Quarterback. Running back. Receiver. Offensive line. Kicker. All of these positions have been front and center of most fans' minds this summer. You may not have heard, however, but the Virginia Tech defense has some questions to answer too.
They may not be as sexy as the battle between Brewer and Leal (or even between the kickers, which I'll get to), but there are serious questions to be answered at the bottom of the two-deep, particularly on the defensive line.
Bud Foster confirmed as much on Saturday, when he said that there is a big gap between the first- and second-team defense. At first glance that seems like an obvious statement, considering the starting defense as whole possesses a mutant combination of speed and ferocity. Once you dive deeper it means Tech is one injury away from seeing someone terrifyingly green take meaningful snaps.
Backup defensive end remains worrisome for the coaching staff, because after Dadi Nicolas and Ken Ekanem there's a whole lot of unknown.
Foster did mention on Saturday that second string end Seth Dooley has really impressed this camp, and Dooley confirmed that he's improved in many areas:
"I feel that I just got better in every aspect. During the summer I worked on the plays, my technique, things like that. I worked on my speed, obviously weights, coming into camp I felt a whole lot better. The game just came to me, and I just felt it.
"The way coach and all of us look at it is you want the first group and the second group to be about the same, so when we switch out it's not much of a difference. So that's what I come in every day, trying to say I can be just as good as the first group. I'm just trying to get better in that aspect so when I get on the field, they won't have any [drop] in talent, or anything like that."
Charley Wiles has seen improvement in Dooley too. He spoke much higher of him today than in the spring.
"I thought he played solid in the scrimmage. I would have liked to have seen a few more plays, you know, making a few more plays. But they [the offense] got the ball out of there, the quarterbacks did not hold the ball. A lot of throw aways, but they didn't take sacks, so that had something to do with it.
"Overall, Seth's had a good camp If he can keep getting better, he's going to be a heck of a player before this thing's over."
While that is definitely a positive development, the backup opposite to Dooley, Dewayne Alford, has been out with an abdominal injury. And while Wiles says that he hopes to get Alford back later this week, he and Foster moved freshman Melvin Keihn from linebacker to defensive end in an attempt to solidify depth.
While he's got the ability to play some rush end, the first thing you notice is his size, or more specifically the difference in size between Dooley (listed at 248) and Keihn.
"I've got to keep eating," Keihn said, "but I was 214 when I weighed myself this morning. I'm gaining weight, but I mean my speed is one thing that helps me get off the ball. But as the year goes on and as time goes on I'm going to keep gaining weight and keep progressing, keep getting heavier and keep getting stronger."
He may be gaining weight (he's listed at 209 on HokieSports.com), but that's still disconcertingly small. How would he be able to handle 300 pound tackles?
"Sometimes it just comes out to a dog fight. You've got to just be willing to hold your own, like you said, you've got to be willing to play your gap and play your responsibilities. At times when the pass rush just has to get on the ball and if I can do that, I can definitely beat the tackles. But sometimes it will be kind of hold your own, stick in there and be strong, don't get knocked off the ball."
Keihn told me that he is on both kickoff coverage and punt return coverage, and it sounds like he's definitely going to get playing time there at the very least. While Keihn thinks his odds of playing on defense this year are pretty high, Wiles said that the freshman still has a ways to go developmentally.
"It's a shame we didn't have him the entire time, where we could put it in, rep it. Put it in, rep it. He got all of it in about three days, so it's running together on him a little bit. But he's got a good skill set, great kid, great kid. Obviously eat, lift, get bigger. Eat, lift get bigger. But hopefully we can continue to bring him along, he's definitely going to play on [special] teams this year, because he can run.
"If we stay healthy? You know I don't know if he'll beat anybody out or not, it's hard to say. But if we get one guy nicked up, boom he's in the two deep. He'll be the next guy there."
Moving to the middle of the d-line, it seems to be business as usual there. On Saturday Foster said that he thought they held Luther Maddy out, but Wiles corrected him.
"No, he scrimmaged. But he was about 70 percent. You know he wasn't full speed, but he wanted to scrimmage. He was okay, you could tell he wasn't full speed but he was okay."
He seemed mildly, if that, concerned about the health of his star tackle.
"Yeah he's got a sprained MCL, just a little stiff, probably more than anything, but pushing through it, getting through it."
As far as depth on the interior goes, there hasn't been a change, Maddy and Corey Marshall are the starters with Nigel Williams and Woody Baron backing them up. The only thing that seems up for grabs right now is the fifth defensive tackle spot, which the three true freshmen are battling for.
"Well that's still not really been decided yet. I know Ricky [Walker]'s our fifth, Vinny [Mihota]'s our sixth, and then Steve [Sobczak].
"We're going to keep bringing him [Walker] along. He did some good things in the scrimmage, still learning how to play hard all the time. But he is right now the fifth defensive tackle."
Last but not least, Michael Santamaria and Joey Slye spoke with the media today. From the sound of things it seems like they are the two to beat in the kicking competition, which from what they said seemed to be like a grand version of "knockout".
"Coach Beamer takes us out there each and every day," Santamaria said, "and we kick. And it comes down to who makes the most kicks in a row without missing."
The only three guys that came up in the competition itself has been Santamaria, Slye and Carson Wise, so it sounds like Tech will have a true freshman kicker for the first time since Carter Warley in 2000.