Below are the 10 key takeaways from the first week of summer camp:
1) The biggest takeaway from camp so far is that the injuries are starting to add up - Get past Tariq Edwards and DJ Coles who have been out all camp recovering from their surgeries at the end of last year. There were a TON of players who needed to play in Saturday's scrimmage who didn't. James Gayle has re-tweaked both ankles which was a problem from all of last season, and he needs to be on the field as one of the biggest keys to this entire defense. Yes the d-line is deep but Gayle is a difference-maker. Demetri Knowles was out with a neck strain, Davion Tookes needs all the reps he can get at cornerback but didn't play and the list goes on. Mike Goforth is a busy guy and he needs to get this team healthy in time for week 1.
2) Luther Maddy continues to show why I am an idiot. He has overtaken NFL prospect Antoine Hopkins as the starter at tackle next to Derrick Hopkins. In the Hokie defense, unlike most defenses across the country, the tackles are NOT intended to be space eaters or gap-fillers. They are play-disruptors, who either shove the offensive lineman where they don't want to go, or outright beat the lineman to make tackles or change the running back's course. Maddy has been more effective at that than Antoine Hopkins and while both will get tons of playing time to stay fresh, Maddy is possibly going to be the starter on day 1.
3) Mark Leal has stepped his game up to another level. Yes, he had a pick yesterday but that was more of a spectacular play by Bruce Taylor than anything. Leal plays against the number 1 defense with the number 2 offense all the time, and just keeps making plays. He has developed a gun of an arm, but he's also making great, quick reads.
4) Speaking of Bruce Taylor, he seems to be a natural fit at backer and is showing no ill effects from his Lisfranc injury. He says there's pain after each practice and it probably won't fully recover until after this season, but he is playing through it and playing well.
5) What has helped so incredibly much in dealing with Tariq Edwards' slow recovery from shin surgery has been the play of Jack Tyler at middle linebacker. This allows Taylor to slide over to backer to fill in for Edwards and while not as physically imposing as Taylor, Jack Tyler is even more instinctive at making plays from that position. He has also been doing a lot of coaching on the field with Chase Williams who is the future at that position. Tyler's been in big games and has a lot of maturity and ability.
6) Chris Mangus could be a star. Playing often times with the third string o-line, or at best the second string, Mangus hasn't had anywhere to run, to stretch out his legs for that ridiculous top gear that he has. But in the hole, he's been very tough and slippery and has taken some big hits from unblocked guys and popped right back up. He has a lot to learn about the position, but honestly, he looks so much more natural than Trey Edmunds at running back. Edmunds has a lot of pop, and is bigger, but I can just see the linebacker in him. Mangus has the gift at running back and the sooner the Hokies realize that and move Edmunds over to his natural position, the better for everyone.
7) Behind the starters in the secondary, it is as raw a group as you can imagine. There are 4 true freshmen getting time at cornerback and even the backups at safety and rover have almost no game experience. And these freshman corners have been getting toasted on a regular basis all week. The only guy who wasn't getting beaten deep was Davion Tookes, who is as fast as lightning.....until he pulled his hamstring at the end of the week. That injury bug needs to stay well away from the secondary until the backups can get some game experience in order for the Hokies to have the dominant defense they are hoping for this year.
8) Dyrell Roberts has been a force on the field this week. He is all over the place, fielding punts and kickoffs, carrying the ball on end-arounds with great speed and vision and making tough catches. It takes enormous mental discipline to do kickoff returns when your past two seasons have ended as a result of injuries while returning kicks. My hope is that Tony Gregory and Demetri Knowles can handle the kickoff duties and they let Dyrell focus just on punt returns, but we shall see. Until then Roberts has been throwing himself into the game which is an asset for the team and especially all those young backup receivers.
9) Speaking of young backup receivers, while all the hype coming into the pre-season was on Joel Caleb, it has been another freshman, Josh Stanford that has made the biggest impact at the position. Sure Caleb is a physical beast, but he is learning the position for the first time and is still a little too heavy to be as quick as you'd want. Stanford is much more polished at catching the football and in learning the offense. The coaches actually predict he might get on the field this season, although redshirt decisions will be made by the middle of this week so we'll know for sure by then.
10) The most impressive thing about JC Coleman's 52-yd run during the scrimmage on Saturday wasn't the run itself or the fact that he did it with a broken hand. It was the fact that 45 yards downfield, Corey Marshall caught up to him and hit him. And while Coleman broke the tackle, Marshall's motor and foot speed were ASTONISHING for a man that size. There's no doubt why Coach Wiles thinks of Marshall as another starter. He is still competing with JR Collins for the starting spot at end and he is also fully capable of sliding over to play tackle. Marshall will see the field a lot this year and could actually have a breakout season.
The coaching staff is deciding on redshirts today/tomorrow after reviewing the film and they'll begin installing the Georgia Tech prep this week with the top 72 players who will realistically be playing this season for the Hokies. The 2-deep won't be engraved in stone this week but I would only expect 1 or 2 moves to be made the final week if anything. We'll update again after the next big scrimmage on Wednesday.