It's winter break. I have alot of spare time. I'll be writing a special teams piece in a few days.
The offense was horrific by most standards in 2012. The run game was virtually non-existent, and Logan Thomas was not the Logan Thomas fans saw in 2011. The coaches are expected to be overhauled, and those future changes may or may not include a new playcaller for next season. Regardless, the focus must be the running backs and offensive line. For years, Beamer has used the run to set up the pass, and that should be the scheme in 2013. Whether the motion and pistol remain to be a significant part of the offense is undetermined as of now, but statistics show that the entire offense would benefit from a simpler system.
Projected 2013 starting Quarterback: Logan Thomas
Obviously no surprise, although Thomas is currently considering the NFL draft. Logan will have to prove that 2012 was a fluke, and that he can still throw accurately and consistently. If he can return to his 2011 form, the offense could put up 30 a game, but Thomas was a long shot from being a reliable QB last season. He must cut down on his interceptions, make smarter throws, and really carry the offensive load in 2013 for the offense to help out the defense, especially late in games.
Behind Thomas, redshirt junior Mark Leal will once again be the backup. Leal has played well in his limited action the past two seasons, despite it all being against inferior opponents. If the Hokies can blow out a few teams in 2013 and give Leal some mop-up time, it will be to their advantage, because Leal could very well be the starter after Thomas graduates. As for the third-string job, it will be between redshirt junior Trey Gresh, redshirt freshman Brenden Motley and incoming four-star recruit Bucky Hodges. Gresh is the incumbent, and it is still up in the air if Motley will play quarterback for four years at Tech. He ran a spread offense in high school, and needs to refine his passing and put on some more weight (6'3, 203). Hodges is the QB of the future, but because of Leal being the likely starter for 2014, Hodges could redshirt next season, sit behind Leal for a year as Thomas did behind Tyrod Taylor, and start for his final three years in the program. The likely scenario is that Gresh will continue to be third-string, Motley will be behind Gresh unless coaches decide to change his position, and Hodges will redshirt next season.
Projected 2013 starting Running Backs/Fullback: J.C. Coleman, Michael Holmes/Riley Beiro
I list both Holmes and Coleman because the running back job is so unsure, even Branden Ore could come back and start. And probably be a better option than anyone in the backfield right now. In reality, Coleman and Holmes both have alot of offseason improving to do if they want to be the starter. That is, if Shane Beamer decides to have just one starter. The RB committee approach failed, but if no back steps up then we could see more of the same in 2013 with a rotation. The good news is that redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds will play next year. Edmunds was an All-American running back in high school, but was recruited nationally as a linebacker. He was moved to running back in August but was redshirted because of the "depth." If Edmunds can't provide the spark the offense needs, then it may come down to either incoming four-star recuirt Drew Harris or redshirt freshman Chris Mangus. Mangus has played decent in scrimmages and is fast. Harris didn't qualify academically in 2012, so he is coming off of a year at Fork Union. Frank said Harris reminds him a little of Darren Evans, which is good news. Frank also praised Michael Holmes for his play after the first four games last season, though. The big decision will be whether or not to redshirt Harris, and that will depend solely on how comfortable coaches are with the current backfield of Coleman, Holmes and Edmunds. All five of these backs will have spent a combined five years in the program, and only a combined two years on the field. The final option is redshirt senior Tony Gregory, who seems like he was recruited a decade ago. While Gregory is fast, he never has turned the corner and had a breakout game. He is at best a change-of-pace or third down back, but it is doubtful he can handle a full load as a starter, especially on his reconstructed knee.
Projected 2013 starting Wide Receivers: D.J. Coles, Demitri Knowles
The top three WRs are gone from 2012, leaving a huge void. Coles and Knowles both have plenty of in-game experience, however. Coles is coming off of a knee injury that ended his 2012 season one game in. If he returns with the same playmaking ability he had before, he would be a reliable No. 1 receiver next year. Coles and Knowles are two of just three returning receivers with any significant experience. Knowles has big-play ability, however, as he is the fastest player on the team. Fans saw in the Georgia Tech game how he can be a threat with the deep ball. As long as he catches the ball consistently, Knowles could be a top target for the next three years.
