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A Look Ahead At The Hokies Offensive Depth Chart

Offense: Part 1 of the Depth Chart Manifesto

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the dust from National Signing Day has settled, we are pleased to bring you a little depth chart analysis for the upcoming 2014 Hokie football season. We will examine the losses at each offensive position, who is returning,  how the incoming freshmen might play a role, and who might be candidates for other action.

At present, the Hokies have 92 players who are probably under scholarship. Depending on a couple of fringe guys like the long-snapper and kick-off specialist, it could even be 94. With scholarship limits set at 85, it stands to reason that there will be 7-10 players who are going to see their situation change via red-shirt, grey-shirt, or the opportunity to transfer.

Right now the breakdown is as follows:

  • 92 total scholarships
  • 53 on offense
  • 39 on defense
  • 2 players in question in Michael Branthover and Joe St. Germain (both tenured special teams specialists)

*Please note that any extra scholarships are usually awarded in August, and while it doesn't appear that we have any now, player movement might change that outlook. So, with the exact number of scholarships a shadowy figure, the grey-shirt and transfer predictions will have to be viewed as simple speculation on our part, for entertainment purposes only.

Today we start with the offense, and for ease of reference, we have included our projected depth chart below:














Mark Leal


Trey Edmunds


Sam Rogers


Josh Stanford


Ryan Malleck


Jonathan McLaughlin


Brendan Motley


J.C. Coleman


Jerome Wright


Demetri Knowles


Kalvin Cline


Caleb Farris


Andrew Ford


Chris Mangus


Willie Byrn


Darius Redman


David Wang


Chris Durkin


Joel Caleb


Charlie Meyer


Bucky Hodges


Brent Benedict


Travon McMillian


Marshawn Williams


Carlis Parker


Dakota Jackson


Laurence Gibson


Shai McKenzie


Deon Newsome


Xavier Burke


Matt Arkema


D.J. Reid


David Prince


Mark Shuman


Tabyus Taylor


E.L. Smiling


Augie Conte


Mark Irick


Wyatt Teller


Kendrick Holland


Alston Smith


Isaiah Ford


Kyle Chung


Cameron Phillips


Parker Osterloh


Jaylen Bradshaw


Jake Willenbrock


Greg Stroman


Braxton Pfaff


Billy Ray Mitchell


Colt Pettit


Eric Gallo


Tyrell Smith



A) What do we even have here?

Will VT go with a redshirt senior placeholder in Mark Leal? the Hokies first such situation since Grant Noel replaced Michael Vick in 2001 (we forgot Noel started briefly in 2002) Or will Scot Loeffler truly open the competition up to all comers? After the Sun Bowl, Coach Beamer gave a lukewarm endorsement of the three-year backup Leal, stating that "he knows what Mark can do from watching him in practice every day."

Forgive us for rolling our eyes at such empty rhetoric. The fact is, even though Logan Thomas was consistently inconsistent throughout his record-setting three year run as Hokie signal-caller, he still represented far more stability at the position than this Hokies unit currently possesses. Thomas holds almost all the major passing records at Tech, and will likely be selected somewhere between the 2nd round of the NFL draft and not at all this spring depending on who you talk to.

Additionally, it's of slight concern to most that Leal never got to spell Thomas when the incumbent was at his shakiest. Typically the backup is there for just such a reason, or in the event of injury. If it weren't for a devastating hit in the Sun Bowl that sidelined Thomas, we might still have a completely unknown quantity heading into spring practice this season.

As it was, Leal came in against UCLA and was treated to some of the worst pass protection the Hokies would provide all season. With an already struggling Hokie run game, the Bruins teed off on Leal and ruined his opportunity at heroics off of the bench, forcing Leal into two rotten interceptions and multiple sacks.

