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Wednesday Scrimmage Recap

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The Hokies held their second and final public scrimmage of the fall camp Wednesday afternoon. The scrimmage was scheduled to go anywhere between 95-110 plays (no official counter on the number of plays yet, as you'll see why in after the jump).

Many players are still trying to play their way onto the field and avoid the dreaded redshirt, but as time goes on, it appears more and more of the freshmen will suffer that (minor) fate. Several of those players had statement scrimmages (I know, it sounds funny saying it) while others may have played their way out of the competition at some positions. Some did neither, making it even more difficult to distinguish which players deserve the opportunity to see the field this year.

For a full recap of the scrimmage and analysis of the position battles and redshirt possibilities at the relevant positions, continue reading after the jump.

Compared with the first full scrimmage this fall (last Saturday), this scrimmage was more up-and-down (something you will hear a lot of in this post). The offense started off on a roll, but the defense improved and by the end of the scrimmage the scale had been tipped towards them. Here are some video highlights, and below is a full recap of the scrimmage.

With Virginia Tech recruiting at an all-time high, at center stage during this scrimmage was the issue of which freshmen would prove that they could make an impact this season. This was particularly true of running backs Trey Edmunds and J.C. Coleman. Coleman, an early enrollee in January, has all but solidified a place in this year's backfield with strong performances so far this fall, a slight experience edge over the other freshman and his game-changing talent. Edmunds, originally a linebacker but moved to running back, maybe initially an afterthought for playing this year, has played himself into the conversation of freshmen who will avoid being redshirted. To that end, Edmunds led all rushers on the day with 57 yards on 12 carries (though he did fumble twice, once trying to get extra yardage and another on a handoff exchange). Beamer seemed to have a mixed reaction:

"He showed his ability and then he showed being a freshman too. We'll take a look at that one."

Martin Scales also showed that he might be an asset in a reserve roll, carrying the ball 10 times for 42 yards and scoring a 1-yard touchdown, the only touchdown against the first-team defense on the day. Projected starter Michael Holmes had 41 yards on seven carries and rushed for two touchdowns, both against the second-team defense. J.C. Coleman also scored a touchdown against the second-team defense, finishing with 29 yards on eight carries. The younger Beamer also offered his take on the state of the backfield:

"None of our running backs are going to be a guy that plays for 50 plays. I think you'd have to have a package for him that he's going to play a little bit here and there and maybe limit what you do in the game."

At this point, I would say the odds are 60/40 in favor of Edmunds being redshirted, and that's a conservative estimate. The coaches did discuss the possibility of allowing Edmunds (and several other freshmen who are in the mix to play, but perhaps on the outside looking in) to be on the travel team early on as injury insurance, but then ultimately redshirting him. That scenario would be ideal. He could be called into action if needed, but if not, there's no reason to play a guy who would be at best your No. 4 running back at the moment, possibly even No. 5.

The other primary group of freshmen suitors, in the secondary, had an up-and-down day, but the coaches seemed to think they improved, if only marginally, since Saturday. The difference between the freshmen cornerbacks and halfbacks is, for the most part, the use of the freshmen cornerbacks is by necessity. Freshmen Donaldven Manning and Donovan Riley are essentially locks to play. Riley did have an interception in the end zone, but once again was beaten for a touchdown, the third he's allowed in two scrimmages. Manning has an experience advantage from enrolling in the spring, but is still not at the point where he is not a concern. Both are being force-fed reps as Hokiesports put it. There was also an issue with blown coverages in the secondary, which resulted in plays like these:

As was reported Tuesday on the Hokiesports Camp Blog, freshman Davion Tookes is out with a hamstring injury, and subsequently he is falling behind. But unfortunately, the other options if he cannot get healthy in time to get camp experience are walk-on Carl Jackson and Der'Woun Greene, who has only been at the position for a week. Also, according to this tweet, Manning, who's been carrying a hamstring injury, looked pretty bad after practice.

Without Tookes, the secondary would presumably go only four deep this year with scholarship players, two of which true freshmen, something that is unprecedented in today's college football. Torrian Gray acknowledged the concern there:

"If we had to play and expect those guys to win for us, we’d have to simplify it. We couldn’t run our package the way we want. But they are getting better. It’s just a process. In time, all those guys are going to be good players."

On the other side of the ball, it was a bigger day for Tech tight ends than receivers. It really appeared to be a concerted effort on the part of the coaching staff to get them more involved. Eric Martin and Ryan Malleck got the bulk of the time, but Randall Dunn, Duan-Perez Means and even Darius Redman all recorded receptions on the day. In fact, the tight ends were so much of a focus today that the two leading receivers were Perez-Means and Martin respectively. Perez-Means caught two passes for 53 yards and Martin hauled in two passes for 52 yards. Malleck was the only tight end to score, catching one pass for 11 yards and the aforementioned touchdown. Dunn had two catches for 18 yards and Redman had a catch for 3 yards. It's pretty clear at this point that Randall Dunn is falling behind in the race for the top tight end, although I would not rule him out as an option on passing downs. His blocking, however, continues to be an issue.

