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Players to Watch: Syracuse at Virginia Tech

Which players could have the biggest outcome on the game?

Syracuse enters Saturday's game with three consecutive losses, each by just three points. Now on the road for the fi

To make the stars align on the field in Syracuse’s favor, it’s clear that there will be some key components to make it happen. Here are predictions for who may help get Syracuse one step closer to a bowl game and who to watch for from Virginia Tech to stop that from becoming a reality.

SYRACUSE

QB Garrett Shrader: Throwing 818 yards so far this season, Shrader has completed 54% of his passes and five touchdowns. Better yet, he’s rushed for 418 yards on 82 carries and nine rushing touchdowns. His dual-threat ability is challenging for any opposing defense to handle. However, last week Shrader had to rely more heavily on Sean Tucker, with Clemson shutting down his mobility (6 yards rushing). Virginia Tech’s run defense has lacked (155.3 yds allowed per game) compared to their secondary play (197.5 yds allowed per game), so look for Shrader to exploit the Hokies on the ground.

RB Sean Tucker: As the team’s top rusher, Sean Tucker has captured national attention for carrying the ball 155 times for 948 yards and nine touchdowns this year, already passing his 2020 season. He’s multi-talented with 224 receiving yards on 14 catches with two receiving touchdowns. Named as one of the players to join the Midseason All-American team by the Associated Press, Head Coach Dino Babers said in a press conference Monday that Tucker is different and players like him do not come along often. Fans and scouts alike will have their eyes on him against the Hokies when they play in Blacksburg Saturday, as Virginia Tech has been vulnerable to strong rushing attacks.

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WR Courtney Jackson: With Taj Harris in the transfer portal, players like Jackson are filling the empty space. So far this season, Jackson has grabbed 20 passes for 207 yards. With game-to-game improvement, eyes will be on him to continue the work done in the offseason to get him to the level he plays at now.

VIRGINIA TECH

QB Braxton Burmeister: Virginia's Tech starting quarterback is coming off of a sluggish performance against Pitt and has had his struggles all season. With 1,064 passing yards to lead Virginia Tech, Burmeister has completed 54% of his passes, throwing six touchdown passes with three interceptions this season. The Orange defense will have to keep an eye on Burmeister, who can also make plays with his legs as he leads the team in rushing attempts.

RB Raheem Blackshear: The opportunities for Blackshear are limited this season, with quarterback Braxton Burmeister taking the bulk of the carries for the Hokies on design runs. However, Blackshear’s made the most of his carries, averaging nearly four yards per carry, along with four touchdowns (team-high). The Philadelphia native has racked up 340 total yards of offense on the season, proving he can be a weapon in both the run and pass game.

LB Dax Hollifield: The junior linebacker has impressed this season after already doubling the number of sacks he had in total last year (1.5), with a team-leading three on the season. Hollifield is versatile on the defensive side with his ability to get home to the quarterback and track down opposing running backs quickly. It’ll be a great test on Saturday for Hollifield and the Hokies defense to see if they’re up for the challenge of slowing down Sean Tucker, who sits 2nd in the nation in rushing yards (948 yards).