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Positions to Watch as Virginia Tech Starts Fall Football Practice Thursday

Frank Beamer begins his 25th season as Virginia Tech's head coach Thursday when the Hokies open fall practice. Tech is a trendy darkhorse to contend for a national title because of their favorable schedule, but it has a lot to work on between now and Sept. 3 for that to even be a pipe dream.

Tech will not be at full strength when camp opens. As has been the trend for the Hokies in recent years, the offensive line will be down a couple of key components while the offense tries to gel before the start of the season. This year, it's Blake DeChristopher who's nursing an injury.

DeChristopher, the starting right tackle, strained his left pectoral muscle during max testing. Why on earth we were doing max testing right before the start of camp is a topic for its own blog post, but until he gets back Michael Via and Vinston Painter will be competing for playing time should DeChristopher not be ready for the start of the season.

According to the team trainers, DeChristopher will miss 4-6 weeks, which will be cutting it close. Another starting offensive lineman, Greg Nosal, is still recovering from shoulder surgery and will also miss the start of practice. The injuries will keep the line from developing together just like the past few seasons. Our O-line has always regressed from the end of the previous season to the start of the next, often in disturbing fashion. If DeChristopher and Nosal aren't ready to go soon, I fear the same will happen this year.

There will be several position battles for the Hokies over the next few weeks as well. Kyle Tucker goes in depth on them over at his blog, including important battles at backup running back and defensive tackle. It's assumed that Josh Oglesby will be the No. 2 back behind David Wilson, but Tony Gregory (coming off a torn ACL) will also be in the running for the job.

If Tech wants to improve upon it's poor numbers against the run from 2010, it will need better play from its defensive tackles. Another player coming off a torn ACL, Kwamaine Battle, could be a difference-maker for the Hokies at DT if he's able to come back at 100 percent. He'll fight for time with the Hopkins Brothers and Isaiah Hamlette. Hamlette added 17 pounds in the offseason, which will help his cause.