Usually, I'm pumped up about Spring Football in Blacksburg. I've been anticipating some hard hitting action ever since the Hyundai Sun Bowl against UCLA was over (but let's forget that game). I got a small taste of football with National Signing Day, but for some reason there's a bad taste in my mouth with this Virginia Tech football team. All the buzz lately has been surrounding Virginia Tech Basketball and the introduction of new head coach Buzz Williams. But where's the excitement around the gridiron? Did Tech Football fall off the face of the Earth? Or have people become complacent about the Hokies tossing the pigskin? Maybe it's just too early for some fans, but hey look, football is right around the corner Hokies!
Now that my rant is over, Tech held another week of Spring Practice and here are the highlights:
Climbing the Ladder:
Do you guys miss Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale? I sure do. Tech is making an emphasis on coming up with catches down field and making big plays this spring. It's something that wasn't done a lot last year and Tech needs to improve on. Demitri Knowles had a lot of promise as a big play threat, but under performed and didn't deliver on the hype. It's amazing how he can get down the field on a fly route and get open, but when contested he's just not big or physical enough most of the time to come up with the ball. Joshua Stanford and Willie Bryn aren't that big either and see shorter to mid range routes. Hopefully, Tech can reach down and coach up some physicality in the smaller receivers or use bigger and taller younger guys for deep threats to go up and catch the ball when the time comes.
The O-Line Shuffle:
With new offensive line coach Stacy Searels, the o-line is seeing some shuffling to increase competition among the older and young guys in the trenches. I like this approach. The best guys should play no matter what. But what seems to be the focus this spring is finding the best lineman that work together as a whole unit. Searels is focused on trying to do that, and is shuffling things up throughout practices and scrimmages until he finds the right mix. I wouldn't be surprised if you find Wyatt Teller or Augie Conte in the starting line up this season based on the coaching staff's decisions lately and the way this team is looking as of right now. Ultimately, it's an open competition and no one is safe.
Is Bucky Hodges Logan Thomas in Reverse?:
Remember when Logan Thomas went from tight end to quarterback? Well former quarterback hopeful Bucky Hodges is going from quarterback to tight end. Standing at six-foot-six and weighing 243, Hodges has a Logan Thomas type frame and is a big guy with some quickness, probably runs like a deer much like Thomas. But Hodges is moving to the tight end position and hoping to challenge Ryan Malleck and Kalvin Cline for the starting job. This looks to be an intense position battle that is up in the air until the summer rolls around. Honestly, I think all three have their own upsides. Although, Hodges is listed fourth on the depth chart he will look to be involved in other ways on the field as Tech is running a wildcat formation with him at the quarterback position. Either way, Hodges will see time at tight end in the near future, and be involved in some trickery nonetheless.
D-line trying to gain more confidence:
Tech's best unit last season is trying to reload and is working at being a force to reckon with once again. Luther Maddy anchors the defensive line along with Dadi Nicolas. Meanwhile, Ken Ekanem takes the other end position and Corey Marshall is number one at the other tackle spot. Although the group is talented, coach Charley Wiles is trying to develop depth and cohesiveness with his defensive lineman this spring, especially at the tackle position after the loss of Derrick Hopkins (graduation). Wiles knows that there is a lot of coaching left to do and is taking every chance he can get this spring to make sure his guys perform to the best of their abilities and as a whole.
Notes on the first Spring Scrimmage:
The Hokies held their first open scrimmage of Spring Practice this past Saturday in some very nice weather. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it so I can't give a lot of breakdown on how the team looked. But here are some highlights courtesy of Hokie Sports so take from it what you will:
Here's a complete write up about the scrimmage as well:
Now on to the scrimmage itself. Projected starting quarterback Mark Leal only completed three of his nine passes for 34 yards and threw one interception on a poorly thrown ball to redshirt sophomore rover Zach Snell. Meanwhile, quarterback Brenden Motley completed five of his seven passes for 36 yards and true freshman Andrew Ford missed his only pass on a curl route. Needless to stay, no player in particular wowed the coaching staff. But that it is to be expected as it was only the first scrimmage. I think Leal is the one to lean on right now, and will be the one until the spring game and hope to win over the hearts of the coaches and fans alike that day.
Joshua Stanford was the standout wide receiver in the scrimmage, catching three passes for 40 yards and displaying excellent speed and quickness. I think Stanford will play a HUGE role in this seasons passing game with the inconsistency of Demitri Knowles last season and the departure of D.J. Coles. Ultimately, I think Joshua Stanford and Willie Byrn will be the go-to targets for whoever the staring quarterback is.
On the ground, Jerome Wright led the way with 43 yards on three carries. He also scored the only touchdown of the scrimmage which came off a wild play where Mark Leal tripped to the ground and tossed Wright the ball. With the defense out of place and confused, Wright took the ball up the field and trotted into the end zone for the score. A lucky play at best for Tech's offense. Meanwhile, Joel Caleb had 15 yards on three carries and Marshawn Williams had nine yards on three carries. Honestly, by watching tape on Williams, hearing the buzz about him in practice, and word of mouth, I'm excited about Marshawn Williams and his future here at Virginia Tech. He's got the size, power, and quickness to make it in college football. Watching highlights of him in high school, he reminds me a lot of Darren Evans but he can make a cut like Ryan Williams.
Reportedly, centers David Wang and Kyle Chung are going through injuries which forced them to miss the scrimmage. Their absence led to miscues under center on Saturday, which worries me about all the shuffling along the offensive line and injures leading to a broken unit and a false sense of cohesiveness. The offensive line must remain healthy and have depth in order for the running game to be successful.
Defensively, defensive end Ken Ekanem had two sacks on the day, Dahman McKinnon recorded four tackles (three solo), and Chuck Clark also had three tackles. Derek DiNardo, Seth Dooley, and Dewayne Alford all had sacks also. The Hokie defense seems to be pretty solid and I believe will be able to reload and hopefully will be as just as good as last season. The defensive line will be excellent again along with the secondary. If the linebackers can step up, find stability, and do their jobs, then hello elite defense.
Overall, Spring Practice is Spring Practice. We know as much as the coaching staff right now, which isn't a lot either. The team is still figuring things out and what it has to do to get into top notch form. Luckily there is still plenty of time for everyone to get on the same page.
Check back with Gobbler Country as we follow along with Spring Practice as it leads up to the Spring game on April 26th.
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