Spring Ball: What's Left to Answer?

It's finally here! After months of wading through the collegiate albatross known as "basketball season", there's finally a football game to be had. Well, kind of. It's the spring game, which is actually an inter-squad scrimmage that has rarely given us much insight as to how Virginia Tech will play four months later.

Not hating on it, though. Whether you use it to scout the footwork of offensive linemen, as an excuse to drink excessively in a tank and cut-off jorts, or anything in between, a fun time will be had by all.

Going into the game, though, we still have some questions about the team. (For the record, the team is all of those blurry maroon and white dots that you see if you happen to leave your tailgate on Saturday.) Here are the five questions that I have been asking myself for the past week going into this glorified scrimmage.

1. Can Brenden Motley remain in the QB conversation?

I had lunch with a few friends the other day, and we got to talking about the offense. We talked about Marshawn, the young guys at guard and Carlis Parker, the usual stuff, but the one position that we spent the least time on was at quarterback. The CliffsNotes version of our conversation went like this, "Let's be honest, our quarterback is still in Texas," and then we moved on. The interesting part about it though, was that I couldn't really disagree. However, I do think that Motley is the only quarterback currently on the roster who can compete for the job, but even I haven't really given him a second thought of actually winning it.

I realize that it could just be a fan's infatuation with the unknown quantity as opposed to the known (even though Motley is basically unknown at this point too), but it just seems likely that Michael Brewer will come to Blacksburg and win the job. Is it a fair thing to assume? Absolutely not, it's not fair for any of the five guys competing for the job, but I feel like that's where the common thought process is amongst fans, whether they admit it or not.

The longer Motley looks like a viable candidate, the more faith I'll have in the legitimacy of offensive improvement. If two guys (I'm thinking Motley and Brewer) can push each other into August, they will eventually make each other better. If that happens, the strides being made by the skill players and o-line won't be wasted.

2. Who kicks?

It may seem trivial, especially considering that it's following a question about the quarterback battle, but remember the old Frank Beamer adage: he'll try to coach as long as he has a good quarterback and a good kicker. Well, we talk a ton about that first position, but what about the second?

For a while it looked like 8th-year senior Michael Branthover was the leader to win the job (doesn't it feel like he's been around forever?), but as of yesterday the Frankinator said that some dude named Remington Hinshaw is sitting at number one (can we trust a dude who sounds like a rower on Virginia's club crew team?). I know Joe loves his Wal-Mart kicker, but considering that he doesn't have a number anymore, things aren't look too good for him.

(How cold is that, by the way? It may not have been pretty, but Wal-Mart won you the Virginia game, Frank. He deserves a on of the many open numbers between 1 and 99. Something tells me that you could spare one.)

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm convinced that a true freshman will be the kicker this year, and I'm also convinced that it's going to be Blacksburg's own Carson Wise. I did the play-by-play for Blacksburg High School last season, and I watched him nail a 55-yard kick with my own eyes (a kick that would have been good from at least 60). Sure, I'm biased because I got to watch 10 of his games, but he seems like the real deal.

Anyway, what can absolutely not happen is a "kicker by committee approach", which is what Mike Barber talked about with me on the radio last week (around the 23:00 mark). Riding the hot hand concerns me, primarily for this reason: kickers are crazy people. Seriously, they're smaller than everyone else, they pace and talk to themselves all game long and then are asked to hit important field goals. We've already seen the confidence of one kicker go down in a blaze last year (pun ABSOLUTELY intended), Tech can't afford for Frank to play with the emotions of another guy.

3. Can Scot Loeffler use his guys creatively?

It's a weird time in Blacksburg. For the first time that I can ever remember, the Hokies have a treasure chest of offensive weapons. Everyone is oohing and ahing over Marshawn Williams at running back, but he's far from the only weapon at his position, not to mention on this roster. Please remember that Trey Edmunds was a boss when healthy last year, and that J.C. Coleman has been explosive. Of the other core playmaking positions, Josh Stanford and Willie Byrn form an ever-improving foundation of a young receiving corps, and are flanked by burners like Demitri Knowles and Carlis Parker, and tight end, as Joe pointed out yesterday, is also loaded. All of that is great, but being able to put your starters in a place to succeed is an obvious task for an offensive coordinator. The players I'm talking about, however, are the other guys. The guys on the fringe of the scouting report who can make an impact.

Tech is stocked with players who I like to generally label as "weapons", guys who may give the staff a headache when trying to run a route or find a running lane, but are incredibly dangerous when they have the ball in the open field. A good offensive coordinator can take those guys and put them in positions where they can help the team, especially in the big play department. Carlis Parker, Bucky Hodges, Joel Caleb, Travon McMillian, and Deon Newsome are all those types of guys. They all played quarterback in high school, and have now moved on to other positions in order to make sure they get the ball and take advantage of their athleticism.

