Editor's Note: Say hello to our newest writer, Brian Marcolini. He's a junior communications student at Tech. In 2010 he nearly got into a fight sticking up for Grant Noel, and he once fist bumped Deron Washington's mom.
Over the past three weeks, Hokie football has gone into full hype mode. As big of a Tech football addict as I am, I have been able to satisfy my addiction with two spring scrimmages, making me even more amped for this weekend's spring game. Unfortunately for most people making a trip to Blacksburg for a ninety-minute inter-squad scrimmage is virtually impossible (but if you actually could convince your significant other of its value... I highly admire you). However, this year's game will be broadcast on ESPN3.
Whether you're in Lane, or watching online, never fear. Here I am to let you know what you missed over the past two weeks, and what developments I'll be watching through a rail/tailgating induced haze on Saturday.
I obviously don't know what the lineups are going to be, but for the defensive line, it really doesn't matter. Any combination of James Gayle, J.R. Collins, Derrick Hopkins, Corey Marshall, Luther Maddy, Tyrel Wilson, Zack McCray (if he ever gets a sack, expect a "that sack cray" tweet immediately) and Kris Harley will make the offenses have tough days. I realize this isn't particularly new analysis, but it just has to be said over and over again. You don't fully understand how good this unit has been until you see them play in person. The best part of the group is that they get as much pressure from the inside on pass plays as they do from the edge (even experimenting with ends playing tackle, a la the New York Giants). It will be extremely interesting to see who stands out, considering that it's been different people each time (especially Luther Maddy in scrimmage one and Kris Harley in scrimmage two).
2. Will Gouveia-Winslow be Wally Pipped?
This is in no way hating on GW, but more of a testament of how well his backups have been playing. By my numbers, Alonzo Tweedy has 10 tackles in two open scrimmages while getting snaps with the first team D, and Ronny Vandyke has simply been beast mode. I think that once GW fully recovers from his Lisfranc sprain, Tweedy will be the primary challenger to start against Georgia Tech, but do not be surprised if Vandyke is in the mix as well. He's fast, can hit and (arguably most importantly) looks very comfortable in coverage, more so than Tweedy in the spring. If Vandyke has a good spring game, both seniors may have to be worried about a three-way competition.
3. Everything and Anything Special Teams
I have never remembered an offseason in which EVERY single position was up for grabs. Kicker, punter, both returners, kick-off specialist and even long snapper have either lost their starters from last year, or are in an open battle. Michael Branthover (who is competing at both kicker and punter) has looked very solid at punter thus far, but if there is one thing we know, it's that he has the ability to knock a 48 yarder inside the ten, or knock one 15 yards caught in row K. Connor Goulding is said by Beamer to be the leader in the kicking competition. He's been solid, but mostly in short distance, so that will be interesting to see how it affects offensive play calling on the opponents side of the field. What to really watch for on Saturday is the return game. Dyrell Roberts, Kyle Fuller and Kyshoen Jarrett are all in a heated battle for punt returner, and it will be interesting to see who fields the punts for each side. Jarrett looks like the leader to me from two scrimmages, if only because he took one back 88 yards for a score in the first one.
Kick returner gets its own paragraph. Apparently Beamer talked Roberts into trying it out this season, after suffering season ending injuries the last two seasons as a kick returner. If I were him, I'd honestly tell Frank to find someone else...I mean did you see pictures of that compartment syndrome in his leg?!? (If not...for the love of god do not Google it). If Roberts chooses to do it, then he is the easy choice, but if not, it seems wide open. I would assume that Jarrett and Fuller will get some looks, but I was hoping to see a Corey Fuller or Demitri Knowles back there. Why not? They're both burners that would pose a threat to coverage units.
4. The battle for TB2
In case you didn't hear, Frank likes Michael Holmes...a lot... and why not? Holmes had a coming out party in the second scrimmage, going for 89 yards on eight carries (including a 60 yard score). The real battle is now going to be to back him up. As you probably also heard...#Scales4Heisman. Martin Scales was moved over from fullback, and is the most fun of all the Hokie backs to watch (I may be a little biased). He shows quick feet for a big guy, and should have scored twice last scrimmage if not for losing his feet in the open field. True frosh J.C. Coleman has looked better than his numbers, but is obviously at a disadvantage due to his youth. He also doesn't always hit the best hole without hesitation, prompting Mike O'Cain (who praised Coleman for not committing mental mistakes) to say that "he's still thinking". It'll be interesting to see if Coleman can pick it up quick enough to beat out the (major) underdog in Scales. (I'm also assuming that Drew Harris is going to redshirt.)
5. Who Can Step Up At Wideout?
With D.J. Coles out, and Marcus Davis either out or playing with a hamstring injury, Saturday should be a showcase for the "other" receivers. That was the case last Saturday, but no receiver stood out (Corey Fuller had three touchdowns, but a few REALLY bad drops). Can someone break out? If I had to put money on it, I'd say it'd most likely be Fuller, but it is nearly impossible to tell. I know that everyone is all about Joel Caleb, but assuming that he's just going to waltz into the fourth receiver role may be a little too much to ask of an 18-year-old who will still be learning the offense.
Other note: Thomas is going to need a safety blanket this year, and it looks like it may come in the form of Randall Dunn. He is a threat down field, FINALLY giving the offense a dangerous weapon at the tight end position. See if he comes up big Saturday.
6. Which former players are going to be in town, and will they go downtown?
I believe the answers are (in order): a lot, and absolutely. Rumor has it that Michael Vick walked into Champs two years ago, bought the whole bar a shot of Petron, and walked out. Is that true? No clue...but it's a story worth telling.
Happy spring game everyone!