Apr 20, 2013; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Virginia Tech Hokies flanker Willie Byrn (82) and Virginia Tech Hokies linebacker Drew Burns (54) and Virginia Tech Hokies cornerback Davion Tookes (13) try to grab a fumble during the Virginia Tech Hokies spring game at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

What We Learned from Spring Practice about the Hokies

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Virginia Tech concluded spring practice this past weekend with its annual Maroon and White game. Throughout the month long practice session the coaching staff tried to mold a vision of the team they will have come this fall.  Along with the coaches, the fans of Hokie football have formed some ideas about the makeup of the team they will be cheering for. There were many important facts fans learned from this month from spring practice.

First fact, and probably the most obvious of facts learned, is that the offense is still a work in progress.  The offense did not really lose many starters from last year’s team but, as was shown in the month of practice, they are still not a polished unit.  The quarterback battle was the focal point of spring practice for the offense.  However, the race to the starting job is still a long way from being over.  Neither Mark Leal nor Brendan Motley was established as a clear front runner for the job.  Both quarterbacks have had their fair share of struggles during this spring practice which culminated in two sub-par performances in the final two scrimmages of the spring.

Neither quarterback was live for the spring game which was allegedly caused by slight injuries to both during the days leading up to the scrimmage.  It seems more like Beamer did not want his quarterbacks to regress anymore against a ferocious defensive front. The offensive line seemed incapable of stopping or even slowing down the defense.  Two definite facts about the quarterback position is freshman Andrew Ford did not do enough to prevent a redshirt year, and incoming transfer Michael Brewer will be on even footing when he arrives to Virginia Tech.

The offensive unit is not without potential.  Hokie fans should not fear, when a decision is made about a starting quarterback, there are more than enough talented players to catch passes from the starter.  Carlis Parker, Willie Byrn, and Joshua Stanford all showed exceptional talent and each took steps forward in their development as offensive weapons.

The next fact that Hokie fans learned is Bucky Hodges is going to be a definite offensive force.  The athletic former quarterback is going to be an x-factor for the offense.  His versatility is going to give defensive coordinators nightmares.  Hodges could line up in the backfield and run the ball in the “Wild Turkey” offense, or throw the football down the field.  His emergence along with Kalvin Cline’s progression could allow the Hokies to use offensive sets similar to those of the two tight end looks made popular by the New England Patriots.

Oct 12, 2013; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Pittsburgh Panthers tight end Manasseh Garner (82) gets tackled from behind by Virginia Tech Hokies cornerback Kendall Fuller (11) during the second quarter at Lane Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

The third fact we learned from spring practice is the Hokie defense may be new and have plenty of fresh faces, but they are just as talented and relentless as defenses in the years before.  If the score of the spring game was any indication the defense will have to carry the team this year, and as a unit they seem more than capable to do so.  The defensive line was dominant all spring long.  It seemed in most scrimmages the defense was in the backfield more than the offensive players.

The linebackers were thought to be the weak link in Bud Foster’s unit, but Foster has found an answer to this weakness with Corey Marshall’s stellar play.  Marshall seems to have grown up and become the player the coaching staff hoped for when they recruited him.  Fans also have to remember Brandon Facyson spent spring practice on the injury list, but will return in the fall to help anchor the back end of the defense.  The sky is the limit for this unit and fans should be excited about the possibilities of how good the unit could be.

The last fact learned by fans from spring practice is the special teams might not be so special to begin the year.  Granted, the Hokies have made a name for themselves by being excellent at blocking kicks as well as making them.  However, in the wake of the dismissal of Cody Journell the Hokies were left with no solid options at kicker and in spring practice it seems to be more of the same.  The Hokies have three options at kicker in Michael Branthover, Eric Kristensen, and Mitchell Ludwig.  Of the three players only one managed to put a kick through the uprights during the spring game.  The battle seems to be between Branthover and Kristensen with Ludwig who appears to have the strongest leg being relegated to kickoff duty.  This along with the quarterback competition needs to have some stability as the Hokie offense is going to need all the points they can muster.

With a summer between us and the first game of the season many questions that were not answered in the spring practice need to be answered.  However, it seems after spring practice the Hokie coaching staff is no closer to knowing what type of team they will be putting on the field come August.  Hokie fans wait with measured anticipation as spring practice was just a small appetizer to hold us until the season starts.  Let’s hope the main course is better than the appetizer was.

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