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Imagining What Hokies' Starting Lineup Will Look Like in 3 Years

Bryan ManningFeatured ColumnistFebruary 11, 2014

Imagining What Hokies' Starting Lineup Will Look Like in 3 Years

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    Left tackle Jonathan McLaughlin
    Left tackle Jonathan McLaughlinKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    National signing day is in the books, and from all indications, the Virginia Tech Hokies signed another solid class. According to 247Sports (subscription required), Tech signed 27 new Hokies, not including preferred walk-ons. 

    Tech went heavy at certain positions such as wide receiver, quarterback and offensive line. 

    How many of the new signees will start in 2014? Specifically, how many members of the class of 2014 will still be around in 2016 and starting for the Hokies?

    Here's a look at how the Hokies' starting lineup may look in 2016. Keep in mind, this projected lineup does not contain future recruits, only those who are currently enrolled or have signed with Virginia Tech. 

    All recruiting rankings and information is courtesy of 247Sports. 

Quarterback

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    Projected Starter: Chris Durkin, junior

    Durkin is one of three quarterbacks the Hokies signed in the class of 2014. Andrew Ford and Travon McMillian are the other two. Ford enrolled in January and has an outside shot of competing for the starting job this season. 

    Durkin, though, is the one to watch three years from now. At 6'4", 220 pounds, he has prototypical size, an outstanding arm and surprising athleticism. 

    Expect Ford and Durkin to battle for the job as early as 2015. However, with Durkin's physical talents, he could be the next great Virginia Tech quarterback. Either way, Tech is in good shape here. 

Running Back

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    Projected Starter: Shai McKenzie and Marshawn Williams, juniors

    Both McKenzie and Williams are class of 2014 signees. Specifically, both players were early enrollees.

    Each player committed to Virginia Tech with the hope of playing early in their respective careers. That may come sooner for Williams, as McKenzie is still rehabbing from a knee injury he suffered in high school.

    By 2016, both running backs will be heavily involved in the offense. The Hokies have always liked a rotation at running back, regardless of how many talented runners were on the roster. Kevin Jones and Lee Suggs split time, as did Ryan Williams, Darren Evans and David Wilson. 

    McKenzie and Williams will both have excellent careers for Virginia Tech, and each will start their fair share of games while in Blacksburg. 

Wide Receiver

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    Joshua Stanford
    Joshua StanfordWinslow Townson/Associated Press

    Projected Starters: Joshua Stanford, senior; Isaiah Ford, junior

    By the time 2016 rolls around, the Hokies should be loaded at wide receiver. Ford, along with fellow 2014 signees Cameron Phillips, Kendrick Holland and Jaylen Bradshaw, will all be in the mix.

    All five players will contribute significantly for the Hokies at some point. However, it's Ford's big-play ability that separates him from the rest.

    Stanford, who will be a fifth-year senior in 2016, could own a lot of Hokie records by that time. His play improved dramatically in 2013 as quarterback Logan Thomas grew more comfortable with him. 

Tight End

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    Kalvin Cline
    Kalvin ClineBob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Starter: Kalvin Cline, senior

    Cline, a lightly recruited former basketball player, was a revelation for the Hokies in 2013. He started seven games and caught 26 passes and two touchdowns in his debut season.

    It was an impressive season for a player with just one season of high school football experience. Cline, at 6'4", 238 pounds, has impressive size and will likely bulk up in the coming seasons. In addition to his size, Cline is a terrific athlete with good hands—like most former hoop stars playing tight end. 

    Cline has NFL potential, and from what we saw in 2013, Scot Loeffler will involve the tight end more in the passing game than the previous offensive regime. 

Offensive Line

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    Jonathan McLaughlin
    Jonathan McLaughlinKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Projected Starters: Jonathan McLaughlin, senior; Colt Pettit, Eric Gallo, Tyrell Smith and Billy Ray Mitchell, juniors

    A lot can, and likely will change between now and 2016. However, if this group of five is starting for the Hokies in 2016, Frank Beamer will be elated.

