Virginia Tech Football: 5 Things to Look For in the Spring Game
With two weeks of spring practice now in the books, Virginia Tech fans anxiously await news on how the new coaches are adjusting to their roles and what players have changed positions.
The spring game, slated for Saturday, April 20, is still two weeks away, but fans have a chance to see the Hokies scrimmage this Saturday, April 6, at 2:45 p.m., as well as next Saturday, April 13, at 10:45 a.m.
The Hokies released their first depth chart when spring practice opened; however, little can be taken from preseason depth charts. With essentially an entirely new offensive coaching staff, with the exception of running backs coach Shane Beamer and tight ends coach and former offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, the Hokies' new coaches are still adjusting to the talent they have.
Let's take a look at five things fans should focus on as we get closer to the spring game.
Who Will Emerge at Offensive Tackle?
Throughout the offseason, we've discussed how a pair of juniors, Mark Shuman and Laurence Gibson, were expected to start at left and right tackle, respectively, in 2013.
New offensive line coach Jeff Grimes has been adamant about making the Hokies a much tougher team, and that begins up front. Grimes has used spring practice as a way to see how his players win one-on-one matchup's and has moved his linemen around during practice.
Part of what Grimes has done is flip Shuman and Gibson. For portions of practice thus far, Shuman has moved over to the right side while Gibson moved to the left.
Both are former top recruits and haven't had the opportunity to get on the field much during their first two years. Seeing where Grimes has them line up in two weeks will be very telling in how he sees them lining up in 2013.
Who Will Step Up in Antone Exum's Absence?
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Antone Exum's ACL injury in late-January was devastating news for longtime defensive coordinator Bud Foster. Exum, coming off an All-ACC junior campaign, had announced earlier in the month he'd be returning to school for his senior season, which meant the Hokies would be returning nine starters on defense in 2013.
The injury came at a bad time for the Hokies as they lacked experienced depth at the cornerback position. However, the injury did present big opportunities for two young players: Donovan Riley and Donaldven Manning.
Riley and Manning, both sophomores, were listed as No. 1 and No. 2 on the depth chart, respectively. Fans will want to pay particular attention to this position as one or the other could line up opposite of Kyle Fuller in the season opener vs. defending national champion Alabama.
Scot Loeffler's Offense
Hokie fans were tepid with their response when head coach Frank Beamer announced Scot Loeffler as the new offensive coordinator in January.
On one hand, fans were excited former coordinator Bryan Stinespring had been re-assigned, while some wanted a bigger, more successful name.
Loeffler, 38, comes to Virginia Tech from Auburn where he was the offensive coordinator for only one season. While Loeffler and the rest of the Auburn coaching staff were fired, it is important to remember that in 2011, while at Temple, Loeffler had a very successful season as offensive coordinator for the Owls. Temple ranked No. 7 nationally in total rushing offense, something Beamer wants the Hokies to get back to doing well.
Admittedly, Loeffler won't be showing much in the spring game, but it will be a chance for Hokie fans to get their first look at the new boss on offense.
Can Trey Edmunds Emerge at Running Back?
Spring practice may be bigger for redshirt freshman tailback Trey Edmunds than anyone else on the team.
The Hokies struggled to replace record-breaking running back David Wilson in 2012. Part of that was due to bad offensive line play, while the rest can be attributed to a host of runners failing to take advantage of their opportunity.
Edmunds came to Virginia Tech unsure of which position he would play. He was a star running back and linebacker at Dan River High in Virginia. At 6'2", 211 lbs., Edmunds ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds in winter testing.
Edmunds has a combination of size and speed no one else on the roster possesses. Frank Beamer has compared him to former Hokie great Kevin Jones.
If Edmunds has an impressive spring game, he will undoubtedly be in the mix, along with sophomore J.C. Coleman, to be the Hokies' primary ball-carrier in 2013.
Logan Thomas' Development
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Everyone in Blacksburg was relieved when senior quarterback Logan Thomas decided to return to school for his senior season. Thomas, who struggled with consistency in 2012, is as talented as any quarterback in the country.
If the Hokies are to rebound from their worst season in 20 years it will be because of Thomas. Scot Loeffler will try to surround Thomas with a strong running game, something he had in his impressive 2011 campaign, and allow him to take deep shots in the passing game.
The Hokies hope Thomas gets more help from his receivers in 2013 than he did last season. Losing Danny Coale and Jarrett Boykin affected Thomas more than anyone believed it would. Outside of senior D.J. Coles, the Hokies have a host of young receivers looking to establish themselves as contributors in 2013.
The spring game will be interesting to watch because of Thomas. Will we see him find a new favorite receiver? It was last spring when he developed a nice rapport with Corey Fuller, who would become his go-to receiver for much of 2012.