And so it begins. Post-Logan. Forging a new offensive identity. So much to sort out. So many hungry young players ready to make their mark.
For us, a chance to dream again, if even only until September 7th. A chance to ruminate, rosterbate, and fantasize about how new additions and different schemes might help us regain some of what has been lost in recent years.
And as Virginia Tech prepares to spend the next month organizing their plan of attack for 2014, we've got a Gobbler Country all-hands call for the Spring Practice round table, with a simple subject/question:
WHAT IS ON YOUR SPRING PRACTICE WISHLIST?
Realistically, we aren't going to get a lot of depth chart answers on offense. Obviously at quarterback, but also at all skill positions, the battle for playing time will stretch on into August. Regardless, the biggest thing for me is that I want to see SIGNIFICANT improvement from the receiver positions. First and foremost, those guys have to catch the football. I don't care if they have to change their Facebook statuses to "In a relationship with Jugs Machine" because of all their time spent together, whatever needs to be done must be done. Coach Moorehead understands the realities of the group he inherited, and it's no accident we took as many receivers in the 2014 class as we did. But, Joshua Stanford, Willie Byrn, and Carlis Parker (Notice I didn't include Demetri Knowles. That wasn't an oversight.) must continue to develop as pass catchers if they want to continue to see the field. I would be absolutely shocked if at least two of the incoming receivers didn't see significant, meaningful playing time in 2014. Isaiah Ford, I believe, is a lock to play, and my other best guess is Kendrick Holland. Jaylen Bradshaw's got a real shot also, but Holland is a more polished route-runner right now. All three of those guys, frankly, are more talented right now than any receiver currently in Blacksburg. Interestingly, Isaiah Ford is also planning to play basketball at VT. Wonder how he feels about the Buzz Williams hire?
I want to see our offensive line having had a complete personality overhaul. For some reason, it's become acceptable to be passive in our run blocking and rarely get to the second level. It's no accident our power running game has revolved entirely around our Biggie-sized quarterback the last few seasons--he could move the pile more effectively than the men in front of him. But, with some new blood beginning to filter into the starting ranks, I'm hopeful that they bring with them a return to the nasty, mauling lineman mentality that was the foundation of Virginia Tech football's rise to the national ranks in the first place. Word on the street is Wyatt Teller and Augie Conte look quite impressive physically, and Alston Smith's beginning to put the pieces together as well. Let's hope that offseason work translates onto success the field this spring. I, for one, am completely over David Wang. Just saying...
I also want to see what Scot Loeffler is planning to do with Joel Caleb. He simply doesn't belong in the backfield at running back at the college level. Will be be at receiver this spring, or will he make the move over to the defensive side of the ball? Either way, the staff needs to pick a direction with him and stick to it. The clock is already ticking on his eligibility, and he is far too talented for the staff to do him the disservice of relegating him to another year in positional limboland, ala Vinston Painter.
Like everyone, I'm interested to see how the two early-enrollees at running back are progressing, particularly with Trey Edmunds sidelined for spring. I'm in the minority that prefers Edmunds at linebacker; but given the success he had in 2013, I highly doubt he ever moves to that side of the ball. But, with J.C. Coleman having proven he's just not an every-down answer, that's a huge opportunity for either Shai McKenzie or Marshawn Williams to prove that they're capable of shouldering the load, particularly with the added benefit of a full offseason of work under their belt by the time August rolls around.
Oddly enough, the strength of our offense is at tight end. With Kalvin Cline having proven himself capable, Ryan Malleck set to return, and the underground buzz surrounding Bucky Hodges after his stealth move to the position, I'm curious to see if Loeffler will truly spread the field and use those weapons in space, or if he's going to prolong the recent, boring "2 TE, flip, set, go help the o-line block" trend into which our TE position has unfortunately stagnated itself.
I really hope to see some progress from what could be a young offensive line. We've got better numbers now and I think Stacy Searels is similar to Jeff Grimes in that they both want to be physical and play with an attitude. I'm hoping one or two of the young guys can work toward solidifying a starting job this spring. The o-line could end up being a solid unit. Jonathan McLaughlin started as a true freshman at left tackle so if he cuts down on mistakes that's a solid start. Center David Wang needs to stay healthy but he along with Laurence Gibson and Caleb Farris also return. Wyatt Teller, Augie Conte and Alston Smith will probably all play and some combination could start. Grimes used different starting lineman nearly every day right up until the start of the season last year. We may see more of that as a new coach evaluates his talent for the second consecutive season. By fall, Tech will have its top two receiving tight ends in Calvin Kline and Ryan Malleck. With a receiving group that blocked very well under Aaron Moorehead, the Hokies just might have the recipe for a stronger running game built from the ground up.
It's not what I want to see, it's what I don't want to see, and what I don't want to see are injuries. Every single year somebody gets hurt in some kind of "how did that even happen?" scenario. I don't care what the offensive line looks like, or even if Leal is the starting quarterback. I just want to see everyone emerge from this Spring without their season already being in jeopardy. Injuries kill teams, and this would be an especially bad year to lose a key player.
Establish the running game and find a leader on defense.
The running game has been a major headache for the past two season and has been the most inconsistent thing I've set my eyes on. I desperately want to see the offensive line develop a sense of cohesiveness and be consistent in technique and fundamentals so the Hokies can run the ball on any team they face. With that said I would like Trey Edmunds to further develop into a feature running back or if not, I'd like to see a feature running back emerge from this year's recruiting class.
Defensively the Hokies lost A LOT this off season. Who will emerge and carry the Lunch Pail for Bud Foster? Luther Maddy looks to be the defense's anchor along with Kendall Fuller and possibly Dadi Nicolas with his intensity and physical style of play. I want to see who will lead this team.
Rickey the Dragon 316
Offensive line, offensive line, offensive line. I know we've been screaming about this from the mountain tops, but unless we get some semblance of steady line play, the O could potentially be worse than last year.
Now, I don't think it will considering 6 of the o-line depth are seniors and will add the monster know as Wyatt Teller. Alston Smith should help add some push on the interior as well. We need to figure this headache out or we'll continue to wallow in our offensive futility. Let's see what Coach Searels is really made of.
1) DB depth. Let's get some of the youngs flying around. I want to see Der'Woune Greene, Chuck Clark ease my nerves some.
2) I need Shai McKenzie and/or Marshawn Williams to put an end to the notion of JC Coleman as a back who gets entire series to himself. I cannot abide by another season of him killing 2-3 of a games' 11-12 offensive series because he was really fast in high school and in practice some times.
3) Receivers need to do the best they can working with Ford and Leal until Brewer arrives.
4) That the trench battles establish that Willams and Baron are ready on the interior DL to help Maddy out.
5) VanDyke Brother Powers Activate! Let's see what more speed at LB can do for the defense.
6) No injuries. No injuries. No injuries. Knock on wood. Chicken arise. Arise chicken.
We'll be back as often as possible with updates on Spring happenings. We look forward to hearing your comments below.
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