About the 2012 Maroon vs. White Spring Game:
Date: Saturday, April 21, 2012
Time: 4 p.m.
Location: Worsham Field at Lane Stadium
Admission: Free, but fans are encouraged to bring canned food to donate at the gates.
Parking: First-come, first-park. No parking in Lot 4 - it’s reserved for softball double-header on Saturday.
Spring Outlook: Download PDF
Maroon Roster: View
White Roster: View
Live Stats: Here
Live Audio: Here
Recapping Last Season
The Hokies finished the 2011 season at 11-3, which is impressive in the grand scheme of things, but once again, Virginia Tech fell short of winning a BCS bowl game, losing in heart-breaking fashion to the Michigan Wolverines, 20-23, in overtime. And again the debate raged over whether 10-win seasons with disappointing bowl game performances should be enough for Virginia Tech fans, or is it fair to expect more?
Just being invited to the Sugar Bowl was a bit of a surprise considering Tech got crushed by Clemson in the ACC championship game, 38-10. It was the second time the Tigers had whipped up on the Hokies that season. Earlier, Clemson handed the Hokies their only regular season loss at home, 23-3.
The only team to really beat the Hokies (they outplayed Michigan) was Clemson, twice. And then Clemson went out and got absolutely shelled by West Virginia, 70-33. That didn’t help the Hokies’ reputation much.
But, an 11-3 season is still nothing to sneeze at. Afterall, the Hokies won an incredible game over Miami courtesy of quarterback Logan Thomas’ 19-yard touchdown run on 4th down. And let’s not forget the 38-0 drubbing of UVA to clinch the ACC Coastal Division title.
Tech had a couple of close calls against Duke (14-10) and North Carolina (24-21), but everything else was uneventful.
Spring Game Preview
TWO-DEEP DEPTH CHART: OFFENSE
Quarterbacks: Logan Thomas is the returning starter. The 2nd team All ACC selection in 2011 returns having set new school single season records for total offensive yards (3,482) and rushing TDs by a QB (11). He also threw for 3,013 yards, second only to Don Strock back in ‘72. Not too shabby. Backing him up for the second straight season is Mark Leal, who is serviceable and has some experience.
Spring practice got off to a slow start for the offense. The offensive line, which has to replace four starters from last year’s team, struggled mightily in the first week, but at last Saturday’s open scrimmage, played significantly better. We’ll address that aspect of the office in a bit.
At the aforementioned scrimmage, Thomas connected on 9 of 23 passes, though there were several drops by his receivers. Four of those nine completions went for touchdowns. And three of those four TD strikes went to redshirt senior wideout Corey Fuller.
Tailbacks: Just as is the case with Thomas, you can’t put a lot of stock into the spring stats of the running backs because the offensive line has struggled. That being said, we know the Hokies are loaded with talent and potential in the backfield, but until they get in a real game, they won’t know for sure how good they’ll be.
Redshirt junior Tony Gregory was expected to be the No. 1 back heading into spring practice before the Sugar Bowl, assuming David Wilson turned pro, which he did. But, Gregory hurt his knee against Michigan and missed all of spring practice. That opened the door for a pair of highly touted newcomers, neither of which has a single college carry to their credit.
Michael Holmes, a redshirt freshman, could very well be the Hokies’ opening day starter in September. He redshirted the 2011 season, during which he gave Tech fits as the scout team running back. With Gregory out, he’s the No. 1 back so far in spring practice. He’s drawn lofty praise from the Hokies quarterback and unquestioned leader, Logan Thomas, who compare the freshman to former Tech running back Ryan Williams.
"He’s got really good vision," said associate head coach and running backs coach Shane Beamer in a post-practice interview. “He’s got a unique ability to make cuts and get north and south in a hurry.”
Holmes has emerged as the leader for the starting job through two-plus weeks of spring practice. During the April 14 scrimmage, he carried the ball eight times for 89 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown run.
