Editor's Note: Let's all welcome Greg Quintero. Greg lives in SoCal. I am jealous of Greg.
The final weekend before the 2014 Virginia Tech football season brought clarity to how the Hokies will line up against William & Mary next Saturday. The team's depth chart began to take shape, with the majority of the change coming on the offensive side of the ball. Following two consecutive seasons of anemic output by the Hokies offensive unit, fans in Blacksburg hope for a rebound in 2014. What is apparent after the final weekend of training camp is that head coach Frank Beamer and offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler will rely on a new cast to lead the resurgence.
Mystery At QB Might Be A Good Thing
Gone is Logan Thomas, quarterback of the Hokies the last three seasons and scapegoat for many of the team's offensive woes. Thomas was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the fourth round of the NFL draft, leaving the Hokies with complete uncertainty behind center. It was announced Saturday that Junior Michael Brewer, an off-season transfer from Texas Tech, will replace Thomas. Brewer placed atop the depth chart ahead of senior Mark Leal and sophomore Brenden Motley. Leal spent the previous three seasons holding a clipboard for Thomas, and Motley's opportunity ended essentially before it started this camp due to injury.
Brewer will be a stark contrast in stature and style to Hokies fans used to seeing the 6'6", 250 pound Thomas behind center. Brewer stands at 6'0", 200 pounds and doesn't boast of an arm like Thomas. Brewer should compensate for his lack of size and strength with accuracy and decision making in the spread offense sets the Hokies run. The Hokies also will likely get two seasons out of Brewer as opposed to only one with the senior Leal. However promising, the lack of size with Brewer also opens the door to injury concern. He fractured a vertebra while at Texas Tech, leading to his tumble down the Red Raiders depth chart. Loeffler foreshadowed such concerns, saying "Both guys are going to be needed this season", referring to Brewer and Leal in a press release Saturday.
Who Will Make The Plays In Space?
A key target for Brewer this season will be true freshman receiver Isaiah Ford. Ford was a late recruiting coup for Virginia Tech in 2014 (after decommitting from Louisville when Charlie Strong took the Texas job) and parlayed a very productive training camp into a starting position on the receiving corps. With his three TD performance in Friday's final Fall scrimmage, Ford pushed Demitri Knowles, who is recovering from an ankle injury, to third on the depth chart.
Across from Ford will be redshirt sophomore Joshua Stanford who is following up on a breakout freshman season a year ago. After Friday's scrimmage receivers coach Aaron Moorehead spoke of Ford, saying "We haven't had a scrimmage like that in a while, the kid is super talented." With Ford, Hokies fans should have the bonafide playmaker they have been clamoring for in recent seasons. Ford should be an excellent deep threat for Brewer, and has the explosiveness to be deadly after the catch.
At Tight End, standout sophomore Kalvin Cline is now 3rd string as he nurses an injury. No doubt he is eager to get back to form as Ryan Malleck is returning from injury strong, and former QB Bucky Hodges is set to open eyes as a multi-dimensional talent at the position.
And Then There Were Six
Running back Marshawn Williams, another true freshman ascended to the top of the depth chart at his position this weekend. Williams missed much of camp recovering from hernia surgery, but still received the top spot at running back, paired with junior J.C. Coleman. Williams, a 230 pound power back which serves as a nice contrast to the undersized Coleman, and should see the majority of the carries against William & Mary barring a late health setback. The running back depth chart could be a fluid situation for the foreseeable future as incumbent Trey Edwards continues to rehab the broken leg that ended his 2013 season, and the group of active Running Backs currently numbers six. "He's working hard to get there, but I don't see that burst right now" said head coach Frank Beamer Friday. One thing is certain as the season begins; the Hokies have no shortage of options in a heavily populated backfield.
Wang Beats Out Teller For Starting LG
The offensive line charged with blocking for the aforementioned backfield remained largely static as training camp comes to an end. Laurence Gibson and Jonathan McLaughlin flipped left and right tackle positions respectively. Senior Caleb Farris will begin 2014 as the starting center, flanked to the right by sophomore Augie Conte. Opposite Conte, oft-injured David Wang will start at left guard. The offensive line remained largely intact from last season, providing needed continuity to an offense that has seen marked turn over in other area.
Special Teams Returning To Form?
Once a staple of any Frank Beamer coached Virginia Tech squad, the special teams unit has been in dire straits in recent years. In 2013 the kicking game was the Achilles heel of the sputtering special teams group, and was even worse after the troubled Cody Journell was finally removed from the team following multiple off-field issues. Freshman Michael Santamaria was recruited on scholarship, and named starting kicker this weekend to begin the season. Santamaria has a solid leg, is able to hit from 50 yards out, and looks to add accuracy to a kicking game that missed 11 field goals a year ago.
This weekend provided Hokie fans an idea of what to expect in 2014, and also allowed them a glimpse into the future. The offense has been stagnant since 2012, due largely to a regressing passing game, and inability to run the football. The team has supposedly addressed these areas through recruiting, and will not waste time showing the fruits of that labor. Michael Brewer may end up merely being a game manager for Virginia Tech, but with a receiving trio of Stanford, Knowles and the exciting freshman Ford; along with a powerful runner in Marshawn Williams, that could be all the Hokies need. The youth movement on the depth chart this weekend might take time to become a cohesive unit, but it should provide Tech fans hope for a more exciting, and, perhaps more importantly, relevant brand of offensive football.