One of the biggest story-lines to date regarding this 2012 Virginia Tech football team has been which freshmen are going to be able to contribute and what impact will they make? Though the Hokies are talented and perhaps considered a fringe national title contender, they have some pretty obvious holes--holes that are by-and-large filled by underclassmen and even freshmen.
When considering the recent recruiting success the Hokies have experienced, and that the 2012 class is arguably the best in school history, it is not at all unfathomable that several members of the class would find their way onto the field for the Hokies. But despite the biggest (or at least lengthiest) conversation about freshmen seeing immediate playing time in years, perhaps as far back as the turn of the century, old habits die hard, and the list of freshmen (particularly scholarship freshmen) that will be seeing playing time is very short.
To find out which players are dressing and which players will have to wait another year, continue reading after the jump.
After much debate and consideration, it appears that the Virginia Tech coaching staff has come to a decision on which freshmen will dress and potentially play. Below are a series of tweets straight from Frank Beamer's official site, BeamerBall.com, twitter account.
As the dress squad is finalized, it will include as many as 20 freshmen and red shirt freshmen combined.— Beamer Ball (@Beamer_Ball) August 23, 2012
Freshman WR Joshua Stanford, a native of Canada, will dress this season and wear jersey number 5.
— Beamer Ball (@Beamer_Ball) August 23, 2012
Expect Coach Shane Beamer to dress 2 true freshmen and 1 redshirt freshman. #4 JC Coleman, #14 Trey Edmunds, #20 Michael Holmes— Beamer Ball (@Beamer_Ball) August 23, 2012
Freshmen specialist who will dress for the first game include: K #21 Abbott, P #27 Hughes, LS # 59 D'Antuono and P #85 Windmuller.— Beamer Ball (@Beamer_Ball) August 23, 2012
Projected dress squad including redshirts: 16 sr, 12 jr, 22 soph, 20 frosh— Beamer Ball (@Beamer_Ball) August 23, 2012
So there you have it. On the offensive side of the ball, it appears that Stanford is locked in as a player who will avoid redshirt. Likewise, J.C. Coleman who everyone figured would be at least the backup at running back all along appears to be following that projection. But there were two relative surprises on the offensive side, at least as it would have been viewed at the beginning of camp, in that Joel Caleb was not among those players to dress and that Trey Edmunds, a linebacker until camp started, is dressing (at least to start) at running back.
Caleb was certainly been the favorite of all of the freshmen receivers to see early playing time since the time of his commitment on National Signing Day, but Stanford stood out in practices/scrimmages and Caleb struggled with making the transition from quarterback in high school to wide receiver at the collegiate level.
As for running back, I think Edmunds did enough to be in consideration for playing time. I was skeptical at first when they moved him to running back, as previous such moves have often failed to do anything other than give the team bodies and prevent the player in question from getting quality reps at his natural position. But Edmunds was altogether different. He proved he belonged (although you could argue his long-term future may be back at linebacker). Did he do enough to warrant playing time? Probably, but the issue is not his ability to play if needed as much as IS it needed. I think he is dressing just as insurance in case someone is injured early. They certainly wouldn't burn his shirt if he wasn't in line for some playing time, and at the moment, he is somewhat buried. So as I've said all along, losing a year of eligibility for Edmunds for what pittance of playing time he would get at the moment isn't smart, and I don't expect it to happen without something changing.
On defense, again, it's no surprise that two freshmen cornerbacks are dressing and presumably will see time this season. Manning and Riley are No. 3 and No. 4 right now at corner, so without them, it would impossible to field a two-deep of scholarship players at the position. While neither is necessarily ready for big minutes right now, Tech is short on options. Desmond Frye and Deon Clarke (though both have had their moments that put them on this list) are simply insurance policies, as many of the safeties ahead of Frye are banged up and Tariq Edwards' injury has left a void at backer. Provided there is a clean bill of health at each position, both will likely be redshirted.
The least surprising decisions were made on Special Teams. None of the four freshmen are scholarship players currently, and with a lack of viable options at punter, long-snapper and a kickoff specialist, there is no reason not to allow the players to dress. Beamer said he hopes/plans to use only one punter this season, so if A.J. Hughes hangs on to the spot and does an adequate job, it appears Hunter Windmuller will probably redshirt, especially with Michael Branthover and Scott Demler as emergency options (as pedestrian as those may be, both have experience). Abbott is still in contention for the kickoff specialist job, duties Beamer has been unafraid to let a freshman handle in the past, so there is a good chance that he will be on the field and not destined for a redshirt.
On the whole, none of these decisions evoke a whole lot of emotion out of sensible Hokie fans. Sure I would've loved to see Joel Caleb or Trey Edmunds (which still may happen) in action, but at what cost? There's no guarantee that would happen even if those players weren't redshirted. The Tech coaching staff made prudent decisions, weighing the program's long-term strategy and short term success, and in those situations where the benefit of the latter didn't outweigh the former, they didn't make ill-advised, short-sided decisions. So I'm relatively happy with where our roster stands right now.
For future roster updates and complete coverage of the Virginia Tech football team approaching the season (and during), Gobbler Country is your Hokie source.