(Yes, I know McMillian has technically been given a shot at quarterback this year. Remember when Parker was given a shot at quarterback? Well, he was really easy to find in scrimmages because he was the only receiver in yellow.)

They may be raw and they may not be technically sound, but good teams find ways to get dangerous guys the ball, regardless of the depth chart. I'm sure Loeffler's been thinking about these things, but with the quarterback position in question, getting the ball in the hands of guys who can turn a 5-yard play into a 50-yard play is paramount.

4. Is Deon Clarke the real deal?

The title of this question used to ask who would win the backer position between Clarke and Dahman McKinnon, but I think that it's pretty clear that Clarke is pulling away. That being said, I've always thought that this position battle is really underrated in terms of its importance to the team. Remember how important Tariq Edwards' resurgence was last season? He was huge each week for the defense, one could even argue that his play was the deciding factor in the ECU game. Now remember that he did all of that while playing on a bum leg that put him in constant pain, realistically making him a step slow.

Clarke is going to be essential for this team, not just because of the importance of the backer spot, but because what he can do. Think about his position battle with McKinnon; normally when you talk about a position battle, you talk about the differences between the two guys fighting for the spot, but that wasn't the case this time.

Both Clarke and McKinnon are fast, athletic and undersized (listed at 221 and 208 respectively) and most importantly, each look the part of the new generation of linebacker designed to play against the spread. They can each do similar stuff physically, meaning Bud Foster doesn't have to chose one style of linebacker to another, he just gets to pick the one that he thinks has played the best football.

If Clarke really ends up being the guy that people are saying he is, athletic enough to run down sweeps and bubble screens, can hold his own against the inside run and can also drop into coverage, he will be key for this defense. Edwards was key at times last year, but there were definitely other times where the pain in his leg was obvious. If Clarke is legitimately a disruptive force that can go sideline-to-sideline, Foster and Co. will be in much better shape defending against spreads than they've ever been before.

5. Who will the under the radar guy be?

Every single year there are three or four players who get all of the publicity as the next wave of great Tech players. This year, everyone's throwing love to Marshawn Williams, Carlis Parker, Bucky Hodges, and Ken Ekanem, but who will be the guys who aren't talked about now but end up playing a big role?

To illustrate my point, remember last year when everyone was bringing up Charley Meyer as Logan's safety blanket? Even Logan himself was singing Meyer's praises. A hamstring injury hampered Meyer, and he ended the season with one catch, Meanwhile Willie Byrn and Kalvin Cline, two guys no one saw coming, wound up with 77 combined. Sometimes the guys we don't see coming are the best kind of guys.

It's always hard to pick the darkhorse because they, you know, aren't talked about that much. The guy that I like most on defense is Ronny Vandyke. I know that probably doesn't seem particularly edgy or bold, but talk about a guy who's become an afterthought by many. He won the Paul Torgersen Award as the best defensive newcomer the spring before his redshirt freshman season, which probably made fan expectations way too high. He doesn't perform up to expectations that were entirely too large in the first place, and then misses the entire next season with a shoulder injury.

Now here he is, still only a redshirt junior, but no one's talking about him because he's not entirely healthy and he plays a position (whip) that's not nearly as important as it was four years ago. If he can open the eyes of his coaches, I'm confident that they'll find a role for him outside of packages against power teams.

(Other candidates I considered: Ryan Malleck, Nigel Williams and...gulp...Detrick Bonner).

So there you have it. Five questions for the remaining two weeks of spring football that will lead us into the summer. Considering the kinds of questions that we've been asking at this point in time the last two springs, isn't this an improvement? It feels weird to say, especially with the quarterback situation up in the air, but I feel much more confident in this team at this point in time than I have the past few years. Do I feel comfortable saying that? Absolutely not, and come next week I may feel differently. But right now, with spring practice almost over, things look a little more positive than many of us (myself included) expected.

Contact the editor about this post anytime by phone: (703) 646-1931 or mail: 3057 Nutley St Suite 633, Fairfax, Virginia 22031.

Comments

Nice write up. I think you hit all the major points. Can't wait to see some football this weekend.

I agree that Malleck will be good, but that is not really a surprise at all. He had showed promise before he got injured last pre-season.

"Give me a fu¢king beer", Anonymous Genius

"JC Coleman has been explosive".....uh, when was that exactly? Must be referring to the weight room.

Nice article.

As someone who has been critical of J.C. Myself, I'm passing off last year for him as his double high ankle sprains never left him close to 100%...he showed potential during the Duke game, id wait to downplay him, I see him as a factor back next season in certain situations.

