After what seems like an eternity, we finally have football again. Well, sort of. The Virginia Tech Hokies’ annual spring game commences this Saturday in Lane Stadium and then things go quiet again for a while.
This is an important scrimmage for numerous Hokies. Tech has several starters and key contributors sitting out this spring either resting injuries or recovering from surgeries. That has opened the door for the others to climb up the depth chart.
The quarterback position has been the talk of spring practice and rightfully so. Josh Jackson, A.J. Bush and Herndon Hooker all look to impress in the spring game, but head coach Justin Fuente is no closer to naming a starter than he was before the spring. At least not publicly. Jackson is presumed to be the leader in the clubhouse.
While all the talk surrounds the quarterback position, other spots remain unsettled, too. Who will step up at receiver opposite of Cam Phillips? Who will add depth to the secondary? And how many mid-year enrollees will see the field this fall?
Here are three players to keep an eye on in this weekend’s spring game.
Patterson, a 6’2”, 180-pound redshirt freshman, is a player who could have a big performance in the spring game. With Phillips entrenched at one outside spot and C.J. Carroll expected to be VT’s slot receiver, there’s an opening in the starting lineup. Eric Kumah and Patterson are the top contenders for this spot.
If you look at him in uniform, Patterson looks a lot like Ford. He impressed coaches last year and there were temptations to pull his redshirt, however, the coaches wisely chose against that and allowed the fast and dynamic Patterson a year to learn behind Ford and Phillips instead of wasting a year.
Kumah and Henri Murphy have been limited recently and may not play, meaning Patterson could get a lot of time. If he shows Fuente he can run precise routes and be trusted in a game-like setting, he could find himself in the starting lineup come September.
There’s a lot of hype with Virginia Tech’s 2017 recruiting class. A big reason for that is Devon Hunter. But Hunter won’t arrive until the summer. Perhaps Tech’s most exciting prospect is wide receiver/cornerback Caleb Farley, a true freshman from Hickory, N.C.
Farley, a terrific offensive player in high school, was originally slated to play defensive back for the Hokies this fall. That wasn’t set in stone, of course, and now coaches are getting a glimpse of Farley at receiver and he may not move back to the defensive side of the ball.
Farley has good size (6’2”, 180) and is electric and explosive in the open field. Fuente can get the ball to Farley on screens, hitches or jet sweeps and watch him make people miss. Expect Farley to be featured quite a bit this weekend. A strong performance will go a long way in determining where Farley will play in 2017.
Like Sam Rogers, Peoples is a former walk-on. Now that Rogers has departed most felt Peoples would slide right into Rogers’ old position of fullback. That did not happen. Peoples, a former star running back at Galax High School (Va.), is now firmly in the mix to be the team’s starting running back.
The Hokies lost some talented running backs after last season. Rogers is gone after an outstanding career. Marshawn Williams was forced to give up football due to injuries and Shai McKenzie transferred. Travon McMillian is back, but he frustrated coaches last year with his consistency
The coaching staff loves Peoples because he consistently gets positive yardage. He’s a load to bring down and possesses outstanding vision. He will be a featured player all year, along with McMillian, but he has a chance on Saturday to separate himself from Jalen Holston who is set to enroll in the summer.
Much of the concern about Tech’s ground game isn’t who will carry the ball, but can the Hokies block? Saturday will be a big test for the team’s starting offensive linemen, too, particularly on the right side.
There will be lots of newcomers seeing the field for the first time Saturday. Some will stand out and find themselves on the two-deep, while others show coaches they could use a year in Tech’s strength and conditioning program.