Yesterday we took a look at Bruce Taylor, who has started at mike linebacker and will start at backer for the Hokies against Georgia Tech. Today we will look at the punting position, which has caused much frustration among Virginia Tech fans dating back to last season when Virginia Tech was one of the nation’s worst punting teams (excluding Danny Coale, of course).
A.J. Hughes – Starter
A.J. Hughes is a relatively unknown name to most people as should be expected unless you consider yourself an insider, or at minimum someone that really keeps up with the team. Hughes is a walk-on true freshman punter from Terre Haute, Indiana.
According to his Hokiesports profile, Hughes is quite the joke-maker too.
“[Hughes] Had a 74-yard pun his senior season…”
–Hokiesports.com profile of A.J. Hughes
I couldn’t resist pointing out the typo; so I digress. If you read that quote as it’s meant to be read, you can clearly see that Hughes has quite the leg on him. Hughes has looked the part throughout the summer practices and scrimmages, where he has shown a good mix of distance and location. There have been instances where Hughes punted the ball well over 40 yards, and other instances where Hughes downed the ball within the 5-yard line.
The problem, of course, is that we don’t know what to expect from Hughes when a game is on the line. Before last season Scott Demler booted the ball well in the spring and summer, but his career culminated with getting booed out of Lane Stadium after abysmal performances. Michael Branthover relieved Demler last season, but wasn’t much better. Finally, wide receiver Danny Coale stepped in and gave the Hokies their best consistency at that position all year.
If Hughes wants to have success this season, he’ll have to show that he can average around 40 yards per punt when needed, and he’ll need to show that he can control the field position battle for the Hokies. Against a team like Georgia Tech, field position cannot be understated. If Hughes wants to get in the good graces of the Virginia Tech football fans, he needs to have a good showing against the Yellow Jackets.
Tomorrow we’ll look at the big boys up front, the offensive line.