His performance certainly wasn't a deal-breaker, as VT was over-matched by UCLA, but Leal didn't do anything to put himself ahead.  In fact, his effort pretty much validated Beamer's prior phobia of putting him in a game whose outcome was still in doubt. In the end, if Leal isn't prepared to handle the job, then it serves as an indictment on our coaching staff for not being able to get a guy ready in four years, or recruit a suitable replacement in the three years that Leal served as primary backup.

Perhaps the question we should be asking is one of retrospect: What in the world would the Hokies have done if Logan had gone down to injury sooner?

B)  A Motley Crew at backup?

We are going to need three QBs. We have two highly-regarded true freshmen, courtesy of the recruiting efforts of Offensive Coordinator Scot Loeffler. Andrew Ford, the slender lefty, and Chris Durkin, the burly righty. And heading up the race for the backup job is Brendan Motley, the redshirt sophomore Christiansburg product.

Here are some questions the Hokies brass would do well to answer:

  1. Motley is going to have to be in the top three, because it doesn't make sense to burn both the freshmen's red-shirts.
  2. Which of the two freshmen is most physically ready? Will that matter more than grasp of the intricacies of the system?
  3. Bucky Hodges has been moved to Tight End per the news release last season. He might still be an option at QB in the event all other efforts fall flat.
  4. What does one of the freshmen earning a job as backup or even starter mean for the other freshman candidate? We all know Beamer is reticent to make changes from his incumbent QB. If one starts, you have to think the other is a transfer candidate.

C) The Verdict

We think Leal starts the season, with Motley as his backup. We think that Ford, due to his early enrollment will use that leg up to grasp the playbook and add the requisite weight to take the hits as an emergency backup. While Durkin is ready to rumble physically right now, he needs some personal attention with Loeffler to polish his game to be effective in a variety of ways. It is likely the hope of the Hokies' coaching staff that the top two QBs stay healthy, and both Ford AND Durkin can red-shirt, but the Hokies will need to choose one in order to have that emergency #3 backup.

Final note: Travon McMillian is listed as a QB, and did an admirable job at Hylton, but his future likely lies elsewhere. Though we must say this is contrary to some reports that say he was promised a look at QB.


A) There's Always Strength in Numbers Except When You're Picking a Feature Tailback

What jumps out at us is the number six. Outside of D.J. Reid and Tabyus Taylor, the four returning tailbacks and two early enrollees all believe they have a crack at divvying up the Hokies 35-40 carries a game (we hope it's at least that many).

Trey Edmunds had a fairly solid rookie campaign, a great one actually. He started 10 games and had 675 yards, while averaging just 14 carries a game. He also scored 10 TDs, proving that he has a nose for the end zone in the red zone. Often converting after goal line TD vulture (ask David Wilson about that) Logan Thomas was stopped once or twice himself.  Edmunds would have to be considered the front-runner at this point, though returning from a broken leg suffered against UVA may prove to be an impediment this spring. And if it is, that means these other RBs are going to get more reps and the opportunity to cast doubt on Edmunds candidacy.

Unfortunately, the second name on this list is likely not Chris Mangus or Joel Caleb. Most likely it is the diminutive J.C. Coleman who does so little with his opportunities, it's like Kevin Spacey's sales force with the Glen Garry leads, "giving them to him is just throwing them away."  The 5'7" Coleman's speed has tantalized Hokies' coaches since he was at Oscar Smith HS in Virginia Beach, but he has yet to figure out how to hit his holes at full speed. He all too often gets caught up in the wave of humanity at the line, and pushed a couple degrees east or west of his bearings, and suffers too many losses. Giving him the ball on 1st and 10 usually ensures the next play will come on 2nd and 10. He averaged just 3.4 yards per carry last year, scored just 1 TD, and showed none of the open field skills that helped VT erase that 20 point home deficit to Duke in 2012. If it were up to us, we'd suggest a change of scenery while he still has eligibility left. As Chevy Chase's Ty Webb said to Bill Murray's Carl Spackler in Caddyshack, "We have a pool and a pond out back, Pond'd be good for you."