Looking at the wide receivers, Corey Fuller had the biggest day, catching two passes for 40 yards. He is quickly erasing many doubts about his ability to be the fourth receiver. That could really be a blessing, as Joel Caleb and Joshua Stanford are pushing to see playing time right away as true freshmen. Caleb, like Edmunds, might be ready from a physical standpoint, but is making the transition from playing quarterback in high school to wide receiver on the collegiate level. As expected, he and Edmunds are both missing out on some of the intricacies of the position necessary to succeed at this level. Caleb didn't have a reception, but he did run the ball twice for no yards. Stanford collected two receptions for 27 yards, and of the two, looks to have the leg up if any freshman receiver is indeed given the opportunity to play immediately. But again, much like the running back situation, why waste a year of eligibility on a guy when he is at best the No. 6 receiver when the corps is completely healthy.

Kevin Asante had 30 yards on two receptions, including an impressive job to hold onto the ball after Boye Aromire laid him out (for which he was flagged).

Demitri Knowles added a catch for 13 yards, but made his biggest impression by returning a kickoff for a 100-yard touchdown (though it was blown dead, it appeared he would have scored) and a 24-yard reverse. If you'll remember, I was very critical of Knowles during his recruitment, so I can't wait for him to get out there and prove me wrong. The redshirting of Caleb and or Stanford is particularly prudent if guys like Asante and Knowles are making statements and able to round out the top-six receivers. Dyrell Roberts and Marcus Davis finished with two catches for 15 yards apiece. Davis did, however, lose a jump ball to Antone Exum in the end zone. Additionally, Willie Byrn had a 30-yard touchdown catch and E.L. Smiling had a catch for 9 yards.

From a quarterback standpoint, today was a pretty below average day, starting with Mark Leal. Leal was sacked six times and threw an interception in the end zone to Donovan Riley. He did, however, manage to finish 7-of-12 for 70 yards. Logan Thomas was not much better, throwing for 160 yards on 11-for-20 passing and a touchdown. Thomas was frustrated all day, staring down receivers and missing players who were wide open.

Trey Gresh impressed again, although all of his time came against the third-string defense. Gresh went 5-of-10 for 95 yards and the touchdown pass to Byrn. The biggest issue of the day from a quarterbacking standpoint was the inability to get a clean quarterback-center exchange. Sophomore backup center Caleb Farris botched several snaps, especially those out of the shotgun. Beamer was so infuriated by these repeated issues that he ended the scrimmage on a botched snap exchange.

As for the offensive line, it was also an up-and-down day, surrendering nine sacks but sometimes looking the part of a much more seasoned line. The six sacks against Leal were issued by the second-team offensive line, which was mostly going up against the first team defense. Several players played well, including Vinston Painter, but Brent Benedict particularly struggled.

Defensively, several players had standout days. J.R. Collins, recently demoted because of being late to a meeting due to car trouble, had a tremendous scrimmage and might've been the best player on the field. Redshirt-freshman defensive tackle Kris Harley had a good day as well, and may be looking at some playing time (depending on the rotations) sitting just outside the two-deep. Freshman walk-on free safety/rover Greg Jones also surprised with six tackles and a forced fumble. Jones is a third-stringer at this point. Those who recorded sacks were Jeron Gouveia-Winslow (2), Dewayne Alford, Deon Clarke, Ken Ekanem, Luther Maddy, Corey Marshall, Bruce Taylor and Ronny Vandyke.

On special teams, Cody Journell had a good day, kicking field goals of 22, 25 and 39 yards while Brooks Abbott hit one from 26. In the race for punter, A.J. Hughes looks to now be the frontrunner. Hughes averaged 41.8 yards on four punts, including one that was downed at the 1-yard line. Hunter Windmuller also averaged 38 yards per punt with a long of 55. Scott Demler and Michael Branthover appear to be completely out of the conversation at this point.

James Gayle (ankle), D.J. Coles and Tony Gregory (knee) all sat out of the scrimmage. Tariq Edwards was in the stands, but still being supported by a crutch. Edwards' injury has potentially opened up the door for freshman Deon Clarke, who has impressed early on. He is among those most likely to avoid a redshirt.

Overall, Beamer said this about the scrimmage:

"There were some good plays on both sides. I think as a football team, we’ve got to be sharper. We looked like we were right in the middle of preseason. I didn’t feel the sharpness and quickness. We’ll take a look at the video. I think we’re going to find there’s a lot to improve on right now."

This scrimmage wraps up the public scrimmages for the Hokies this preseason. Tech will play another scrimmage Saturday before preparing for Georgia Tech per Hokiesports.

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