affair -- and using his recruiting trips to facilitate those liaisons.

"It's been a brutal offseason in Blacksburg," said David Teel, a longtime columnist for the Daily Press newspaper in Virginia.

Teel was a guest earlier today on the incredibly popular "Wake Up Warchant" radio show/podcast, which of course is hosted by myself and another guy. And he talked about the astounding attrition the Hokies have faced since the 2017 season ended. (Note: Complete David Teel interview begins around the 18:00 mark below. Virginia Tech discussion begins around 33:00 mark.)

"You could call (Reynolds) a DB, you could call him an outside linebacker, but either way he was going to start," Teel said. " As was Adonis Alexander. And he turned up academically ineligible. And they lost three guys to early NFL Draft entry. It's been a rough offseason.

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