Kevin Asante is the only other returner who has much experience, albeit limited experience. It will be interesting to see if he can hold off redshirt freshmen Joshua Stanford and Joel Caleb. Caleb was a four-star recruit in 2012, but played QB in high school and is still new to the position. Stanford was only a two-star, but runs a 4.4 40 and impressed coaches last August and nearly played himself into the No. 5 spot. Asante, Caleb and Stanford will all receive playing time in 2013, but after those three there isn't much depth. Willie Byrn will compete with freshmen Charley Meyer, Thomas Smith and Mark Irick for the sixth WR spot.
Projected 2013 starting Tight End: Ryan Malleck
Malleck was considered last season to be the only complete tight end on the roster. He is a reliable receiver and is big enough to run block well. Randall Dunn and Eric Martin played all of 2012, but next season the job is all Malleck's. The junior only caught 13 balls last season, but that number should grow, hopefully close to the numbers Andre Smith put up a few years ago.
Because the tight end position had three seniors last year, but luckily the coaches provided for 2013 by moving defensive ends Zack McCray and Duan Perez-Means to TE. Perez-Means played the position in high school, but both he and McCray will have alot to catch up on before they play much. Dakota Jackson is coming off of a redshirt year, and appears to be more of a blocker at 250 lbs. Lastly, redshirt freshman Jerome Wright was recruited as a running back, but it's not out of the question that he could be moved here if one of the backs steps up in the offseason. Wright would be behind at least three other players on the depth chart at RB, but could easily be the No. 3 at TE if he bulked up a bit.
Projected 2013 Tackles: Laurence Gibson, Mark Shuman
Both starters from 2012 are gone, and both played nearly every snap last year. Gibson, a one-time five-star recruit, hasn't lived up to expectations, and has rotated between guard and tackle the past two seasons. He is big enough to be an All-ACC player (6'6, 303), but his technique has held coaches back from starting him. Shuman was also a four-star recruit but has played sparingly thus far. If he is as good as his brother Ryan was, Mark will be a solid starter. But both Shuman and Gibson are unproven, and their jobs are far from locked heading into the spring.
Offensive line recruiting has been down in the past few years, to say the least. Former DT Nick Acree is the only other scholarship offensive tackle who isn't a freshman, and he also has failed to live up to expectations. Darian Fisher is a candidate for second-string, but hasn't played in any significant games. Coaches could move Matt Arkema to tackle and have him serve as a Michael Via, filling in wherever he is needed, but that situation isn't ideal. Redshirt freshmen Augie Conte, Jack Willenbrock and Adam Taraschke will fight for backup roles as well, but we all know Beamer doesn't like to play freshmen on the line, especially since all three weren't highly recruited players.
Projected 2013 Guards/Center: David Wang, Brent Benedict/Andrew Miller
Guard is the only position on the line where starters return. If David Wang can stay healthy for a whole season, he is a solid player. Benedict struggled to catch on last season, but if it all clicks for him he will also be reliable. Both are better suited for run-blocking, which is a good thing for an offense that needs all the help in the run games as possible. Miller will be a senior and will again be the strong point on the line. Caleb Farris was forced into starting after Miller injured his ankle near the end of last season, and played shaky. He had trouble with snap exchanges (see: Miami game at the goal line, Rutgers game first drive), but hopefully that will be fixed in the offseason in case he is needed again. He should also back up Wang and Benedict at guard.
There is returning experience behind the guards, but that experience is Matt Arkema. He is the only non-freshman returner other than Farris. It will be a similar situation as last season: if one of the starters goes down, there is immediately very little depth left. The freshmen Conte or Taraschke could be moved to guard, but they are far from reliable at this point. There are four incoming freshmen offensive linemen, but it is very doubtful any will play next season.
This offense has nowhere to go but up. 2012 was a new low, with a non-existent run game and a quarterback who was innaccurate and made questionable throws. While five starters and two key backups are gone from that year, the offense has the potential to regroup and put up decent numbers. The key to 2013 will be the line, which should come to no one's surprise. If the new tackles play well and the unit can run block, it will make life for Logan and the RBs much easier. One of the backs must entrench themselves as THE starter, though, whether it be a returner such as Coleman or Holmes or a new face like Edmunds or Harris. Frank needs the run game to be the strength of the offense again in order to succeed, and the way he did it in the past was with a star ball carrier and a solid line. The 2013 offense is one big question mark, but there is talent and potential.
It's winter break. I have alot of spare time. I'll be writing a special teams piece in a few days.