I agree, JC has a lot of skills. He was never 100% last year and I would even go as far as saying never 85%. With that said watch this highlight and tell me that's not explosive. Granted it was in 2012 and against BGSU its still pretty impressive. JC is a one cut and go back, when he starts to dance he gets lost, I think he is most effective in the zone read like the play below. If we can get good blocking that is

JC Drags Defender

"I'm high on Juice and ready to stick it in!" Whit Babcock

Given the potential depth we may have going into this season with more prototypical Hokie RB's, I would love to see Lefty utilize JC Coleman in more of a scatback role (a la Darrin Sproles or 'Quizz Rodgers). His speed and shiftiness on the outside can be a great weapon, and I grew a tad bit frustrated last year when JC was given a drive and was running a lot of the same plays a bigger back like Trey was running. I have faith in Lefty to properly utilize his arsenal.

yes! I am glad we are proper fans and can talk our way through things. Given the depth JC definitely gets buried a little bit and so does Mangus and Caleb. I have no idea what our depth chart looks like atm. To me its a lot of 1a 1b 1c 1d 2a 2b and some of those are if he's healthy, if he gets pass protection.

What I think should happen is find what the Rb is good at and utilize it. Mangus and JC= scat back, jet sweep. Caleb Williams and T-Eddy= punishing runners one cut and go. I liked what SL did with Carlis and the Jet sweeps and I hope it continues but I would love to see mangus get one and have Cline, Bucky, Malleck and Stanford out in front blocking with maybe a pulling wang or teller.

"I'm high on Juice and ready to stick it in!" Whit Babcock

Made me snort a little bit. Well played.

Love it.. ohh and who is the debbie downer with the - legs.. I have seen more of those given out in the last week that in the middle of the season.

"I'm high on Juice and ready to stick it in!" Whit Babcock

I would prefer to have Wang pull than have Wang chop...that makes me uncomfortable.

VHokie

"We're your family right?!? You love your family right?!?"-Dadi Nicolas
"That kid you're talking to right there, I think he played his nuts off! And you can quote me on that shit!" -Bud Foster

Did you say "Pulling Wang??"

But if you use them that way, don't you sacrifice surprise? I think that's one reason Coleman had such a tough time last year: when the defense saw #4 in the backfield, they knew they had to contain the edge, but they didn't have to worry about him power-running up the middle.

If we didn't have so many receivers I'd say JC to slot might not be a bad idea, however due to the abundance of WRs I agree I'd love to see him motioned out wide in 2 RB sets, I said it all the time with david Wilson. What do you cover a fast as balls RB with in coverage? LB cant keep up with him, and if you use a safety or CB that leaves things open for WRs and TEs in other areas. If utilized correctly the RB out of the backfield can be one hell of a weapon on passing downs especially if you still have trey in the backfield to give a running threat on draw plays

Taylor, looking desperately throws it deep..HAS A MAN OPEN DANNY COALE WITH A CATCH ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE FIVE!!!!....hes still open

I don't remember Coleman being much of a threat catching passes out of the backfield. Last year he had 11 catches for 79 yards, but I don't see how many times he was targeted. Can he run routes? Can he catch?

his hands never really blew me away, and I haven't really paid attention to his routes. Iunno it could all just be me fantasizing but I always thought if he could get some better hands he could look a lot like someone else who wore that #4 jersey a few years ago

Taylor, looking desperately throws it deep..HAS A MAN OPEN DANNY COALE WITH A CATCH ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE FIVE!!!!....hes still open

by that I meant eddie royal in the slot...

Taylor, looking desperately throws it deep..HAS A MAN OPEN DANNY COALE WITH A CATCH ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE FIVE!!!!....hes still open

OK, the innuendos around here are getting out of hand...lol

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

No such thing as to many innuendos!

Taylor, looking desperately throws it deep..HAS A MAN OPEN DANNY COALE WITH A CATCH ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE FIVE!!!!....hes still open

Bwahahahahaha
Too perfect!!

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

I think you meant "in hand" about the Wang comments, right?

VHokie

So you are saying you are fantasizing about his hands?

VHokie

For that last question, what about Deon Newsome? If we commit to him as our punt returner and kick returner, he could really have an impact.

Or Donovan Riley, a guy I could see have a Cris Hill (senior) season: "Oh, yeah, that guy plays a lot but never seems to be in on any play or gives up a big pass. But he plays 50+ plays a game and does his job."

My predictions:

1) No, it's going to be Brewer
2) Santamaria. If you're getting a scholarship as a true freshman to kick that means you're pretty damn good at it. I think most of our guys have been walk-ons that turned into scholarship kickers
3) Yes. In Lefty I trust.
4) He will be if he keeps his head on straight.
5) Does Corey Marshall count?

