As Virginia Tech continues its push for an ACC Coastal Division title in Justin Fuente’s first year coaching the Hokies, a big part of the team’s success has been a revamped passing game.
That has meant an evolving role for junior Bucky Hodges, who entered the season as the Hokies’ biggest offensive star and best NFL Draft prospect. The 6-7, 245-pound Hodges continues to be listed on the roster and draft boards as a tight end, but for all practical purposes he’s become a gigantic wide receiver.
When Fuente arrived in Blacksburg, Hodges was attending meetings and film sessions with both the tight ends and wideouts. In the weeks and months that followed, he found a home away from home in the wide receivers’ room and has been split out wide during games more often than not.
“We’ve moved him around quite a bit in the spring, just trying to figure out exactly what fit his skill set, what room he needed to meet in,” Fuente said during the ACC weekly coaches’ conference call.
“Quite honestly, whether he needed to be in the tight end room or the receiver room. We started him — he’s been in both, but after the spring, we kind of thought about — maybe it was about halfway through the spring. We kind of had a good evaluation on how to use him and what we thought we should do with him and kind of moved on from there.”
That has led to an increase in production. Hodges has already nearly matched his stats from each of the previous two seasons with 31 catches for 468 yards and five touchdowns. With great hands on display to go with his size and speed, Hodges creates a huge matchup problem for Duke this weekend.
The Hokies can and will line up Hodges almost anywhere on the field, a luxury that has helped ease the transition for junior college transfer quarterback Jerod Evans, who himself might be up for All-ACC honors even in a league with Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Clemson’s Deshaun Watson.
“Our wide receiver coach has been with us for a long time, and we have a little bit of that crossover teaching with our tailbacks and our kind of H-back tight/end spot,” Fuente said.
“And with Bucky in the wide receiver/tight end H spot, so Coach Wiggins, our wide receiver coach, has been with us so long, he knows what we’re teaching at those other spots so he can kind of fill Bucky in on the things he needs to know when he’s playing kind of closer to the line of scrimmage or closer to the ball.
“And if we need to, our tight ends coach can grab him for a little bit, but primarily he’s been in the receiver room.”
No matter what label you slap on Hodges — tight end, wide out, hybrid — as long as he is on the field, the Virginia Tech offense is going to be very tough for ACC defenses to stop.