As we approach the halfway point of spring ball, we have updates on important position battles on offense, defense and special teams.
Offense: Left Tackle
Last year, then-sophomore Nick Becton was expected to nail down the left tackle position and be ensconced there for three years. However, Becton suffered turf toe prior to Boise State game and the nagging injury never let him take over a position that looked to be his leading up to Tech's trip to DC.
Now, Becton (and his healed toe) is nipping at the heels of incumbent starter Andrew Lanier, according to Mark Giannotto from the Washington Post. Becton saw a lot of time with the first team during the first full scrimmage
and offensive line coach Curt Newsome told the media hoard Becton is playing more physical than he has in the past.
(Note: A reader pointed out the quote referenced above in Giannotto's post about Becton playing more physical is also in Kyle Tuckers' blog, which was posted the day before Giannotto's. However, in Tucker's blog, the quote is referencing David Wang. I wasn't there so I have no clue who the quote was really about. It could have been about Dustin Pickle for all I know. Either way, it's redacted for now.)
Both players will likely see playing time during the fall and this is a position battle that will rage on well into August. The one who gets the most first-team reps in the final two scrimmages (including the spring game) will probably be the one to beat when players report back to camp this fall.
Defense: Whip Linebacker
Last year, starting whip linebacker Jeron Gouveia-Winslow was the whipping boy (I'm punny) on defense for most Hokie fans. His season got off to a disastrous start as he was one of two players to miss assignments on Boise State's last-minute, game-winning touchdown and missed key tackles against James Madison.
This year, it seems most fans want anyone but JGW to win the starting whip job, but for now he sits atop the depth chart. Right behind him is Alonzo Tweedy, who the Richmond Times-Dispatch's Darryl Slater reports is impressing coaches with his speed. We've already heard defensive coordinator Bud Foster compare Tweedy's speed to various wildlife, but Tweedy told Slater he wasn't able to showcase that speed due to injury:
"My groin was really still hurting throughout the whole year," he said. "I just got it wrapped [before every game]. Whatever I could do, I gave great effort, just to be out there. I rested it during the offseason a little bit. I still lifted, just to get it stronger. Now I'm feeling good."
Everyone's talking about guys other than JGW as the starting whip. Foster and the media are discussing his speed. People like me and the other Joe from The Key Play are hyping up Dominique Patterson's size. Other fans like Nick Dew's raw athleticism and potential. Wouldn't it be funny if JGW improved his game enough over the summer that he kept his starting job and proved us all wrong?
Special Teams: Kicker
Frank Beamer liked Cody Journell so much out of high school so much he did something he rarely does. He gave an incoming freshman kicker a scholarship. For most of the time the Hokies have been in the ACC, kickers had to earn the starting job before being put on scholarship.
Not Journell. The Giles product had a lot of faith put in him by the coaching staff before arriving in Blacksburg.Now, the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot's Kyle Tucker reports he's rewarding the coaches for that faith. Journell told Tucker he welcomed the extra pressure that came with being on scholarship:
"I guess the only other guy that's ever done it is Shayne Graham and he's where he's at now (the NFL)," Journell said. "So having that is not really a burden, because you're on scholarship, but it is a little bit of extra pressure. You have to go in thinking it doesn't matter if you're on scholarship or not. You're on the same playing field as everybody else."
Journell's consistency has him ahead of the competition, including kickoff specialist Justin Myer. Myer has been close to winning the kicking duties in past years because of his leg strength. However, his inconsistency and lack of height on field goal attempts has kept him relegated to kickoff duties.