We're finally here Hokie fans! Only one week remains between us and the Maroon-White Virginia Tech Spring Game on Saturday, April 26 at 2 p.m.
If you missed the first half of this week's coverage from Gobbler Country here's a link to get you caught back up:
Now we turn our focus to the second half of the week and the third spring scrimmage this past Saturday.
The Predator/Marshawn Lynch/ Marshawn Williams:
There's no denying that the buzz surrounding freshman running back Marshawn Williams this spring is deafening. Coming in with a decent running back recruiting class, Williams has emerged as a complete back with a lot of upside. The coaches flat out love him and seem to be cheering him on to be the feature back almost. I think he's got to win the job outright by making more jaw-dropping plays, though. But let's face it, no matter how bad I want Williams to be the starter, it's Trey Edmunds' job to lose, and he's sitting out this spring. So Williams almost loses the job by default.
J.C. Coleman is a situation back at best, and is definitely not suited for every down. I don't think he can take the pounding that Williams or Edmunds can. Ultimately, I think it comes down to whether or not Edmunds fully recovers and can be the same player he was last year; and if Williams can get his pass protection down so the coaches feel comfortable with him in the backfield. If Williams doesn't start this season, the coaches could be tempted to redshirt him and let him learn for a season, then unleash the Predator next year. But overall, Williams has had the best spring anyone has seen in a while, so do you hold "Juice" back or let him have it? Honestly, if he improves Tech's chances of winning, then we need him to play.
Bud n' The Boys Up Front:
With the loss of defensive ends James Gayle and J.R. Collins, along with defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins, the Hokies have lost 20 pounds off their average combined weight along the defensive front four. Once averaging 277.4 pounds, the defensive line now averages 252.8 pounds. The linebackers have decreased in size also with the loss of Jack Tyler and Tariq Edwards. So size is an area of concern for defensive coordinator Bud Foster and his defense.
But Foster doesn't see this as a problem. But losing Hopkins, Gayle, and Collins and their heft costs us in intimidation factor. Those guys were huge, especially Hopkins who resembles a mountain. But as Bitter reveals, bigger lineman aren't always best at stopping the run. Speed, quickness, and execution are all important factors. If anything, as long as the the defensive line remains strong, quick, and can get into the backfield, the Hokies will be successful. As far as the linebackers go, Chase Williams is have the best spring of his Tech career, and looks to lead the group along with Ronny Vandyke and Deon Clarke. When it comes to size and how much it matters with the Hokie front seven, I say size looks good in person, on television, and on paper. But when it all boils down look at former Tech linebacker Cody Grimm who's five-foot-eleven and 200 pounds. It's all about the size of the player's heart and the effort he's willing to give on the field.
Editor's Note: Grimm also had to deal with uber-skinny Steven Friday inexplicably playing the boundary end in front of him on run plays. #smh I'll reserve judgement til after I witness the D in the Spring Game.
Vandyke Hurdling Setbacks:
It seems like injuries have set back the development of a majority of young Tech players as of late, and the same goes for linebacker Ronny Vandyke. A lot of buzz surrounded Vandyke last season with praise from the coaching staff until he was sidelined after undergoing season-ending surgery. But Vandyke is back and still impressing Bud Foster and the coaching staff. What impresses me most about this team is the amount of setbacks players undergo, and the willingness to fight back and not give up. If both defensive end Ken Ekanem and Vandyke have breakout seasons then what a success story it will be. Both players have been great this spring in scrimmages and practice, but only time will tell if they can remain healthy as the regular season approaches.
Third Time Isn't A Charm For Offense:
Now for what everyone wants to hear: details from the third scrimmage of the spring. The Hokies took the field this past Saturday as the quarterbacks went live for the first time, and didn't wear the usual yellow jerseys. But Tech's offense wasn't able to keep pace with the Lunch Pail Defense.
On 96 plays, the offense was only able to amass 106 yards. That's 1.1 yards per play, folks. Both quarterbacks Mark Leal and Brenden Motley saw time with the first team this scrimmage. Leal threw for 50 yards on 6-17 passing, while Motley went 5-11 for 46 yards. Each of them threw a short touchdown pass near the goal line. Nothing at all impressive this go-round. Joshua Stanford led the receivers with four catches and 40 yards, and Carlis Parker caught four balls for 24 yards. I believe this really puts the quarterback race in perspective. It's obvious that this won't be settled until fall, as has been repeated over and over again. Fans just have to wait.
Meanwhile, on the ground the Predator couldn't find his prey this Saturday. Marshawn Williams saw the most carries with nine touches but only saw one yard on the day. The longest run (15 yards) came courtesy of Brenden Motley and the second longest (13 yards) was on a reverse by wide receiver Deon Newsome. I was hoping for another standout performance from Williams, but the defense had his number. Let's hope he has a crazy Spring Game and impresses once again.
Now for the star of the show: Bud Foster's Lunch Pail Defense, which recorded six sacks and 17 tackles for loss on the day. Defensive end Dadi Nicolas and defensive tackle Luther Maddy were virtually unstoppable. Nicolas recorded ten tackles, two and a half tackles for loss, and a sack, while Maddy accounted for six tackles, two tackles for loss, and one and a half sacks. Linebacker Chase Williams had a good day as well with four tackles, two tackles for loss, and one and a half sacks. The main thing that the coaching staff was impressed with was the defense's intensity and their ability to fly to the ball. It seems like this will be yet another top notch defense for Bud and the boys this season.
Last but not least comes the special teams. Place kicker Michael Branthover hit a nice 52 yard field goal but also had a 22 yard attempt blocked. Mitchell Ludwig connected from 22 yards out. Remington (great name) Hinshaw made a 32 yard attempt while Eric Kristensen missed a 19 yard attempt. Meanwhile, punter A.J. Hughes punted five times with an average of 38.8 yards per punt and a long of 46. Not too shabby from the kickers this past Saturday, but there's definitely work to be done here, as it has been for the past few off seasons.
This was an ugly day for the Hokies on offense. Everything seemed out of wack and the players couldn't execute offensively. The quarterbacks didn't impress and the running game was stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey. The defense out played the offense point blank. But I think this has been a long time coming and shows that the defense is a few steps ahead of the offense. But you have to think it over. Scot Leoffler is still implementing his style, mindset, and tempo with this offense and should finally come around sooner or later. Hopefully with new recruits and tools at his disposal, he will right the offensive ship.
Guess we'll find out soon enough at the Maroon-White Spring Game next Saturday. See you all there!