For the third consecutive year, Virginia Tech's presumed starting tailback will not participate in the spring game. Last year, Ryan Williams sat out with tendinitis and two years ago Darren Evans gave way to Williams after tweaking an ankle. This year it's David Wilson's turn to sit out the spring game, but not because of injury. Instead, he's in Durham for the ACC Track and Field Championships.
Without Wilson in the lineup, most eyes will be on new starting quarterback Logan Thomas, who has been impressive so far during the spring. And while Thomas is certainly the most important player to the Hokies' chances this fall, there is plenty more to watch for during Saturday's spring game.
With Wilson in Durham, most of the carries will go to Josh Oglesby and James Hopper. It's presumed Oglesby will be Wilson's backup in 2011 and I want to see how he'll perform now that he's expected to contribute. He needs to be able to handle anywhere between a fourth and a third of the carries next year and be reliable in short yardage situations.
I think Oglesby is the skill position player with the most to gain during the spring game and on into fall. Wilson will definitely be the Hokies' featured back next year, but the better Oglesby does the more carries he'll get and the more the coaching staff will trust him in crunch time.
Thomas has been great this spring, but it won't translate to the regular season unless the offensive line can keep him on his feet. The line returns four of five starters and appears to be building some depth, but I'm always skeptical of our line. No matter how much we're told they've improved from the previous year, they always seem to hit the reset button at the start of the next year due to injury or some other factor.
I want to see consistency from the offensive line and see that the talent gap between the first string and second string isn't as wide as it has been in recent years. While we won't know for sure about the line until the fall, we could get a look at some causes for concern if the defensive line is able to dominate the line of scrimmage.
So far the defensive ends and defensive tackles appear to be making strides. They're a young group that seems to have a different player make headlines in every scrimmage. So far we've seen James Gayle, J.R. Collins and Derrick Hopkins all stand out during scrimmages. Now, as with the offensive line, the hard part is getting consistency out of guys who haven't been full-time starters before.
All the key position battles for the Hokies are at linebacker. Bruce Taylor is injured, meaning we'll get a good look at Barquell Rivers as he returns from injury and tries to wrestle his starting position back from Taylor. I had always presumed that one of them would eventually get moved to backer so both could be on the field at the same time, but Tariq Edwards has had other ideas.
Edwards has really stepped up his game in spring practice and may be the starting backer in 2011. If that's the case, we have a big-time battle at mike between Rivers, Taylor and Jack Tyler. Along with Edwards, Jeron Gouveia-Winslow also has other plans for those who presume he'll lose his starting job before the fall.
Most reports have JGW as one of the more improved players on the roster this spring. So while the speed of Alonzo Tweedy and size of Dominique Patterson have people intrigued, JGW will be looking to keep them at bay with a big spring game. Of the guys on defense, he's probably the one that needs to impress the most on Saturday.