The Four-Letter is bullish on Virginia Tech's potential this upcoming college football season. ESPN pegs the Hokies — which finished No. 24 in the final AP Poll of 2017 — at No. 14 in its self-admitted way-too-early top 25 for 2018.
Key losses: WR Cam Phillips, G Wyatt Teller, C Eric Gallo, RT Kyle Chung, DT Tim Settle, LB Deon Newsome, LB Andrew Motuapuaka, CB Brandon Facyson, CB Greg Stroman
Outlook: Quarterback Josh Jackson seemed to hit the freshman wall in the second half of the 2017 season. The Hokies struggled right along with him, losing three of their final five games. Jackson should be even better as a sophomore, after passing for 2,991 yards with 20 touchdowns and nine interceptions.
Deshawn McClease and Steven Peoples emerged as productive runners, and the Hokies will have to replace three of their five starting offensive linemen.
Defensive coordinator Bud Foster's unit loses a couple of key pieces, such as Motuapuaka and Facyson, but there's plenty for him to work with. The Hokies will play Notre Dame, Miami and Georgia Tech at home in 2018.
The ranking hedges on improvement from Josh Jackson and for Bud Foster to be Bud Foster. Also, ESPN did not mention the potential early departures of Tremaine and Terrell Edmunds to the NFL Draft.
Miami (No. 7), Notre Dame (No. 20), Florida State (No. 22) join the Hokies on the list.