Virginia Tech spring football preview
Spring practice begins Wednesday as Virginia Tech tries to improve on last season's 7-6 finish.
STEVE HELBER | Associated Press
Quarterback Logan Thomas enters the season third on Virginia Tech’s all-time list in passing yards (6,096) and total offense (7,111), fourth in completions (466) and fifth in touchdown passes (37).
Cornerback Kendall Fuller
EVA RUSSO | Richmond-Times Dispatch
Wide receiver Joel Caleb
The Roanoke Times | File 2010
Defensive end James Gayle
Associated Press | File 2012
Running back Michael Holmes
The Roanoke Times | File 2012
Running back Tony Gregory
Associated Press | File 2012
Virginia Tech’s new offensive coordinator Scott Loeffler has had limited time to work with quarterback Logan Thomas so far this offseason. He said he’ll start practice on basic fundamentals.
Turn captions on
Monday, March 25, 2013
5 biggest questions
- Will the arrival of new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Scot Loeffler help Thomas shake off a disappointing 2012 season and regain his 2011 form?
- After a season in which nobody seized the starting job, can the Hokies find an every-down back capable of being the physical runner that they’ve grown accustomed to in Blacksburg
- Will this young group of receivers be able to step in to seamlessly replace the trio — Marcus Davis, Corey Fuller and Dyrell Roberts — that caught the vast majority of the Hokies’ passes last season?
- Can the Hokies get back to being the smashmouth, “tip of the spear” kind of line that new offensive line coach Jeff Grimes said he wanted to have when he was hired in January?
- How will the secondary react to losing one major contributor for good (Michael Cole) and another for possibly the early part of the season (Antone Exum)?
Top returners from 2012
- QB Logan Thomas: 220-429, 51.3 completion percentage, 2,976 passing yards, 18 touchdowns, 16 interceptions, 524 rushing yards, 9 rushing touchdowns
- RB J.C. Coleman: 109 carries, 492 yards, 4.5 average., 2 touchdowns, 21 catches, 132 yards, 1 receiving touchdown
- DE James Gayle: 43 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, 5 sacks, 27 quarterback hurries
- LB Jack Tyler: 119 tackles, 13.0 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, 13 quarterback hurries
- S Kyshoen Jarrett: 83 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, 4 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble
The star attractions
- QB Logan Thomas: Say what you will about his 2012 struggles, but he still broke his own single-season school yardage record with 3,500 yards and will once again be the focal point of the offense. As Thomas goes, so go the Hokies.
- DE James Gayle: The two-time second-team All-ACC pick chose to return for his senior season and hopes to significantly increase his sack total, which actually dropped from seven in 2011 to five last year. He’d like to have a double-digit sack season before he leaves Blacksburg.
- LB Jack Tyler: The former walk-on has turned himself into one of the Hokies’ best players, racking up a team-high 119 tackles last year, tied for third-most in the ACC. With Bruce Taylor gone, he’ll be the man in the middle, charged with getting Tech’s defense in the right spots.
Battles to watch
- Running back: Nobody established himself last year as The Guy. The Hokies rotated through four backs, never finding the right one to be the featured back. J.C. Coleman, Michael Holmes and Tony Gregory are back, and redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds joins the mix this spring.
- Offensive tackle: Both spots are wide open now that Nick Becton, Vinston Painter and Michael Via have graduated. Mark Shuman and Laurence Gibson were next on the depth chart last year, although with a new position coach, it’s wide open. Nick Acree is back from a knee injury, redshirt freshman Augie Conte has made strides and Jonathan McLaughlin is enrolled after a semester at Fork Union.
- Cornerback: Exum’s injury presents an opportunity for Tech’s inexperienced corners to get practice time. Donovan Riley and Donaldven Manning figure to be the next two in line for reps this spring. Riley was the No. 3 corner at the end of last year. Manning was at the beginning of the year but struggled and had some off-field issues.
The wild cards
- DE Dadi Nicolas: His offseason arrest and brief suspension last year led to low expectations, but Nicolas surprised many by being extremely productive in limited reps late in the season. In 123 defensive snaps, he had 17 tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss and two sacks. If the redshirt sophomore can continue to develop, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him compete for a starting spot.
- RB Michael Holmes: He was supposed to be the player most likely to step into the featured running back role last year, but things never materialized for Holmes, who ran for 280 yards and four touchdowns. But he’s still only a sophomore. There was a reason the Hokies were so high on him last year.
- WR D.J. Coles: He was slow to come back from a knee injury last year and re-injured it in the opener, forcing him to miss the season. He’s back for another shot at his senior year, though. Coles came on strong late in his junior season in 2011, especially the ACC title game loss (7 catches, 116 yards vs. Clemson).
The new guys
- RB Trey Edmunds: He drew a Kevin Jones comparison last August, something Frank Beamer doesn’t throw around lightly, but Tech still redshirted Edmunds, a decision second-guessed as the Hokies’ running game struggled. At 6-foot-1, 212 pounds, he could be the big-bodied back capable of breaking tackles that Virginia Tech would prefer.
- WRs Joel Caleb, Josh Stanford: The redshirt freshmen get paired together all the time. Caleb transitioned from quarterback last year. Stanford was poised to get on the field but suffered a knee injury that led to a redshirt. With three senior receivers gone and few veterans to replace them, the Hokies need both to step into significant roles.
- OLB Ronny Vandyke: He’s not new, per se, but he’s been heralded as the whip linebacker of the future. With Alonzo Tweedy and Jeron Gouveia-Winslow gone, that time is now. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster loves Vandyke’s potential. At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, he has the physical capabilities to be a play-maker.
- CB Kendall Fuller: The Hokies’ first five-star recruit since Tyrod Taylor.
- S Holland Fisher: A rising safety prospect that Alabama pursued hard in recruiting.
- DE Wyatt Teller: The only d-line recruit in the 2013 class, but he’s a good one.
- QB Bucky Hodges: He’ll redshirt, but many see him as the quarterback of the future.
Just the facts
- Thomas led the team in rushing last year with 524 yards, the first time a Tech quarterback has done so since Bobby Owens in 1965. Coleman’s 492 yards led the running backs. That’s the lowest rushing total for a lead running back since Terry Smoot led the Hokies with 356 yards in 1967.
- The Hokies’ returning linemen have 43 combined starts in their careers. Take away Andrew Miller (21) and David Wang (10) and the remaining players have started only 12 games between them (Brent Benedict 6, Caleb Farris 4 and Matt Arkema 2). After Miller’s 1,425 career snaps, the next highest total of the linemen is Benedict, at just over 600.
- The Hokies had 27 sacks in the final seven games, an average of 3.86 per game. If they had averaged that over the season, it would have put them third nationally behind Stanford (4.07) and Arizona State (4.00). Tech finished tied for 19th in sacks, with 2.69 per game.
Thursday, December 5, 2013