Spring football is over and what a spring it was! Here are the 3 big storylines coming out of spring headed into summer and then we'll do a position-by-position breakdown:
1) Offensive line needs a LOT of help. The Spring Game featured offensive line disasters as 4 main contributors from the two-deep didn't play in the game due to injury. The recovery of OG Vinston Painter and C Michael Via will be critical to the offense heading into summer camp. A huge reason the offensive line had success last year was because Greg Nosal could rotate in at guard and keep the starters rested and Andrew Lanier was ready to fill in for right tackle Blake DeChristopher while Michael Via came in for center Beau Warren when those players had injuries. On the offensive line, your starters just aren't going to take all the snaps in a given season and offensive line depth is a critical factor. Right now VT doesn't have that.
2) Logan Thomas has won the backup QB battle. As we announced on TSF earlier this spring, there's no way Thomas isn't the guy and in the Spring Game he showed what he brings to the position. Despite having the flu, Thomas was extremely effective in the passing and running game, leading the team on a fantastic scoring drive including a beautiful TD pass to Danny Coale. He has surpassed Ju-Ju Clayton who had a bad spring game for the 2nd straight season. The coaches may play the politically correct game and not name the backup to try and manufacture competition for the spot in the fall, but Logan Thomas has the potential to be an enormous threat and a top-level playmaker at QB and he will be #2 this season.
3) Defensive depth is a huge question. The first unit is inexperienced but they look very solid (and just unbelievably fast at every position). But the second string is a pretty big drop-off at most positions. The main areas of concern are rover (James Hopper is simply out of his league), whip (Tweedy is fast but small), defensive tackle (the Hokies are missing a 4th tackle, period) and defensive end (James Gayle is a future star, but JR Collins and Jake Johnson haven't shown me anything so far). Folks, that is a LOT of positions that either need to be injury-free this fall (which is unrealistic) or a ton of players had better get serious this summer about stepping up their game. Coach Foster and gang are meeting with every player on the defense to outline what they need to work on this summer and it's no overstatement to say that how far the team goes this fall depends on how much depth the Hokie defense can build this summer.
OK, now let's do a position-by-position breakdown of the 2010 Hokies following the spring.
QB - Tyrod Taylor. Nothing much to say here other than, we're glad that so many people in the media and Hokie Nation are coming around to what our view on Taylor has always been, which is that he is BIGTIME. If he stays healthy there's no telling what heights he can reach this season. The undisputed team leader in the locker room.
RB - The talent at this position continues to make my jaw drop. Tony Gregory stepped up this spring, keeping the workload light on Ryan Williams and Gregory proceeded to go OFF. He has shown that whenever Williams and Evans go on to the NFL, he can be part of a great duo with David Wilson. The depth at this position goes on for days.
WR - Last spring, Xavier Boyce made a statement with his play and challenged Jarrett Boykin for the starting job, then faded out when the games counted and Boykin re-took his spot. But Boyce didn't give up and again had a phenomenal spring. Unfortunately for him, Marcus Davis had an INSANE spring and Davis is now #2 behind Boykin at split end. Coale and Roberts still share the duties at flanker. WR is stacked with talent and could a huge playmaking position for the offense.
TE - Last spring, tight end was the deepest position on the team, but with the graduation of Greg Boone and Chris Drager moving to defensive end, the only player left is Andre Smith. Now he's talented and has experience, but unfortunately nobody behind him has any meaningful snaps. Eric Martin made his presence felt in the spring game and is pushing hard to win the backup spot, but he's no Andre Smith.
Offensive Line - As outlined above, talent is plentiful but depth is non-existent with the number of injuries currently on the offensive line. The starting five are LT Nick Becton, LG Greg Nosal (battling shoulder injury right now), C Beau Warren, RG Jaymes Brooks and RT Blake DeChristopher. The backups are Larry, Moe, Curly, Huey and Dewey. I kid because I'm scared $@#%less.
