The Hokies open spring practice Wednesday with the spring game scheduled for April 24 at Lane Stadium. They will again be highly ranked, but will need several players to step up at key positions in order to contend for a fourth ACC title. This year's spring practice will tell us a lot about how talented the 2010 edition of Hokie football will be.
1. Logan Thomas - Fr. QB
Make no mistake, we have to get Thomas on the field somehow. The 6-6 redshirt freshman is a freakish athlete who I think can contribute this year if given the right circumstance. That may be as the back-up quarterback with specifically designed packages to exploit his talent and give Tyrod Taylor a breather or as a tight end. This will be Thomas' first spring practice with the Hokies and his first chance to really show off his abilities. I look forward to hearing and seeing what he can do on the football field.
2. Jake Johnson - Jr. DE
Jake-a-mania was in full-force going into the start of last year after Johnson won the starting backer spot. However, his difficulty in pass coverage eventually put Johnson on the bench during the Hokies' loss to UNC. At only 6-2, 232, he'll be undersized compared to the rest of the defensive end corps, but there's no questioning Johnson's drive and reckless abandon when he plays. He's the X-factor in the battle for defensive end starting time and a guy a lot of Hokie fans want to see back on the field.
3. Darren Evans - Jr. RB
Evans is returning from a torn left ACL he suffered in August. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered about Evans starting this spring. We need to see if he's back to full speed and can still run with the same force he did as a freshman in 2008. We also need to see what the coaches' plan is for distributing carries between Evans and Ryan Williams this season. Both had a ridiculous amount of carries in their freshman campaigns and both will benefit from fewer touches even if it means their raw stats will go down.
4. Eddie Whitley - Jr. DB
Whitley is officially listed as a free safety on Virginia Tech's roster after spending the last two years at cornerback. He's the No. 1 choice to replace Kam Chancellor at free and is probably better suited to the position than Chancellor was. Chancellor had to sacrifice for the team by moving from his natural position, rover, to free because we didn't have anyone better there. Now we have a guy in Whitley who can give us a more natural free safety. If he can win the job I think a defensive backfield of Whitley, Davon Morgan, Rashad Carmichael and Jayron Hosley could be one of the best we've had at Tech.
5. Vinston Painter - So. OL
Everyone had high hopes for Painter when he arrived in 2008 because of his size and natural ability. Two years later I think were going to finally see what he has to offer. He'll likely be battling for the starting left guard spot with junior Greg Nosal who played well last year when he was forced into duty when Sergio Render injured his pectoral muscle. Despite the loss of Render, who I think is the best pulling guard we've had at Tech, I think we're pretty loaded at guard. It would take an outstanding effort from Painter to win one of the starting guard positions but I think he has it in him to do just that.