One of the annual rites of spring across D1 college football campuses is the annual list of players who are transferring and changing positions as well as the spring depth chart. The spring depth chart can often be taken with several large, coarse grains of salt because a lot of times it's missing key players who are sitting out during the spring for injury. It's also often times used as a motivational tool by the coaching staff.
Take Miami. When the Hurricanes started their spring camp, Spencer Whipple was listed as their starting quarterback over Jacory Harris and Stephen Morris. That wasn't going to be the case this fall no matter how much we'd all love to see the Canes start Whipple. For one reason or another, it was a ploy by the Miami coaching staff to motivate Harris and Morris. Harris is now listed as Miami's starter.
The Hokies say goodbye to three players before spring gets underway, including a starter from 2010. Lyndell Gibson, who was the starting backer in 2010, is the big name heading out the door just like the guy he took over for, 2009 starting backer Jake Johnson, headlines the group of transfers last season.
Joining him are cornerback Jacob Sykes and wide receiver Austin Fuller. Sykes will be remembered for blocking a punt in the muck against Miami in 2009 that was returned for a touchdown by Matt Reidy. Fuller will be remembered for having a hot mom.
A lot will be made about Gibson's DUI arrest contributing to his decision to transfer. We may never know if that was the reason he decided to bolt, but it certainly had to contribute. However, backer (and mike) is a crowded position for the Hokies and Gibson was going to be in a battle for playing time with Tariq Edwards, the highly regarded Chase Williams and potentially Bruce Taylor.
Here are the Hokies making position changes this year. Traditionally more have come between spring and fall practice as well.
J.R. Collins: DE to DT
Nick Dew: ROV to OLB
Chris Drager: DE to TE
Antone Exum: FS to ROV
Laurence Gibson: OT to OG
James Hopper: ROV to RB
Josh Oglesby: FB to RB
Vinston Painter: OG to OT
Dominique Patterson: MLB to OLB
One thing you might notice on the official roster is that we no longer have players listed as "WHIP." It's been changed to "OLB." Also, looking at the coaching assignments, Cornell Brown has "outside linebackers" and there is not longer a coach assigned to "whips and rovers." It looks to me like we're making a minor change in position nomenclature and that may lead to a minor change in defense. We'll see. My guess is our OLB philosophy winds up resembling the one we've seen out of Boston College in recent years with Luke Kuechly and Mark Herzlich.
The big move is obviously Drager, who is getting into Justin Hamilton territory when it comes to taking one for the team. He moves from DE back to TE, where he played when he began his career at Tech. As we'll see later, he's already listed as the No. 1 TE, ahead of Eric Martin, who is primarily a blocking TE (and a good one to boot).
Collins' move may wind up being just for the spring. Judging by what Kyle Tucker said in his blog post linked above, he'll be moved back to DE if he's going to be a starter or he'll stay at DT and provide depth if some of the younger DEs step up and earn playing time. UPDATE: It's not really a position change, they're just going to see what Collins can do at DT.
The move that could be a big one for the Hokies is Patterson, who I hope will lock down the starting OLB spot. I'm not the only one. He'd bring a lot more size and strength to a position that was a huge weakness last year. Dew may wind up having a higher ceiling than Patterson, but Patterson may be the first one who's ready to play among the young players. He's also most similar to the size seen from BC's OLBs. He's an inch shorter and two pounds lighter than Kuechly was when he played OLB in 2009. Kuechly switched to MLB for 2010 and gained about 10 pounds.
Here's your spring depth chart, courtesy of Norm Wood of the Newport News Daily Press.
QB: Logan Thomas (So.), Ju-Ju Clayton (Jr.)
FB: Joey Phillips (Jr.), Martin Scales (Jr.)
RB: David Wilson (Jr.), Josh Oglesby (Sr.)
SE: Jarrett Boykin (Sr.), D.J. Coles (Jr.)
FL: Danny Coale (Sr.), Marcus Davis (Jr.)
TE: Chris Drager (Sr.), Eric Martin (So.)
LT: Andrew Lanier (Sr.), Nick Becton (Jr.)
LG: David Wang (So.), Courtney Prince (Jr.)
C: Andrew Miller (So.), Michael Via (Jr.)
RG: Jaymes Brooks (Sr.), Laurence Gibson (Fr.)
RT: Blake DeChristopher (Sr.), Vinston Painter (Jr.)
DT: Antoine Hopkins (Jr.), Isaiah Hamlette (Jr.)
DT: Derrick Hopkins (So.), Dwight Tucker (Jr.)
DE: J.R. Collins (So.), Duan Perez-Means (Fr.)
DE: James Gayle (So.), Zack McCray (Fr.)
BACK: Tariq Edwards (So.), Chase Williams (Fr.)
MIKE: Bruce Taylor (Jr.), Jack Tyler (So.)
OLB: Jeron Gouveia-Winslow (Jr.), Alonzo Tweedy (Jr.)
ROV: Antone Exum (So.), Lorenzo Williams (Jr.)
FS: Eddie Whitley (Sr.), Theron Norman (Fr.)
BC: Kyle Fuller (So.), Detrick Bonner (Fr.)
FC: Jayron Hosley (Jr.), Cris Hill (Sr.)
Other players of note are Barquell Rivers, No. 3 at mike and Dew and Patterson, listed No. 3 and No. 4 respectively, at OLB. Starting LG Greg Nosal will miss spring practice and therefore isn't listed on this depth chart.
If you're looking for any motivational ploys, it might be for Rivers. Not necessarily for anything he's done or hasn't done, but to get him to come back at full strength after missing almost all of 2010. Being listed No. 3 at a position he started at before getting hurt can't sit well with him.
Rivers may also be the key to the Hokies' defense in 2011. What I'm hoping is that he comes back and is able to play just as well as he did in 2009, allowing the coaches to start Bruce Taylor at backer, where he played during the Orange Bowl. Those two would certainly be a formidable pair in the middle of the D.