Rover - Davon Morgan has grown into this position. After suffering a knee injury two years ago and being beaten out by Dorian Porch at the beginning of last season, Morgan quietly emerged to re-claim the starting role and played bigtime football by season's end. He will be a strong presence roaming the secondary in 2010, but his backup is a guy smaller than I am (5'9" 190 lbs James Hopper). Please don't get hurt Davon.
Free Safety - One of our favorite players, Eddie Whitley, has finally locked down a spot on the starting defense. He is a playmaker at free safety and has taken the leadership role in the defensive secondary. His backup is an immensely physically talented redshirt freshman named Antone Exum, who is stronger and faster than Whitley (Exum is a beast I'm here to tell you), but just doesn't have all the mental aspects of the spot down yet.
Boundary Corner - Rock Carmichael can play either field or boundary corner having excelled at both during his career. Jacob Sykes is backing him up but whoever loses the battle for starter at field corner will likely be the "third" cornerback and backup both field and boundary corner.
Field Corner - Jayron Hosley and Cris Hill have waged a huge battle for the starting spot here. Hosley has been hurt but coming off of that injury he's been spectacular as the position just comes naturally to him. Cris Hill is a bolt of lightning out there, but he's just not as instinctive as Hosley. Either one will be good as a starter, but I'd expect Hosley to win the spot going into the season.
Whip - I hope you read our spring review last season where we predicted that Cody Grimm would play in the NFL this season. Let's all just bask in the goodness that was Cody Grimm. Ok, now for the cold splash of water - no player competing for the whip position in 2010 has taken a meaningful snap (JGW did get some garbage time snaps last season). This is a question mark of epic proportions and both JGW and Alonzo Tweedy had their moments this spring. Knowing Coach Cav, it will probably be JGW's spot to lose come summer camp, but if Tweedy really starts nailing the mental part down, he could overtake JGW, especially if the level of play in the first few games isn't where it needs to be.
Backer - Lyndell Gibson is going to star in his starting role this season and he has played lights out all spring. His backup is currently a true freshman named Chase Williams, who is going to be very good, but right now is just running all over the place with a slightly bum knee. But as I said, he's just a true freshman. By the fall, with the return of Barquell Rivers, Bruce Taylor will basically be the backup for both Rivers and Gibson in case either of them got hurt.
Mike - Bruce Taylor had a MONSTROUS spring, finally showing the rest of Hokie Nation that he is capable of living up to his potential. We feel much better about the Mike spot and now Barquell Rivers is really going to be pushing to get back on the field, which is a good thing for him and the team. Telvion Clark is confused right now, but he is a physical specimen who also will make some noise later in his career.
Defensive line - The starting foursome of Steven Friday and Chris Drager at ends and John Graves/Kwamaine Battle at tackle is very tough. But Coach Wiles always likes rotating his defensive linemen to keep them fresh and right now, he only has two guys he can really trust to rotate in and not have a dropoff in play - James Gayle at end and Antoine Hopkins at tackle. Two other Hokies on that line have to step forward this summer and show that they want that shot. Joe Jones, Dwight Tucker and Isaiah Hamlette are going to try and earn that trust at tackle and JR Collins and Jake Johnson will attempt that feat at end. But make no mistake - Coach Wiles isn't going to play someone just to put a warm body out there, and right now the level of those players is not high enough to get on the field in a game. Perhaps Zack McCray will be ready at end when he joins the team this summer, but it's hard to break into the two-deep as a true freshman - though if anyone looks like they could do it, McCray might.
Speaking of McCray, there is a tremendous class incoming to Blacksburg this summer from the '10 Recruiting Class. The annual pangs of concern about how Coach Stinespring will find a way to mess up the most gifted offensive unit ever to take the field in a VT uniform, are already starting to set in. For the first time in a long time, those concerns are matched by nervousness about the defense and its lack of depth. The good news is the greatest defensive coordinator in the history of college football will be getting them ready for the season. He's going to throw slabs of raw meat into the weight room and keep the doors barred and by the time summer practice arrives, some guys are going to emerge, ready to bash some heads in. Hopefully it's enough of those guys to fill a two-deep and carry the team through the season.