Today’s featured team: Virginia Tech Hokies
The Hokies enter their 2012 spring practice session on a two-game losing streak and a frightening reality without their star running back. David Wilson was as important as any ACC player was to his offense, tallying over 1,700 rushing yards for a unit that would finish 28th nationally in yards on the ground. His running prowess, coupled with quarterback Logan Thomas‘s own mobility, allowed the young quarterback time to throw and the piece of mind that he wouldn’t have to shoulder the entire team’s fortunes. It worked to near-perfection, but now Thomas must figure out how to lead this group on his own. Exacerbating matters are the amount of starters returning for an offense that left much to be desired in 2011. Just three starters (including Thomas) are back, leaving holes across the line — especially the most gaping one, where OT Blake DeChristopher used to be. Will junior center Andrew Miller be capable of anchoring such an inexperienced unit? They’ve already got not depth along the line, plus there’s little help coming in the class of 2012. For as strong as the Hokies have been for the past decade-plus now, the amount of replacement they’ll need to do on the fly this season could be enough to derail them.
Tech’s biggest saving grace could the defense, however. Little shaking up needs to happen this spring since nine starters return, but the team will still likely use the time to assess their depth. Given the collection of athletes they’ve got on-hand, along with another group of top-flight players in the upcoming recruiting class, the Hokies will possess an ability to fly around the field few can match. Standout juniors James Gayle and Kyle Fuller enter the season with astronomical expectations, and it’ll all start early for the two defensive leaders. Should they continue getting after the quarterback and forcing turnovers, this D may even improve upon its phenomenal 17.6 points-per-game average in 2011. Maybe most frightening about VPI for opponents — the fact that of the projected 11 starters, just two are seniors. As they continue developing that type of leadership at the sophomore and junior level, it has a trickle-down effect; one that players like Gayle, Fuller and Antoine Hopkins (among so many others can attest to). While developing their depth this spring, the hierarchy will once again be set for the program, with its players happily falling in line.
If the questions on offense can be minimized by Thomas’s expected strong play, concerns with the backfield and offensive line could disappear. regardless though, this appears to be a team carried by the defense. It may be difficult to notice, but this year’s Hokies could very well be markedly improved in several spots (quarterback, defensive front), but it may not show up on the final win total. If they develop depth to address some of these concerns though, it could be a very different (more successful) story come the close of 2012.
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