Virginia Tech last season became the first ACC team to receive an at-large bid to a BCS game. But if the Hokies want to return to the BCS this season, they have a lot of work to do on offense this spring.
The Hokies return just three fulltime offensive starters. While one of those is QB Logan Thomas, who had a successful first season as the starter, he'll be working behind a line that returns just one starter and with almost all-new skill-position players.
|Coach: Frank Beamer (26th season)
Last season: 11-3, 7-1 ACC
Spring practice dates: March 28-April 21
(minimum 7 starts last season):
Offense (3): WR Marcus Davis, C Andrew Miller, QB Logan Thomas
Defense (8): E J.R. Collins, LB Tariq Edwards, S Antoine Exum, CB Kyle Fuller, E James Gayle, T Derrick Hopkins, T Luther Maddy, LB Bruce Taylor
Special teams (2): P Michael Branthover, K Cody Journell
One issue for the ground-oriented Hokies is at tailback, where they lost their top two performers from last season. The top two candidates for this season's starting role, Michael Holmes and J.C. Coleman, have a combined zero college carries. Holmes is a redshirt freshman, while Coleman is a true freshman who enrolled in January. Coleman is just 5 feet 7 and 176 pounds, so his lack of size makes you wonder if he can be an every-down back.
Virginia Tech completed 243 passes last season; two players, Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale, combined for almost half of those receptions (121, for 1,665 yards). D.J. Coles and Marcus Davis will vie for the go-to receiver role this spring after serving as complementary targets last season. The Hokies also have to replace starting TE Chris Drager.
The lone returning starter on what was a solid line is C Andrew Miller. Given Virginia Tech's usual reliance on the run, finding four starters to play alongside Miller might just be the top priority this spring.
There are far fewer questions defensively. The Hokies were 10th nationally in total defense and seventh nationally in scoring defense last season.
The line looks good, as every key performer from last season returns. Es James Gayle and J.R. Collins combined for 13 sacks, and should be even more productive this season.
While CB Jayron Hosley turned pro early, Kyle Fuller should slide into his role as the Hokies' start corner. Antoine Exum returns at safety; he started in both safety spots last season. While the Hokies need two new starters in the secondary, they look fine at the position.
There is some unease at linebacker because two returning starters, Tariq Edwards and Bruce Taylor, are injured and will miss spring. But that unease could become a positive, assuming some younger players step up and prove they can handle the job this spring. In that scenario, depth will be excellent this fall.
The biggest problem: Tailback. The Hokies are looking for a new one, and it's going to be hard to find anyone as productive as David Wilson. Both candidates for the job are relative unknowns. Michael Holmes is a redshirt freshman, while J.C. Coleman is a true freshman who has enrolled early. It's not just about finding a starter but lining up depth, too; beyond those two, the Hokies are down to walk-on candidates. One other issue is linebacker, where Tariq Edwards and Bruce Taylor will miss the spring with injuries and Telvion Clark recently was dismissed. Depth has become a problem there.
On the spot: T Vinston Painter. The former Rivals100 prospect came in with huge expectations, but to date he hasn't played a significant role. Painter will get that chance this spring because Tech is losing both starting tackles, Blake DeChristopher and Andrew Lanier. But he is in a fight for the jobs against Michael Via and Nick Becton.
[ Rivals.com: Virginia gains on Virginia Tech in the battle for 757 ]
On the verge: TB Michael Holmes. Much of the publicity heading into spring has been about Coleman, but Holmes is the likely starter at this stage. Holmes has been productive in practices and now he must bring it to the field. He may not have Wilson's burst, but he has outstanding vision and good feet. If he can put it together and stay healthy, he could be a star in the making.
General overview: QB Logan Thomas returns, but much of the offense is gone; both wide receivers, the starting tight end, the starting tailback and four of the five starting offensive linemen. Tech must develop a cohesive unit on the line while Thomas gains comfort with his group of wide receivers. Defensively, developing depth at linebacker is critical this spring. Finally, special teams will need to be a priority after a dismal season a year ago. Though the Hokies return their punter and kicker, those jobs are open to start spring.
For in-depth coverage of Virginia Tech athletics, go to HokieHaven.com
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