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Virginia Tech football: Complete spring game preview

Virginia Tech’s annual spring game begins Saturday at 3:30 in Lane Stadium.

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at Virginia
Virginia Tech QB Josh Jackson
Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

When: Saturday, April 14, 2018

Time: 3:30: p.m. ET

Location: Lane Stadium, Blacksburg, Va.

Gates: Open starting at 1:30 p.m.

Tickets: Free admission

Parking: Free

Note, per hokiesports.com: Due to 3.2 Run in Remembrance in the morning, Lot 1 is not open til around noon. Access to Lot 1 will be available off of Washington Street only. Beamer Way will be closed from 8 AM to conclusion of the spring game.

TV: None

Internet: www.hokiesports.com/radio/broadcasts/

Radio: 105.3 FM in the New River Valley

Rules:

  • Four 12-minute quarters (running clock) and a 10-minute halftime
  • Quarterbacks will wear gold, no-contact jerseys
  • No rush on field goals and PATs
  • No kickoffs, ball placed on 35-yard line following scores

Scoring:

Offense

  • Touchdown = 6 points
  • Field Goal = 3 points
  • PAT = 1 point

Defense

  • Turnover = 7 points
  • 3 & Out = 3 points
  • Defensive stop = 1 point

Preview

Offense

How will the sophomore quarterback Josh Jackson look with a year of playing experience under his belt? Jackson started 2017 hot; however, as the season wore on he faced his share of struggles. All of them weren’t his fault. The Hokies couldn’t run the ball consistently and there were injuries at the skill positions. Jackson was playing hurt, too.

Teams also adjusted once the film was out there on the freshman passer. With the Hokies breaking in a couple of new starters on the offensive line, things aren’t going to be easy in 2018. This spring, Jackson has separated himself from the competition. Redshirt freshman Hendon Hooker could be fun to watch this weekend, but he’s had a shaky spring. That’s to be expected. Jackson’s biggest competition has been Kansas transfer Ryan Willis. And Jackson has distanced himself from him, too.

It will be interesting to see how Jackson looks on Saturday without Cam Phillips at his disposal. The Hokies have also had receivers Damon Hazelton, Tre Turner and Eric Kumah limited this spring. Virginia Tech fans just want to see a confident Jackson making crisp and accurate throws on Saturday.

Saturday presents a good opportunity for receivers such as Hezekiah Grimsley and Phil Patterson to step up and show coaches they can start in 2018. Grimsley is having a terrific spring.

At running back, the Hokies have Jalen Holston, Terius Wheatley, Deshawn McClease and Steven Peoples battling for carries. Peoples couldn’t stay healthy last fall, but he’s intriguing. McClease had some big moments in 2017. Holston has tremendous potential and he must take a step forward on Saturday. With a strong spring game, he could head into the rest of the offseason as the presumed starter. Wheatley brings speed to the equation.

On the offensive line, there are lots of moving parts. Redshirt freshman Silas Dzansi has apparently replaced Yosuah Nijman at left tackle. That’s big. Nijman will shift over to right tackle. It will be interesting to see if this arrangement sticks or its offensive line coach Vance Vice just doing his due diligence. Senior Kyle Chung is back for his sixth year and is the apparent starter at center. An intriguing option at guard is junior D’Andre Plantin. Coaches have praised Plantin all spring.

Defense

The Hokies were terrific on defense last fall. Just look at some of the players in the NFL Draft from Virginia Tech and you’ll see plenty of familiar names. Defensive tackle Tim Settle, linebackers Tremaine Edmunds and Andrew Motuapuaka and defensive backs Terrell Edmunds, Greg Stroman and Brandon Facyson are no longer around. Those are all big shoes to fill.

Depth on the defensive line is worrisome. Defensive line coach Charley Wiles admitted as much this week. He’s concerned, but he always does an outstanding job of finding contributors. There are some talented young defensive ends in the system now and coaches would love to see someone among TyJuan Garbutt, Zion Debose and Nathan Proctor make plays this weekend and stand out.

At linebacker, sophomores Dylan Rivers and Rayshard Ashby are next in line to replace Tremaine Edmunds and Motuapuaka in the starting lineup, respectively. Rivers is having a tremendous spring and while he is far different than Edmunds physically, he possesses a ton of talent and athleticism.

The secondary is certainly a work in progress. Adonis Alexander, the most experienced returnee, will miss the spring game. That opens up opportunities for others. Bryce Watts and Jovonn Quillen stand the most to benefit. Watts is a contender to start the opener against FSU. A good performance in the spring game will go a long way for him.

Fans will be excited to see sophomore Devon Hunter on Saturday. He, too, is having a strong spring and the coaches are excited to expand his role.

Special Teams

Who replaces Joey Slye at kicker? Brian Johnson and Jordan Stout are the options. Johnson attempted four field goals last season, connecting on three but all were 30 yards or less. Stout has the bigger leg. Johnson did have six touchbacks in 12 attempts last fall and that’s important for the coaches.

Oscar Bradburn is entrenched at punter.

The biggest question on special teams is who replaces Stroman at punt returner? Stroman was terrific over his career as a returner and leaves big shoes to fill. Special teams coach James Shibest spoke at length this week and said this year’s punt returner may not even be on campus yet, citing Cole Beck and Nadir Thompson as possibilities when they arrive this summer.

Get to Blacksburg early, folks. With temperatures in the 70s and some important recruits on campus, it’s a perfect day to show up to Lane Stadium and support your Hokies.