I am agreeing with you on all fronts.

upvote

“I hope that they’re not going to have big eyes and pee down their legs so to speak,” -- Bud Foster

I swear this serial down-voter doesn't like the concept of GIFs.

Beat uva. That is all.

VT '10, Born & Raised in the 804. Hokies, Keydets, Army Black Knights, NY Giants, NY Rangers, and ATL Braves.

MOVING PICTURES ON THE INTERNET? WHAT IS THIS SORCERY??

#thingsiblamethemvsfor

Wasn't Cody Journell offered a scholy before every stepping on campus?

"I like to hit a home run early" ~ Whit "knows how to create a Buzz" Babcock

Yep. And the ROI was a little low.

We put the K in Kwality

2) Carson Wise. He's better than Santamaria. Beat out Santamaria head-to-head at a camp, but coaches offered Michael because they thought he had a stronger leg. Then, Carson hits a 55-yarder in a game, Wiles calls him up and says, "well shoot, we shoulda offered you. Come walk on."

My money's on Carson to win the job.

*EDIT* Worth noting: yes, that's the biggest issue I see with your post. I'm inclined to agree with the rest of it. Stoked to see Brewer come in and compete and if Marshall can be as disruptive as we think he'll be.

Beating someone once in a kicking camp isn't much data. They will all go head to head for 20+ practices in a row.

Well, in addition to that, he was consistent as you can be all year long. Given what I've seen/heard about both of them, my money's still on Wise to take the job.

Will there be any fermentation to the offense when Brewer arrives?

@VTimHokie85

Offensive fermentations are not allowed.

Danny caught that ball.

Friends don't let 5 star friends commit to UVA.

I have inside info. - Whit

As a former center, I can vouch that QB's hate it when centers are fermented.

Take the shortest route to the ball and arrive in bad humor.

YOU!

Love Psych!
Too bad the show is over. Great gif.

VHokie

I wish I could upvote more than once sometimes...

It was a catch

My opinion on the last question would be someone like holland fischer but maybe he doesnt count since the expectations are high? okay if not him I'm going with Williams and Mckenzie both are young but talented RB's

Remy's a good kicker. I'm not surprised to see him at the top of the list under good coaches.

He definitely got the short end of the stick at Richmond. He's originally from Roanoke, went to Patrick Henry HS. I was sad to see him leave UR, but happy that Tech found a place for him.

This guy sounds real good (and we need the sure thing field goal kicker for the future), I don't know much about him, and his experience in college football will give him an edge, but he's gonna have a battle when Michael Santamaria gets in town. That kid has a leg, just don't know if his temperament will be there yet (incoming freshman).

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

Ain't nobody I ever rowed with on the crew team was named named Remington. All the same, he'd need two good legs, not just one....

Coale'd blooded

Some days I wake up and I'm #TeamMotley and others I'm #TeamBrewer. But some days I wake up and think #bothMotleyandBrewertoTE.

In Sam Rogers we trust.

This may be a dumb question but I can't find the answer anywhere. Does Brewer only have 1 more year of eligibility?

2. He will enter as a redshirt Jr. But since he's graduated, eligible to play immediately.

We put the K in Kwality

Texas Tech.....is not the most challenging academic institution

More likely he didn't just take 12 credit regular year and minimum summer session classes.

i mean he took classes for three years plus presumably 3 summers. for a large number of majors that's plenty of time to graduate

VT CEE Class of 2016

"Exit Light. Enter night..."

At UNC he would've gotten his PhD by now. BAZZINGA!

We put the K in Kwality

legged but i think its called pre k graduation at UNC...

"I'm high on Juice and ready to stick it in!" Whit Babcock

Here's a question I want answered: does anyone approve of the spring game video hokiesports.com has up? Seriously, it's like workout music from the eighties. BilldozerVT, please show them how it's done

Ahem, what precisely is the problem with 80's music? :)

Nothing is necessarily wrong with it but as you and I are not recruits perhaps the music should be a bit more contemporary. I agree that music accompanying most highlight videos are likewise misplaced but as Billdozer shows there are selections that are NOW enough to connect to young kids and still sound kickass.

I have no problem with 80s music that people actually listen to. This is not that music. Watch the video with sound. I kept waiting to hear richard simmons say "Are we feeling mighty ladies?"

None of that allowed. Let's remember 80s music for where it was good. There are so many great examples.
Clearly Richard Simmons was an extreme outlier...

Pain is Temporary
Chicks Dig Scars
Glory is Forever
Let's Go Hokies!!

I have to say I haven't heard the music, but I would have no problem with 80's workout music if were to hear it.

I would rather have that than some of the crap music you hear on recruit highlight video's.

VHokie

No kidding. Besides, we already have the selfie video. Isn't that enough of the new music for now?

If 80s music was good enough for Rocky, is good enough for them haha

RIP Stick It In