With the Hokies basketball team suffering a tough loss to the Rhode Island Rams, it's not time to slide seamlessly over to Frank Beamer's department and look at some of the position battles that will be occurring this spring. The offense returns eight starters this spring with the only losses coming from the offensive line and tight end.
The Hokies will have to find a new left tackle and left guard as well as a replacement from Greg Boone at tight end. The good news is that the Hokies have plenty of depth waiting in the wings.
I'm going to do a more in-depth look at each position over on www.virginiatechfan.com so for the purpose of this blog I'm going to do a quick sketch of the offense this spring.
It's been a quick three years for Tyrod Taylor but much like last season, he will enter this spring in full control of this Virginia Tech offense. The biggest question mark is who will be the man standing behind him if something were to happen. Sophomore JuJu Clayton played well in what little playing time he received last season. His biggest highlight was his 81 yard touchdown pass to Marcus Davis against Boston College. If JuJu can produce this spring then odds are he'll have a good shot at keeping his backup job.
Logan Thomas will be JuJu's challenger and will be a worthy opponent this spring. Thomas brings his 6'6" frame and rocket of an arm to the field this spring, but his performance will decide his fate. After a redshirt season I am intrigued to see how much Thomas has progressed as a Quarterback. If he plays well I have a feeling he'll eventually unseat JuJu as the Hokies backup quarterback this spring.
Also keep an eye on true freshman Ricardo Young as this will be his first action in a Hokie uniform.
The running back order won't change much from last season except for the addition of a healthy Darren Evans. I would expect Williams to keep his starting job and split carries with Evans who will serve as the primary number two option. The biggest storyline to watch will be the play of Josh Oglesby and the potential redshirting of David Wilson.
Also, keep an eye on Tony Gregory. He had a great spring last year and ended up redshirting since he needed to add a few pounds.
The Hokies starting three will remain in place this spring with Boykin, Coale, and Roberts receiving work with the first string offense. However, there are a few kids behind them that could make a splash this season. First is Marcus Davis who had all but surpassed Xavier Boyce by the end of the year. Davis had a up and down first year as he caught a couple touchdown passes but also had a few key drops as well.
Two more players to watch out for are redshirt freshmen Nubian Peak and Ben Barber. Peak is a burner but is a tad on the small side. If Peak can find a niche and stick with it he could see some playing time possibly this fall if not then in the future. Ben Barber is a thick wideout who could earn a few snaps this fall although his number probably won't get called until next year at the earliest.
Lastly, there is D.J. Coles, Austin Fuller, Patrick Terry, and Xavier Boyce. Odds are two or three of these players will switch positions by the end of the spring. The most likely is Boyce, who should have started at free safety from day one, and D.J. Coles. Coles could get moved over to Whip linebacker even though it seems like we have a bajillion Whip linebackers on roster already. Terry and Fuller will both stay at wide receiver but I wouldn't expect either one to make a huge splash this spring.
The Hokies will have to replace both Greg Boone and Sam Wheeler who departed last season. As it stands now Senior Andre Smith, Sophomore Randall Dunn, and redshirt freshman Eric Martin will be the one's called upon to fill that void. Smith has had an up and down year last season, struggling to catch the ball at times while also making a few sweet catches as well. With the tight end becoming a dieing position in our offense, I could see 20 or less receptions for this group this fall. Needless to say, we need to recruit some tight ends in this 2011 class.
The right side of the line will stay intact from last season with Senior Beau Warren at Center, Junior Jaymes Brooks at right guard, and junior Blake Dechristopher at right tackle. The left side of the line is a bit iffy at this time but junior Greg Nosal will more than likely start at left guard and sophomore Nick Becton will start at left tackle.
For the first time in what seems like forever, the Hokies will have some quality depth on the line as well. Sophomore Michael Via will backup at both center and left tackle. Sophomore Vinston Painter and freshman David Wang will provide solid backup at both guard positions and junior Andrew Lanier will backup Dechristopher at right tackle.
This unit should be the best offensive line within the last eight years. There may be some shuffling around to maximize the potential of some of these players but by the end of the spring, this offensive line should be pushing the defensive line around. That's something we haven't seen in Blacksburg in a long, long time.