We're now at about the half-way point of the off-season as the Hokies concluded spring practice about two months ago and fall practice beings two months from now in early August. Today, we take one last look at the festivities from this spring and name some superlatives.
For assistant coaches Bryan Stinespring and Mike O'Cain, there were a ton of moving parts to get a grip on this offseason. From the three new running backs to two major injuries at receiver and four fresh faces along the line, the only constant was Thomas.
By the end of the spring, in fact, he was the only scholarship quarterback taking snaps after backup Mark Leal went down with a respiratory issue.
All the moving parts certainly affected the offense's explosiveness, but Thomas had no trouble putting the ball where he needed to and making the right decisions all spring long.
The Hokies put in no-huddle aspects throughout the spring and all reports say Thomas had no trouble picking it up and executing. Tech ran it one series during the first open scrimmage and it certainly looked like it had the chance to be a real weapon this fall.
Virginia Tech's defense was good last season, despite multiple injuries including an ACL tear suffered by starting defensive tackle Antoine Hopkins. That injury opened the door for ample opportunity for Corey Marshall, then Maddy.
Maddy was the biggest beneficiary and it showed this spring as he progressed from a freshman swimming upstream to a bona fide sophomore starter with serious breakout potential this fall.
With Maddy likely playing next to Derrick Hopkins and Antoine Hopkins likely returning in some sort of role behind them, the Hokies could essentially have three high-level starters at defensive tackle in 2012. Maddy has the size and strength to not only be a run stuffing, gap controlling defensive tackle much like Derrick Hopkins, but also be a penetrating pass rusher and playmaker in opponent's backfields.
If you just look at Vandyke, you can tell he has some natural athletic ability. The eye test is not a hard one for the redshirt freshman. Put him on the field, though and let him run around and make some plays, and you will see he does more than just look the part.
Vandyke made play after play this spring and flew to the ball carrier, whether it was a running back stretching to the sideline or a receiver going over the middle.
Cornell Brown is going to have some decisions to make this fall as far as his WHIP rotation is concerned, because he has three options for the top spot after this spring. Jeron Gouveia-Winslow will return from injury and provide the experience, Alonzo Tweedy had another good spring after his solid performance late last year, and then there is the future star in Vandyke.
After seeing him this spring, there is no reason Vandyke shouldn't have a huge role this fall on defense.
Work Left To Do: DE/DT Zack McCray, Any Backup Offensive Lineman
McCray came to Blacksburg as a highly touted recruit and, following a redshirt year, quickly rose into the two-deep rotation. Since then however, McCray hasn't be able to take that next step into a guy either in the starting lineup or threatening to break in as a third starter basically.
McCray has a ton of athletic ability and is definitely big enough to play out wide, he just needs the proverbial light to go on when things slow down for him and he allows himself to fly around and make some plays.
Defensive line coach Charley Wiles tried McCray at defensive tackle this spring, but the results weren't all that different. His best position has always been at defensive end and hopefully he breaks through in August.
As for the backup offensive linemen, the Hokies need any one of Mark Shuman, Laurence Gibson, Caleb Farris, or Matt Arkema to step up and take a huge step forward in August. Right now, the starting five is solid, but those four didn't do enough this spring to prove they are ready to play.
Depth is a serious issue along the offensive line right now, although the return of Michael Via from ACL surgery will help a little. Farris and Shuman seem to be the closest to being ready to go at any moment, but both will need strong starts in August to prove it.
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