With a shocking loss to Georgia Tech kicking off ACC play on quite a sour note, a bounce-back performance against Virginia Tech is of the utmost importance.
Virginia Tech, despite a lackluster 2-3 showing to date, is actually better off than Georgia Tech was entering last week, which just goes to show that Pitt isn’t afforded the ability to take any conference opponent lightly.
So, who are some players for Virginia Tech that Pitt will need to watch out for?
Keshawn King — RB
Virginia Tech’s rushing offense as a whole isn’t anything to write home about, ranked 13th in the ACC out of the 14 schools, but Keshawn King has been Virginia Tech’s primary source of offense on the ground this season.
King, after a debut in which he rushed for 111 yards on 19 carries and hauled in 22 yards and a touchdown on three receptions (adding 47 yards in the return game) hasn’t been utilized to his fullest extent.
Against Boston College, West Virginia and North Carolina, King racked up only 19 total carries — and six receptions. Virginia Tech has trailed heavily in both the WVU and UNC games, but King is a player who can be leaned upon in the run game.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound running back isn’t a great blocker, but he’s been VT’s best rusher this season. With a team-high 231 yards and a touchdown on 38 carries and 82 yards and a touchdown on nine receptions, he’s a dual-threat option.
King is capable operating as a running back who can rack up yards after contact but also as a back who has that next-level speed. He’s a player Pitt’s defense is designed to quell.
Dax Hollifield — LB
Dax Hollifield has seemingly been at Virginia Tech for the last decade, but it’s clear the fifth-year senior is one of the best linebackers in the ACC.
With 40 tackles (19 solo), three tackles for loss, a sack, a forced fumble and two recoveries and two passes defended, Hollifield has been the leader of the VT defense up the middle.
At 6-foot-1, 240 pounds, Hollifield isn’t the biggest, strongest linebacker out there, but he’s blessed with natural instincts and the on-field IQ honed through dozens and dozens of ACC starts.
Hollifield is a run stopper, with 23 stops this season, according to Pro Football Focus, but he’s graded out more highly as a pass rusher from the second level.
TyJuan Garbutt — DL
TyJuan Garbutt doesn’t have the gaudy stats that turn heads, but he’s capable of wrecking a football game, nonetheless.
Garbutt’s stat line (eight tackles (six solo), four tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble and recovery) don’t jump off the page, but he’s just as capable of going off as he is going silent.
In two games against Boston College and WVU? Seven tackles (six solo), four tackles for loss, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble and recovery.
In two games against Old Dominion and UNC? One tackle (zero solo).
Garbutt leads Virginia Tech with 17 quarterback pressures, accumulating eight hurries and seven quarterback hits, but he hasn’t always been able to get home to the opposing quarterback. His impact upon the game is undeniable.