Now that the Virginia Tech football team’s spring practices are in full swing, some players are really starting to stand out above the rest.
The Hokies’ coaching staff has gotten a chance to take a look at some of their talented freshmen and some other players that didn’t get a chance to see the field much last year, and so far, the results are promising.
Read on for a full recap of Tech’s second week of spring practice, with a spotlight on which players saw their stock rise and which ones had it fall.
Carlis Parker came to Tech as a quarterback, but after switching to wide receiver in last year’s fall camp, it seems as if he’s finally comfortable in his new role.
Some injuries at the bottom of the depth chart at receiver forced him to play as a freshman, but although he appeared in 10 different games, he didn’t record a single reception.
Instead, his only real work came in the Sun Bowl, when offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler opted to use him on jet sweeps in the running game. Parker seemed to excel in this role, rushing six times for 40 yards.
Now, he seems to be poised to contribute at receiver as well, as wide receivers coach Aaron Moorehead tells the Roanoke Times’ Andy Bitter.
Aaron Moorehead on WR Carlis Parker: "If he continues to work, the sky's the limit for him. And I don't say that about a lot of people."— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) April 1, 2014
He’s listed behind Josh Stanford at split end on the depth chart, and while he seems unlikely to pass the more experienced veteran, Loeffler loves running four wide receiver sets that will allow him to get in on the action.
Last year, the staff mainly used Parker as a distraction, as he would run wild fly patterns down the field to confuse opposing defenses. Based on this news, he might be able to be more than a decoy this season.
New offensive line coach Stacy Searels hasn’t been afraid to mix in inexperienced players on the offensive line, and one early beneficiary is guard Wyatt Teller.
Teller moved to offensive line last season after getting recruited as a defensive tackle, and after starting at tackle, Searels shifted him over to guard this spring.
So far, the move seems to be working. On Tuesday, Teller started at right guard as Searels tried to get a look at different combinations of players on the line.
“I feel that I can hold my own, and that’s one thing I didn’t feel like I could do last year,” he told Bitter. “Everybody gets lucky, but I felt that I’m actually a little more consistent now. I can block people, I can pancake people. It’s a little bit more now."
The guard spots are still very much in flux, with former right tackle Brent Benedict initially slated to start at right guard. However, if Teller keeps making a big impression with his technique to go along with his massive 6’5”, 296-pound frame, then he’ll have a chance to bump the veteran out of the rotation.
But Teller’s goals stretch far beyond just earning a starting spot, as he tells the Richmond Times-Dispatch’s Mike Barber.
#Hokies redshirt freshman OL Wyatt Teller said his goal isn't just to win a starting job. He wants to be a freshman All-American.— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) April 1, 2014
Part of the reason Teller might be able to get into the mix at guard is because of center David Wang’s continued injury troubles.
Wang started every game at center for the team last year, and as a redshirt senior, he’s certainly well versed in the system at this point.
However, he’s been hampered by lower body injuries for the bulk of his career, and they seem to be bubbling up once more, as Barber notes.
#Hokies senior center David Wang the only addition to the boys in blue jerseys today. Had his right ankle taped.— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) April 1, 2014
Wang suffered a similar injury at this same time last year, and even though he played through it admirably, it clearly hampered him throughout the whole season.
If these nagging injuries keep popping up, Searels might instead opt to switch guard Caleb Farris to center, a position he started at five times in 2012.
That would free up both Benedict and Teller to start at the guard spots, so if Wang’s injuries persist and Teller continues to impress, that could easily be a move the staff decides on.
It’s hard to dock a player simply for getting hurt, but when the same sort of injuries keep recurring, it’s got to be considered part of evaluating that player.
With starting running back Trey Edmunds out for spring practice, Tech’s other backs on the roster have a big opportunity to step up in his absence.
So far, it’s been early-enrolled freshman Marshawn Williams that’s made the biggest impression on the staff.
Williams had a reputation as a bruising power back after his prolific career at Phoebus High School, and he seems to be proving his worth at the college level as well.
Running backs coach Shane Beamer has had nothing but positive things to say about Williams’ development, according to Barber.
#Hokies Shane Beamer on RB Marshawn Williams: "He’s already getting the reputation out there of a guy, you don’t want to be in his path”— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) April 1, 2014
Apparently Williams’ strength has even impressed his teammates, including the monolithic Teller.
“The first day Marshawn walked out, he had this defensive lineman facemask on,” Teller told Barber. “I was like, ‘Who the hell is this kid? Am I blocking for him or is he blocking for me?’”
While J.C. Coleman is likely the first back in line to get carries behind Edmunds, it’s very much an open competition to see who else can work their way into the running back rotation.
If Williams can continue to build on his reputation as a bruiser, there’s certainly room for him to contribute next season in short-yardage situations.
Much like Parker, Bucky Hodges arrived at Tech last season as a quarterback and now finds himself working with the receivers.
However, Hodges’ 6’6”, 243-pound frame earned him a spot at tight end, and coaches are salivating about his ability at the position.
He initially turned heads during winter workouts by running a 4.46-second 40-yard dash and recording a 38.5” vertical jump.
Now that he’s gotten a chance to get on the field, he’s got the staff speculating about his potential to become the next Eric Ebron at the position.
The Hokies already have a pair of established tight ends in Ryan Malleck and Kalvin Cline, so adding Hodges to the mix should really help the offense blossom, as Bitter explains.
The position isn’t completely new for Hodges, who played tight end in Pop Warner up through the sixth grade before transitioning to quarterback. He said running routes and pass catching comes natural to him.
That’s music to the ears of Loeffler, who’s hasn’t hidden his affection for the tight end position and already has visions of two- and possibly three-tight end sets now that he has a full complement of players.
But that likely won’t be the end of Hodges’ usefulness. The former quarterback might just get on the field yet as a passer, if Bitter’s observations of spring drills are any indication.
Also interesting to see Bucky Hodges take some snaps at QB in a few drills. Seems like Wildcat-like role is a possibility. #Hokies— Andy Bitter (@AndyBitterVT) April 1, 2014
The Hokies have experimented with these types of sets since the “Wild Turkey” days of Greg Boone back in 2008, so it’s interesting to see Hodges getting a chance to try it out.
No matter how Hodges gets on the field, he should be quite the matchup problem for opposing defenses, and his development has to be among the most interesting subplots of spring practice so far.