Mike Barber / @RTD_MikeBarber
So we've been here before, the second public scrimmage, last before the ever-important Maroon—White game. The public had already seen the team play once, but it was very vanilla. A lot of form correction, coaches yelling and missed plays (basically, everything you expect from the first scrimmage).
Traditionally the second scrimmage looks exactly like the first one. Same corrections of the same mistakes, and almost no progress shown, which is usually a concern. Let's just say that that was not the case today. Don't get me wrong, plenty of mistakes were made—with expletive laden coaching rants following them—but they were not the same as the first scrimmage on Monday. There were many less fundamental problems, especially on offense.
"I saw some improvement," offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said. "But we had too many balls on the ground. We've got to stop fumbling the ball (two lost fumbles). We've got to catch the ball (four drops). On short yardage, we need to improve. On third-and-2, when we’re down there, we had to pull the ball and run a naked bootleg with Logan (the 3-yard TD run). That's not our mentality. We're going to line up and knock people off the ball and run the ball in the end zone. So that needs to improve.
"We need to get better. We did some positive things. I don't want to sound like negative Nancy here. There were some extremely positive things, but we also have to have the mentality that we're against the clock. We play in 100-and-some odd days. We've got to go."
The players simply looked more comfortable with this offense, which is much more complicated than people let on with more formations, audibling responsibilities, and shifting than in year's past. I mean, they're obviously not running the complete Patriots playbook, but it's not your average high school veer either.
Anyway, I think that with the offense being the focus of every single Hokie outside of Bud Foster, it's safe to say progression is happening. Today, I made my focus the wide receiving corps, while also watch Logan Thomas a little more closely. Before we get there, however, let's look at a couple of things I noted today:
Four-fifths of my projected starting line all started again today, and looked better than Monday. The interior especially surprised me, with Brent Benedict starting at left guard (he started at right guard last year), Caleb Farris at center and Andrew Miller at right guard (he has played center his entire career). Laurence Gibson started against at right tackle, while true freshman Jonathan McLaughlin started at left tackle. Jeff Grimes has said all along that he wants to play the best players, and I guess even if that means starting a true freshman. That being said, the overall play of the line improved, but Grimes still has a ton of room to work.
I hate even trying to evaluate running back play in these scrimmages. It's pretty well known that Bud likes to change and tweak little things with his defense, which could lead to missed defensive assignments and random long runs. Tailbacks are also extremely dependent on the blocking in front of them. If the blocking is poor, a good running back could look poor, so it's nearly impossible to determine how the race for the starting running back will shake out especially with only one look at each play. Michael Holmes got a ton of carries today and looked pretty good. Shane Beamer even said that Holmes got his "swag" back, which could be good, but it complicates the race further. Even though Beamer wants to have his top 3 by the end of spring, I don't think we will know the starter until deep into the summer.
As Loeffler's quote above indicated, there were struggles punching the ball in the endzone during goal line work. If I remembered correctly, Holmes got stood up 3 times in a row, and Edmunds was stuffed as well.
Logan looked very good today. Yes, the official line was 6-16 for 119 yards, which at face value isn't impressive, but his receivers had a ton of drops and just barely missed on two other touch throws. He was peppering the ball all over the field, throwing it with both steam and relative accuracy. Thomas also showed some movement outside of the pocket, running three times for decent gains. One big gain downfield, Thomas slid before getting "hit" (touched). I wonder if we are going to see a lot less third and Logan this year.
The wide receiver situation is interesting. Today's stats were unimpressive, obviously because only two guys caught more than one pass (and they caught two). I think that this season will remind us of a better version of 2008, when Coale, Boykin and Roberts were all young. Obviously there will be more production, because the quarterback situation then was disastrous, but think a group of untested guys with unknown expectations. Let's break each of the big players down to see if we know what to expect:
D.J. Coles: Hit on him a little bit last time, and Andy Bitter wrote a very interesting post about the way he's going to be used. He's going to be an interesting weapon, and I really will enjoy watching Logan hit Coles in the flat on a rollout. My biggest concern is that he won't be able to get open when matched up against a corner, because his explosiveness is still not there. I'm still looking forward to watching him work.
Joshua Stanford: The guy that will probably put up the best stats of any of the receivers, he has quickly turned into the guy Thomas looks for most. Speedy, capable of big catches and plays, he's a solid threat on both the outside and over the middle. Despite technically being Coles' backup, he will see a ton of the field.
Demitri Knowles: Another guy Logan has been looking for a lot in the spring, Knowles is still fast and has ever improving hands. Size is still a problem, but I think that he could also have a solid season. A summer under Aaron Moorehead could really help Knowles crisp up his routes just a little bit more.
Kevin Asante: Asante is another guy that's a little undersized, but he really impressed in the first scrimmage. I wonder how he will be used, because he doesn't have the size to go over the middle, but that doesn't mean that he can't be utilized in a backup role.
Joel Caleb: I saved Caleb for last. Due to him being a highly rated recruit, many people expected Caleb to play right away. The fact that he had to redshirt and hasn't cracked the two-deep has just made fans even more frustrated. He reeled in a very nice diving touchdown today, and his athleticism is evident on first sight. It's also obvious that he just simply isn't used to playing receiver yet. He converted from quarterback, and looks like he hasn't ever had to play out there before (which he hasn't). If this was under the old regime I would immediately label him to be a candidate for Marcus Davis round two, a physical specimen that just has to think too much at receiver. He will be a huge test for Moorehead, if he can make this guy into a number one receiver, he will prove himself to be an excellent position coach.
That's it from today, but I will post a pre-Spring Game piece later in the week.