Well, my Calm and Beloved Reader, Hokie football has finally returned. I feel like a man in the desert finally coming across an oasis. My neighbors and I have succumbed to the fever - we've begun blocking and tackling each other, sprinkling phrases like Tampa 2 and 7-technique into our conversations and are just in general being unbearable for our wives to be around. The Blonde always says that the very worst time of the year for football fever is the time after camp begins but before the first game. And that is where we are now.
Before we discuss the team, I should address something I wrapped up last season with - namely my inability to watch Hokie games live on TV this upcoming season. While my TV remote and my furniture will be forever grateful for this turn of events, it certainly is still tinged with sadness for me personally.As physically and emotionally draining as the madness is over the course of a season, it has been a part of my life for the past 19 years. Yes, my "Hokie football insanity" is old enough to vote. I can count on one hand the number of games in those nearly two decades that I didn't watch in person, live on TV, or on tape delay without knowing the outcome. And two of those, I listened to on the radio (one during a wedding). But I know this is the right decision for me and my family, and surprisingly, I've found that it hasn't lessened my passion for Hokie football. While I won't be able to write game reviews since I don't know if I'll be watching the game until after I know if the Hokies win or lose, I can and will still contribute freewheels and game previews. And I find myself just as nervous and excited about the opening kickoff against Georgia Tech as I would be if I were going to watch the game not knowing who will win. So with that said, let's talk about HOKIE FOOTBALL!!!!!
The summer camp has been a lot of drills and meetings and conditioning up to this point in its first week. Realistically, camp begins with the scrimmage today when they put on pads and go through some actual football situations. The coaches will be deciding the traveling squad and who's legitimately competing for the 2-deep (4-deep in the case of the running backs and wide receivers) this week and it kicks off with the mini-scrimmage going on as I type this. We will do the full breakdown once we know who's in the mix, but here are the main areas of focus for the coaches:
Running Back - it starts here as the talent pool is nearly as full as the experience pool is empty. Michael Holmes looks to have the starting spot locked up, but there is a major battle behind him to see who else gets carries between Martin Scales, Daniel Dyer, JC Coleman, Chris Mangus and Trey Edmunds. Speaking of Edmunds, I still think it's a bad move to play him at running back. Watching film from practices thus far, he runs too upright and isn't natural at change of direction. He is a born linebacker and the cupboard is already full of talented running backs, so what the hell is he doing there? I don't get it.
Offensive Line - while the recruiting at offensive line has been awful both in the '12 and what's shaping up to be the '13 class, the current players are actually pretty impressive. The Hokies have talent and athleticism up and down the line and if they can actually execute at the level of last year's group, they have the ability to be even better. This group will be all about depth and chemistry and Coach Newsome needs to hammer out his lineup and rotation early in camp and then hammer them with reps until the first game. Vinston Painter and James Gayle have been in some EPIC battles in nearly every practice, having to be separated by teammates 3 different times. And word is that Painter has been giving as good as he's getting in that battle which is saying something, since Gayle is probably a 2nd-3rd round pick at defensive end in next year's draft.
Linebacker - All 3 starting linebackers are coming back from injury and Backer Tariq Edwards is probably going to undergo another surgery on his knee before the season. Now this isn't much of a concern early on because Jack Tyler is a stud in the middle and Bruce Taylor can slide over to play Backer, but Edwards adds another level of athleticism and is coming off a great season last year. The Hokies need him back, Taylor needs to show he can play through pain and JGW (Jeron Gouviea-Winslow) is holding off two players who are physically more gifted than he was at 100% much less returning from his Lisfranc injury. Linebacker is more of a chemistry issue than anything else.
Wide Receiver- Similar to running back, this position has got ridiculous talent and very little experience. DJ Coles is looking more like a redshirt every day he misses practice recovering from his knee surgery, but Kevin Asante, Demetri Knowles and Josh Stanford have all been VERY impressive in camp. Dyrell Roberts and Marcus Davis can hold down the fort in the starting lineup, but there is a lot of playing time for a 3rd and 4th receiver in the more spread-based offense this season and two guys out of the Corey Fuller, Stanford, Knowles, Caleb, Asante group have to step up and earn it.
Secondary - this will be all about depth. The starting secondary is All-ACC caliber at 3 positions, but the backups at each position are unproven or true freshmen. Scrimmage/practice is absolutely huge for these guys and the coaches to sort out who makes the 2-deep going into the season. Kyle Fuller looks poised for an absolutely MONSTER season at corner, it must be said. The receivers have all commented at various points, how they just aren't able to shake him.
Special Teams- Coach Beamer the Elder labels the special teams the most critical component of this year's team. An enormous load was lifted from the kicking game's shoulders with the return of Cody Journell. But punter is still an absolutely wide-open battle between 4 players and one thing we learned after last season is how critical the punting game is. Should be very interesting to see how this shakes out.
Just like always, TSF will have updates after the scrimmages, wrapping up with a more in-depth position-by-position breakdown as the Hokies head into the season. It's just around the corner and as the season approaches, the one thought on my mind is:
http://youtu.be/nPH-GzgvvD4 (I didn't make this video but it captures the excitement I'm feeling)