This brings us to Mangus and Caleb. Both burners who can catch the ball out of the backfield. Mangus really impressed us with his speed and his hands, and he rarely made a net negative play. Caleb got just 8 carries last year after switching from WR to RB, his supposed natural position. It is our feeling that one of these young men will grow disenchanted with being buried on the bench and seek movement, either via position change or transfer. It's a crowded house already, and not getting any less so.

B) Why Isn't It Getting Less Crowded? Because We Brought In Two Four-Star Backs

Both of whom are already enrolled in school this semester. We believe that both of these backs smell blood in the water and want to stake their claim to some early playing time. They know that RB is one position on the Hokie roster that has never had any age restrictions. If you can tote the rock, you will get the rock.

Marshawn Williams is in the Evans/Humes mold. A bigger runner who plays into contact and can still run away from it on the field. He won't wow anyone with his breakaway speed, but as well know the football speed is what matters in the end. He made high school defenders look completely outclassed.

McKenzie brings that Western PA swagger with him. A bit smaller than Williams at the outset, he promised to add weight to get himself up to 220 by fall. He is coming back from a knee injury though, so we'll see just how ready he is to stake a claim.

C) What Do We Make Of This Mess?

We think Edmunds is the primary back, but that unfortunately the coaches stick with J.C. Coleman as the two back, thus alienating one or both of Caleb and Mangus. We think that Williams (due to him not having a knee issue) will suit up this year, and McKenzie will take more time to rehab. We hope that the veteran line and more experience in Loeffler's system will lead this evenly talented group to outperform the last two years' shoddy output.

We believe D.J. Reid red-shirts (he also prepped last year); and that Tabyus Taylor might be a candidate for a grey-shirt. As one of two incoming VT players who have yet to qualify (he and LB Raymon Minor), it might be the best for him to shore up the academics first.

Final Note: What about Jerome Wright? The converted FB (who is only a sophomore) performed admirably when pressed into tailback duty during the Sun Bowl. He is fast enough to play tailback, and kind of small for a fullback.


The one position we don't need to discuss much. Rising sophomore Sam Rogers was excellent last year. His blocking was effective, and his hands out of the backfield were a surprise. Due to the single-back formations out of the gun that the Hokies are known to utilize, Rogers is not an every down player. Sometimes not seeing the field for series' at a time. It is our hope that as we re-emphasize the running game that Rogers role increases. He had 12 catches last year, and there's no reason to think we can't double that and enhance our arsenal of playmakers with a few simple play calls.

Backing Rogers up is Wright, who is also a sophomore. We'll be interested to see whether Loeffler carves out a role for him, or if he stagnates on the bench.

Once again, we pause to reflect on the Hokies tendency to load up on positions in a given year. Six of the ten tailbacks and fullbacks are sophomores or juniors. The other four are true freshmen.

Tight Ends

A) Injuries Are This Unit's Issue

Rising sophomore Kalvin Cline had a great freshman season, then he went down in the Sun Bowl with a hamstring injury. Will it be repaired completely by spring? Will Ryan Malleck's surgically repaired shoulder allow him to go full-speed? Malleck and Cline are both excellent targets and Logan Thomas looked to them both. The only problem is, VT typically has about 40-50 throws a season to the tight end; and rarely are there two effective TEs who have so much eligibility left.

There have been years where the VT roster has been thin on TEs and former DE Chris Drager had to come over and make his home catching passes from Tyrod Taylor. This isn't one of those scenarios. One could argue that the position is too packed. Bucky Hodges has joined ranks, bringing his big frame over from the QB position.

B) How Do We Make Sense Of It All?

Starting at the bottom, incoming freshman Xavier Burke might be best suited to go ply his trade on the defensive side of the ball on the DL. A versatile high school player, sitting and waiting for established TEs to get hurt or graduate would prove to be a risky proposition. He IS however related to Plaxico Burress on his father's side, so maybe the hands will be too special to ignore. Regardless of position, Burke is likely to red-shirt.