Holmes will get some competition, make no mistake. True freshman, J.C. Coleman, enrolled in January and is getting carries in spring practice. He was the No. 3 all-purpose back in the country by Rivals coming out of high school and at 5-7, 175 pounds,
"He’s a physical guy, he doesn’t back down from anybody, which you love to see," Beamer said of Coleman. "He’s got a lot of ability when the ball’s in his hands in the open field."
If Holmes dazzles and Gregory comes back strong, don’t be surprised to see Coleman redshirted in 2012, especially if converted fullback Martin Scales (r-Sr.) continues to have a good spring. The senior is running with more power and authority so far, and it will be hard to keep him off the field if he stays healthy.
Coleman, though, is already slated to wear David Wilson’s No. 4 and the coaches are hoping that Coleman will play well enough that they can’t afford to keep him on the bench - shades of Wilson the year they tried to redshirt him.
Further down on the spring depth chart are Scales (r-Sr.) and Daniel Dyer (r-So.). Both have been in the program and know the system. They are serviceable tailbacks and while Scales looks like he’s earning a spot in the top three, Dyer will likely continue making his mark as special teamer.
Beamer noted that the Hokies plan to use two, sometimes three tailbacks a game, so barring injuries, you can probably expect the opening day depth chart to be Holmes, Gregory and Scales. If any of those get hurt, you could see Coleman get some playing time.
Fullbacks: Joey Phillips. That’s all you need to know, really. Don’t expect the redshirt senior to touch the ball much, if at all, this season. He’ll be used primarily as a blocking back, especially since the offensive line has to replace four starters. Phillips is a bruiser and knows how to block. Behind him is redshirt sophomore Riley Beiro, who moved from tailback to fullback last spring. Beiro is a special teamer with a nasty streak, which means he’s not afraid to lay some guys out that might try to put their hands on Thomas.
Receivers/Tight Ends: Marcus Davis is the unquestioned No. 1 receiver for the Hokies heading into the 2012 season. He missed Saturday’s scrimmage with a tweaked hamstring and D.J. Coles is out for the entire spring with a knee injury. Both are expected back for fall practice, as is Dyrell Roberts, who will round out the top three.
In the meantime, some backups are getting some quality reps with the first team. As we mentioned earlier, Corey Fuller, a redshirt senior, caught three TD passes from Thomas. Unfortunately, Fuller also had three dropped passes.
Other receivers to keep an eye on are Demitri Knowles, a redshirt freshman. Could see most of his playing time this year as a kick returner now that Roberts has moved to punt returns. Kevin Asante is the other guy to watch.
Senior tight end Randall Dunn caught one TD pass from Thomas and another from reserver quarterback Trey Gresh. Though Dunn is listed as a tight end, he’s runs like a receiver and could play a significant role in Tech’s offense.
To Miller’s left will likely be David Wang at guard and Nick Becton at tackle. On Miller’s right will be guard Brent Benedict (a highly touted transfer from Georgia) and tackle Vinston Painter. The good news is that all of these guys, with the exception of Benedict, has played for the Hokies, so while they are “new” they do have experience.
And these guys are huge. And their backups are huge. That doesn’t necessarily equate to on-field success, but it does hold some promise that they can come together and protect Thomas and open some holes for their inexperienced running backs.
After getting off to a poor start and allowing 11 sacks in 85 plays in the first scrimmage, the o-line has tightened up and is playing better as evidenced by the stats put up by Thomas (91 yards, 5 TDs) and Holmes (8 carries, 89 yards, 1 TD) in the second scrimmage.
Another week of practice followed by the spring game and a full fall practice and I think the offensive line will be OK. Not great, but OK.
TWO-DEEP DEPTH CHART: DEFENSE
Cornerbacks: Losing a guy like Jayron Hosely is never fun, but at Virginia Tech, turning out NFL-caliber defensive backs has become the norm. So, who’s the next Hosley, Chancellor or Flowers? How about Antone Exum and Kyle Fuller?
