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. How will the carries be distributed?
Two years, two superb freshman campaigns for Virginia Tech running backs. Tech's backfield appears loaded, but simple mathematics tells us only one guy can carry the ball each play. Keeping both Ryan Williams and Darren Evans happy won't be an easy chore, but it will be one the Hokies have to accomplish. Williams is the more talented back, but Evans is the workhorse, something the offense was missing at times in 2009. We probably won't know exactly how the backfield rotation will work until August, but spring will still give us a good idea of what the coaches plan to do.
2. Who will put pressure on the quarterback?
The Hokies lost their two starting defensive ends and whip linebacker from the 2009 team. Now a laundry list of guys will compete for playing time at three positions whose job it is to put the other team's quarterback on his back. If Tech can't find players who can get a good pass rush, its youth and inexperience at linebacker and in parts of the secondary will be exploited.
3. How quickly will the offensive line gel?
Tech needs to replace two starting offensive linemen from 2009 and needs to build depth on the entire line. Depth has been an issue the last two seasons as the performance of the line has gone down significantly thanks to a key injury during those seasons. We need to find a left tackle who can help improve our awful pass blocking, a guard who can help maintain our successful run blocking and have them work in tune with the three returning starters. That's a tall order, but it's one that will be easier to fill if we can find our starting five this spring.
4. Who will quarterback the defense?
As good as Kam Chancellor was as a rover, he was often a liability in pass coverage as a free safety. The problem was that one of the main jobs of the free safety at Virginia Tech is to keep the defense on the same page. Since we didn't have anyone better than Chancellor at this part of the job, Chancellor had to play out of position. The goal for 2010 is to find someone who can quarterback the defense and play well in the secondary. It looks like Eddie Whitley is that guy, but if Antone Exum can show leadership ability beyond his years, he could start this fall.
5. Who's going to kick the ball?
We have to replace both our kicker and punter this year and both will have big shoes to fill. The Hokies will have their fifth kicker in as many years and the four before have been very accurate. Justin Myer looks like he has the strongest leg in the group, but if he doesn't prove he can be accurate his only role will be as kickoff specialist yet again. We were spoiled last year by how good Brent Bowden was at punter. As always, you want your punter to live in obscurity because the only reason you're going to talk about him is if he's failing. Brian Saunders looks like he'll get the first crack at punting duties, but he needs to be consistent.