A quick glance at the roster makes it clear where this team’s strengths lie.
Much like last year, the secondary should be excellent. The team loses dynamic players like Kyle Fuller and Antone Exum, but after each missed significant time with injuries last year, the group is used to playing without them.
Kendall Fuller and Brandon Facyson rewrote Tech’s record books as freshmen, and there’s no reason to expect anything different next season now that they both have a full season under their belts. Facyson had to sit out spring practice with an injury, but he should be back in fine form by August.
Safety is another position of strength for the Hokies. Kyshoen Jarrett has excelled in Bud Foster’s defense at the rover position as a hard hitter and decent coverage man, while Detrick Bonner is pretty steady on the back end, if prone to some mental mistakes at times.
What’s even more exciting is the team’s depth. With both Facyson and Jarrett out of spring practice, the team got a chance to get an extended look at their backups at each position, and the staff was likely pleasantly surprised.
Junior cornerback Donovan Riley was one of the stars of spring ball in relief of Facyson, while Desmond Frye doled out some punishing hits filing in at rover. The Hokies surely have to hope that the secondary isn’t plagued by injuries like it was last year, but if some of the starters do go down, they should be in decent shape.
On offense, the team is strongest at the skill positions. The Hokies will likely struggle to integrate a new quarterback, but whoever wins the starting gig will have the benefit of a deep stable of running backs, wide receivers and tight ends to lean on.
Trey Edmunds is poised to build on his solid freshman season, and he’ll have plenty of help in the backfield with junior J.C. Coleman, redshirt sophomore Joel Caleb and freshman Marshawn Williams all likely pushing for playing time behind him.
At receiver, the Hokies return a trio of pass-catchers that totaled over 600 yards last season in Demitri Knowles, Willie Byrn and Josh Stanford, with some developing younger players like Carlis Parker and Deon Newsome to fill in occasionally.
Tight end is similarly deep. Kalvin Cline, the starter for much of 2013, returns, as does 2012 starter Ryan Malleck and the blocking-oriented Darius Redman. Additionally, the team adds converted quarterback Bucky Hodges, who promises to be an exciting athlete on the field.
While the defensive line isn’t as deep as it was a season ago, it does bear mentioning as a position group that could easily be a strength for the squad.
There’s been a lot of turnover with the departure of starters Derrick Hopkins, James Gayle and J.R. Collins, but defensive tackle Luther Maddy returns to anchor the unit. Fellow DT Corey Marshall and new starting DE Ken Ekanem each earned rave reviews in the spring, while Dadi Nicolas dazzled in limited action last year and could do the same now that he’s got a starting spot.
Overall, this team has plenty of strengths—likely more than it did a season ago. However, its weaknesses are pretty noticeable as well.