Exum and Fuller have picked up right where they left off last season. Granted, Exum is moving from safety to corner, but he seems to be fitting in just fine. Exum returned a blocked punt for a touchdown in Saturday’s scrimmage while Fuller blocked a field goal attempt. Sure, those were special teams plays, but these guys appear focused and ready for a banner year in the secondary.
Linebackers: This is where the Hokies strength on the defensive line and the secondary may need to help cover up the lone question mark on defense. Projected starters Tariq Edwards and Bruce Taylor missed all of spring practice; Edwards had surgery to repair a stress fracture in his leg and Taylor is still recovering from a Lisfranc sprain.
Redshirt junior Jack Tyler returns at the inside linebacker spot and has considerable experience, but behind him are some three redshirt sophomore that have a combine 16 snaps on defense. The bottom line: Tech needs Edwards, Taylor and Tyler to stay healthy so Foster can work in the new guys.
Things aren’t quite so bleak at the oustide linebacker position. Senior Jeron Gouveia-Winslow, who also suffered a Linsfranc sprain last season, is expected to return for the start of fall practice.
Behind him is fellow senior Alonzo Tweedy, who played well last season replacing GW. Also, redshirt freshman Ronny Vandyke is getting some snaps in spring practice and could push for playing time next season.
Safeties/Rovers: These positions, like the linebackers, is in flux. Detrick Bonner, a redshirt sophomore, moved over from cornerback to rover and has looked good so far in spring practice. He’s backed up by Boye Aromire, a sophomore.
The concern here is the lack of size. Both Bonner and Jarrett are under 190 pounds and need to get bigger to play the more physical positions. If they can’t, Foster does have some options to move guys around, but he’d rather keep things conistent.
Defensive Line: If there’s one position you don’t really have to worry about with the 2012 Virginia Tech Hokies, it’s the defensive line. Agressive. Nasty. Non-stop. Ruthless. Pick a similar adjective and you basically have a front four that is two-deep and without a single senior.
This unit will be fun to watch this season. Redshirt junior James Gayle returns to anchor the line at one of the defensive end spots. Derrick Hopkins, a junior, and Luther Maddy, a sophomore will wreak havoc up the middle while J.R. Collins sets as the other defensive end.
Depth and experience. The Hokies have it on the DL. Because of injuries last season to just about all of these guys, the backups got plenty of quality playing time and they weren’t overwhelmed - at least not too much. Players like Maddy and Corey Marshall learned from the experience and were playing well by the season’s end.
Behind the projected starters are Tyrel Wilson, Marshall, Maddy and Kris Harley, who has two sacks in Saturday’s scrimmage. Watch for defensive coordinator Bud Foster to rotate these guys in often to keep everyone fresh and the opposing offenses on their collective toes.
Special Teams: PR | KR | P | K
Punt Returners: Dyrell Roberts is getting some time as a punt returner this spring. He hasn’t worked on punt returns since his freshman year. Kyshoen Jarrett is also working out as a punt returner and had an 88-yard return for a touchdown in the first spring scrimmage.
Kick Returners: Even though Roberts is back, he likely won’t be returning kick offs. He met with head coach Frank Beamer before spring practice and said he wanted to get away from kickoff returns. So, that leaves Tony Gregory (when he comes back) and some fresh new faces including Demitri Knowles.
Kickers and Punters: Danny Coale, the Hokies’ receiver who booted punts of 60 and 61 yards in the 2011 ACC championship game, is gone. Leaving four unproven punters to compete for the job. Connor Goulding, Michael Branthover, Scott Demler and Ethan Keyserling will battle it out for the right to punt.
Demler struggled mightily last season before getting benched in favor of Branthover, who had some good punts, but also had some really bad ones. He, too, was benched. In came Coale, who set the punting world on fire and booted an ACC title game recored 61-yarder. Not bad for a guy that ranks second all-time in receiving yards and receptions at Virginia Tech.
Going into spring practice, Goulding was listed as the starting punter while Branthover was tabbed as the starting place kicker. It’s too early to tell what’ll happen here. Check back in the fall.
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