Virginia Tech Football: 4 Things in Between the Hokies and a Conference Title

Bryan ManningFeatured ColumnistApril 14, 2013

Virginia Tech Football: 4 Things in Between the Hokies and a Conference Title

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    2013 will mark Virginia Tech's 10th season as a member of the ACC. The Hokies have won four conference championships since entering the league back in 2004. 

    Can they rebound from their most disappointing season in 20 years and get back to a BCS game?

    The unofficial beginning of the new football season starts next Saturday in Blacksburg for the annual spring game. For most fans, it will be the first opportunity to see the 2013 version of the Hokies. 

    Here are four things that stand in Virginia Tech's way of becoming a five-time ACC champion.

Cornerback Depth

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    There aren't many questions surrounding the Hokies' defense as spring practice nears its close. Who will step up in Antone Exum's potential absence is a concern, though.

    Exum, who injured his ACL in a pickup basketball game on campus in late January, may be unavailable for the start of the 2013 season. 

    Spring practice has given Donovan Riley and Donaldven Manning an opportunity to play alongside senior Kyle Fuller. Both players played sparingly as freshmen in 2012 and didn't inspire a lot of confidence in coaches when they did play. 

    Super freshman Kendall Fuller, Kyle's brother, will arrive on campus this summer. However, depending on a true freshman to make an impact that early is a bit risky. 

    Exum will play in 2013. But if the Hokies lose a conference game or two early in the season when he is not playing or less than 100 percent, it could cost the Hokies the ACC title. 

Logan Thomas' Struggles in New Offense

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    Offensive success in the 2013 season hinges squarely on the shoulders of senior quarterback Logan Thomas. Entering his third season as the starter, Thomas must perform at a high level if the Hokies are to compete for the ACC title.

    New offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler has been extremely complimentary of Thomas and his transition to the new offense thus far saying this after last week's scrimmage: (h/t collegiatetimes.com)

    “Normally I’m careful about speaking before watching the tape, but for the most part I think he went to the right place with the ball.” 

    Not only is Thomas working within a new offensive scheme, but also he is breaking in several young pass-catchers. The spring game gives fans a chance to see how well Thomas is working with some of his young receivers. 

    If Thomas takes several games to adjust to Loeffler's offense, it will be too late for the Hokies and their chances for another ACC title. 

Offensive Line

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    New offensive line coach Jeff Grimes wants and expects a tough offensive line. His continuous shuffling of the offensive line depth chart is indicative of this. He has moved around several players, including last year's starting center, Andrew Miller, who is now listed as the first team right guard

    Grimes will not play favorites. Juniors Mark Shuman and Laurence Gibson entering spring as the starters at left and right tackle, respectively. Shuman is now behind true freshman Jonathan McLaughlin at left tackle. 

    This unit must protect Thomas. The key is finding the best five this spring and allowing them to enter the summer as the starting unit. Cohesion is the key to good offensive line play. Former offensive line coach Curt Newsome often failed to recognize this. 

Finding a Running Back

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    The Hokies have always been able to run the football well. 2012 was much different. Whether it was bad offensive line play, the lack of a true passing game or a standout at running back, the Hokies struggled running the ball. 

    Sophomores J.C. Coleman and Michael Holmes, along with freshman Trey Edmunds, appear to be top candidates at running back in 2013.

    Coleman had a solid freshman campaign. He possesses blazing speed while surprisingly is a good between-the-tackles runner. 

    Edmunds has more buzz around him than anyone on the roster. He is big, fast and the son of a former NFL player. 

    The Hokies must get the running game going against Alabama in the season opener. If they can run against the defending national champs, chances are good they can run against every team in the ACC.

    New offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler's offense is built around the running game. Finding one running back to take the majority of the carries is important for offensive success in 2013.