You should already know about Virginia Tech stars such as quarterback Logan Thomas and defensive end James Gayle, but how familiar are you with the Hokies’ backups?
While no one hopes for injuries to occur, all football fans realize that sometimes they are inevitable. When they do occur, the next man in line must step up and perform the starter’s job to the best of his ability.
The reserves rarely get the credit they deserve. They are the nameless who crowd the sidelines on game day, patiently waiting for their chance to be called upon.
But not today—this article will highlight Virginia Tech’s 11 most important reserve players (six offensive, five defensive). With the season set to kick off in about a month, there’s never been a better time to brush up on the Hokies’ roster for 2012.
QB Mark Leal, So.
The most important reserve on any team is always the backup quarterback—so it would make sense for this list to start with sophomore quarterback Mark Leal. After redshirting in 2010, Leal became the team’s No. 2 passer last fall.
Leal saw limited action last year, appearing in only three games. But if Thomas, the starter, goes down sometime during the 2012 season, Tech will be in good hands. Leal is a dual-threat quarterback that can take off down the field if none of his receivers are able to get open.
RB Martin Scales, Sr.
Virginia Tech is expecting redshirt freshman running back Michael Holmes to effectively replace David Wilson, who rushed for over 1,700 yards with the Hokies last season. Those are some big shoes to fill, and Holmes may not be able to do it on his own.
That’s where senior running back Martin Scales steps in.
Scales is an ex-fullback who converted to tailback this past spring. He is a special teams ace and has plenty of game experience—he played in all 14 games last year. He could add a bit of know-how to a relatively young offensive backfield.
WR Corey Fuller, Sr.
Senior wide receivers Marcus Davis and Dyrell Roberts are slated to be the starters in 2012, but the two combined for only 33 catches last season. With a fairly unproven cast, the Hokies may need to rely on backups like senior Corey Fuller to provide relief in the receiving game.
Fuller played his first year of collegiate football last year after running track at the University of Kansas during his freshman and sophomore years. He only played in six games—catching two balls for 19 yards—in 2011, but his 4.36 40-yard dash could provide the Hokies with a dangerous vertical threat off the bench in 2012.
OG Matt Arkema, So.
Interior offensive linemen make a living in the trenches—legs get rolled up on, backs get trampled and hands get mangled all too often. Luckily for Virginia Tech, it has a versatile backup in sophomore guard Matt Arkema.
Arkema, who can also step in at center in a pinch, was honored with the “Team United” award last spring for his selflessness and ability to always put the team first.
Arkema saw time in four games as a redshirt freshman last season, but he may see more time in 2012, as he should be the first reserve lineman to rotate in.
OT Mark Shuman, So.
The left tackle is in charge of protecting the quarterback’s blind side, and senior Nick Becton is being trusted with the starting duty for the 2012 season. However, if Becton goes down at some point, someone just as reliable must step in.
Sophomore Mark Shuman appears to be the No. 2 man. He only played in two games last year, but his size (6’7”, 323 lbs.) and athleticism will make him a formidable reserve. Whether Becton or Shuman is on the field, there’s a good chance Thomas will remain upright.
TE Randall Dunn, Sr.
Senior Eric Martin will be the Hokies' starting tight end in 2012, but fellow senior Randall Dunn may provide an added receiving threat in the reserve role. He originally came to Tech as a wideout, but has since made the transition to tight end.
Dunn saw playing time in every game last season—primarily on special teams—but he managed to haul in a seven-yard touchdown grab as well. Dunn still has plenty of room to progress, giving him intriguing potential as the team’s backup tight end this season.
DE Tyrell Wilson, Jr.
Virginia Tech will want preseason all-ACC selection James Gayle to be on the field at defensive end as much as possible in 2012. However, when Gayle does come out of the game, Hokie fans will not be disappointed with his backup, junior Tyrell Wilson.
Wilson is a bit undersized (6’1”, 220 lbs.), but he makes up for it with his tenacious approach to the game. Wilson played in every game last season, and he even got the starting nod in two of those contests.
He will look to improve upon last year’s 2.5-sack performance as the team’s best reserve defensive end.
DE Zack McCray, So
Wilson isn’t the only reserve defensive end that will see action in 2012. The Hokies will surely call upon sophomore Zack McCray for his services as well.
Like Wilson, McCray also appeared in all 14 games of the 2011 season. At 6’5” and 245 pounds, McCray brings a bit more mass to Tech’s defensive front, giving him the opportunity to step in at both defensive end and defensive tackle.
Because of his versatility, McCray could become one of the Hokies’ most valuable reserves on the defensive side of the ball.
DT Kris Harley, r-Fr
There is already a lot of talent along Virginia Tech’s defensive front four, and with Wilson and McCray subbing in, there will not be much room for a redshirt freshman to make a lot of noise.
Don’t tell that to defensive tackle Kris Harley, though. He has not played a single snap in maroon and orange yet, but Harley already looks like he has what it takes to succeed at the collegiate level. He was a highly touted prospect coming out of high school and should only be better after improving his strength and conditioning during his redshirt year.
LB Alonzo Tweedy, Sr
Senior linebacker Jeron Gouveia-Winslow started five games at outside linebacker for the Hokies last season. However, a foot injury caused him to miss the final eight games of the season. While he is expected to re-assume the starting role in 2012, backup linebacker Alonzo Tweedy will fill in nicely if he struggles.
Tweedy, who is also a senior, has plenty of playing time under his belt. While much of his experience has been on special teams, Tweedy earned one start at outside linebacker in 2011.
According to his player bio on Virginia Tech’s website, Tweedy will be in the running for the starting job this year after an impressive spring. It will be an uphill climb for Tweedy, but he may be better-suited in a reserve role.
S Boye Aromire, So.
I can’t stress it enough—versatility is an extremely valuable trait when it comes to reserves of any position. Luckily for the Hokies’ defensive backfield, sophomore safety Boye Aromire has plenty of it.
Aromire got to work right away last year, appearing in 10 games as a true freshman. His natural position is strong safety, or rover, but Aromire can also play free safety—he may see time at both positions in 2012.
Aromire is a young and talented player who will likely land a starting job somewhere down the line. But for now, he rounds out this list of Virginia Tech’s key reserves for the upcoming season.