Hodges, Darius Redman, and Dakota Jackson have all red-shirted, so they will likely just have to be patient as Malleck and Cline sub in and out. It's nice to have the depth, but we feel one or even two of these scholarships could be better utilized elsewhere.

Wide Receivers

A) From "Hot Garbage" to Pretty Serviceable

Recently, Wide Receivers coach Aaron Moorehead served up a cold dish of revenge to ESPN's Rece Davis via our most valuable weapon of modern times: Twitter snark. We didn't recall the utterance by Davis during the opening night's passing game debacle vs #1 ranked Alabama. But Davis apparently referred to Moorehead's young group as playing like hot garbage against Bama and their #1 ranked D, which was at the time led by Safety Vinny Sunseri (before he tore his ACL in October).

Moorehead took advantage of an opening Davis left him with regard to the golden rule, and just taking it easier on people, giving a Twit Lecture of sorts. Moorehead took him to task, once again showing that he's 100% behind his players. He is building a team within a team, and he has both some building blocks to work with as well as some highly-touted incoming talent.

The Hokies do lose six TDs from the departed DJ Coles, but they return the three WRs who got the most reps after it was determined early that Coles was only able to give 15-20 plays a game. Those three WRs caught six TD passes combined and their confidence grew exponentially after they were thrown into the fire.

B) Who Is Going To Play, Is This Worth Burning Red-Shirts For?

So, the top three to start look to be Josh Stanford (South Park #5), Demetri Knowles (Aspiring Bahamaian Bobsledder), and Willie Byrn (Founder of the SW VA Wes Welker Fan Club).  Beyond that, we have several names for three or four jobs.

  1. We have the returning guys: Former walk-on Charlie Meyer (who we still hold responsible for two bad drops during the BC/Duke games); Deon Newsome, a slightly built speedster who red-shirted last year, and Carlis Parker who is still young himself. They will all take advantage of the spring to get a leg up on the next group.
  2. This group of freshmen could be our next talented corps right here: Kendrick Holland brings some size VT sorely lacks at the position, but he's not slow by any means. Isaiah Ford is a mid-size WR, who is elusive. And Cameron Phillips also comes highly regarded. We feel that one or maybe two of this group will forgo the red-shirt this year and join the two-deep.
  3. Greg Stroman, who is likely destined for DB and Jaylen Bradshaw are pretty much definite to red-shirt.

C)  So Who Plays?

We believe that the three incumbents lead the group, with Charlie Meyer, Deon Newsome, Carlis Parker and Kendrick Holland will round out the unit. We feel that Isaiah Ford might be in the mix too, but ultimately Holland's height gives the Hokies a dimension they have lacked in recent years.

Offensive Line

A) Coach Stacy Searels Is Going To Look Like A Genius For Someone Else's Work

Yes this even includes Curt Newsome (HC-Emory and Henry) to some degree, and certainly the efforts of Jeff Grimes (OL Coach-LSU). This unit has an astounding FIVE red-shirt seniors. The experience will be invaluable in assisting whatever new QB is taking snaps.

B) How We See The Starting OL

LT: Jonathan McLaughlin  LG: Caleb Farris

C: David Wang

RG: Brent Benedict  RT: Laurence Gibson/Wyatt Teller

C)  Questions

  1. With depth an issue last year, Alston Smith (son of Bruce) moved from DT over to play OG, where Grimes said he was a natural. With the perceived lack of depth at DT this year, a couple of key misses in recruiting, and the OL replenishing itself through a solid recruiting class, would it make sense for Smith to return to the defensive line?
  2. Can any of the four incoming freshmen (The Fab Four) avoid the red-shirt. Answer: Yes, but it wouldn't be wise. With so many losses off the line following this season, it's important we have several guys with all their eligibility remaining.
  3. Can Jonny Mac continue to build his brand and become a known entity and make a run at some AA teams as an upperclassman?

Hopefully this paints a picture of some of the decisions confronting the Hokies' offense as they prepare for spring practices. We will return tomorrow with a look at the defensive side of the football.

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