Virginia Tech travels to underdog Old Dominion on Friday night in a battle of teams entering new eras.
While it will be the debut of Tech’s new head coach Brent Pry, who replaces Justin Fuente after six seasons, ODU will play for the first time as a member of the Sun Belt Conference.
It also will be a matchup of head coaches who know each other well. Pry, 52, and Ricky Rahne, 41, served under James Franklin at both Vanderbilt and Penn State, where they were dueling coordinators.
Rahne arrived at ODU in 2020. The school was one of just three in the FBS to cancel the season because of the pandemic. Last year after a 1-5 start, ODU rallied to finish the regular season with five wins in six games to capture a berth in the Myrtle Beach Bowl.
With 17 starters back, including 10 on offense, and an injection of transfers from Power 5 schools, the Monarchs could surprise despite being picked to finish last in the Sun Belt East after leaving Conference USA.
Pocket passer Hayden Wolff returns at quarterback, backed up by Notre Dame transfer D.J. Mack, who provides a running threat. They will look to a potent receiving duo in tight end Zack Kuntz and wideout Ali Jennings, who combined for 135 catches and 1,758 yards last fall.
“They present problems,” Pry said. “They got a talented offense and they’ve got a quarterback who can throw the ball.”
The cast left over from Tech’s 6-7 team is sparse. The defense could be solid with an experienced secondary and productive linebackers Dax Hollifield and Alan Tisdale, who have started a combined 55 games.
Marshall transfer Grant Wells, who threw for 34 touchdowns and 22 interceptions the last two seasons, gives Tech a downfield threat. Explosive Malachi Thomas takes over at running back.
“I have a decent idea of what Tech’s going to do because I know what Brent believes in,” Rahne said.
Tech leads the series 2-1, with ODU posting one of its most memorable wins in its short history, 49-35, in Norfolk in 2018.
–Field Level Media