    McLaughlin, by that time, will be a four-year starter at left tackle. The other four were all members of the class of 2014 dubbed the "Fab Four."

    New offensive line coach Stacy Searels is known for developing a tough offensive line with a strong emphasis on running the football. The experience of this group will allow the Hokies to be extremely successful in 2016. 

Defensive Line

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    Nigel Williams
    Nigel WilliamsDaniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports

    Projected Starters: DE - Kevin Bronson, junior; Nigel Williams, senior; DT - Ricky Walker, junior; DE - Vincent Mihota, junior

    The Hokies will likely recruit several defensive linemen in both 2015 and 2016. However, if this group is lining up for them as starters in 2016, defensive coordinator Bud Foster will be happy.

    Williams thrived as the Hokies' third defensive tackle in 2013. He is the type of athletic, penetrating defensive tackle Foster loves. Walker is very similar.

    At defensive end, Bronson could be a star. With impressive size (6'4", 233 lbs) and speed, he was a bit of a late bloomer in the recruiting process. 

    Mihota could end up either as a defensive end or shift inside to tackle. He has that type of versatility. It will all depend on how much size he gains in the the next three years. 

Linebacker

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    Melvin Keihn
    Melvin Keihn247Sports

    Projected Starters: OLB - Melvin Keihn, junior; MLB - Andrew Motuapuaka, junior; OLB - Raymon Minor, junior

    No position faces as much uncertainty as this group does. Foster likely doesn't even know who his starters are for 2014. 

    However, in 2016, look for Keihn, Motuapuaka and Minor to be on the field for Tech. Keihn could be shifted to defensive end to take advantage of his outstanding ability to rush the passer. But don't be surprised if he sticks at linebacker. He possesses the type of athleticism to thrive as an outside rush linebacker.

    Minor is the prototypical Virginia Tech linebacker. Built similarly to departing starter Tariq Edwards, Minor is a terrific athlete. He is good in coverage and shows an ability to rush the passer. He is a sure tackler, too. 

    The "Mike" linebacker spot is more difficult to predict. Motuapuaka would seem like a logical candidate. He redshirted in 2013 and should have learned a lot from three-year starter Jack Tyler. 

Secondary

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    Projected Starters: CB - Greg Stroman, junior; CB - Terrell Edmunds, junior; FS - C.J. Reavis, junior; rover - Holland Fisher, junior

    Yes, Brandon Facyson and Kendall Fuller will be seniors in 2016. However, if both players continue to play like they did as freshmen in 2013, they will be in the NFL in 2016.

    Stroman is slight (6'0", 162) but is an elite athlete and will gain size in the next few years. A year in Tech's weight room will change him dramatically. Edmunds is built a lot like Facyson. At 6'2", 186 pounds, he has the length and athleticism teams crave at the cornerback position now. 

    Safety will be the Hokies' top position in 2016. Reavis projects as a free safety, while Fisher is more of a strong safety rover at Virginia Tech.

    Both are hard-hitters who can create turnovers. Tech hasn't had safeties the size of Reavis or Fisher since Kam Chancellor was in Blacksburg. 

Special Teams

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    Projected Starters: K - Michael Santamaria, junior; P - Unknown; PR - Isaiah Ford, junior; KR - Jaylen Bradshaw, junior

    The Hokies made their mark on special teams in the '90s and early 2000s. However, you wouldn't know that by watching them play the past few years. Whether it be failures in the kicking game, a lack of explosiveness in the return game, or an inability to block kicks, special teams miscues have cost the Hokies.

    Beamer hopes that will be fixed in 2014. By 2016, the coach hopes he has his kicker for the next few years in Santamaria—a 2014 signee. 

    Ford and Bradshaw will bring speed and explosiveness to the return game, something the Hokies have lacked the past several years. 

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