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August 18, 2012

What To Look For At Today's Scrimmage

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Today is a big day for the 2012 Virginia Tech football team. After today, Tech's coaches will begin to narrow the roster to those that will play a factor in the team this fall, and those that will most likely have to wait another year for their chance to shine. There will be a lot of observe, so let's try to narrow it down and give you some things and players to key on.

Position Battles

1. Backup Tailbacks

Michael Holmes is the starter and will receive most of the carries in 2012. Beyond that, assistant coach Shane Beamer still has a lot to decide. Martin Scales can't redshirt, so the question over what his role will be this year is not the most pressing issue. That belongs to the three true freshmen who are fighting it out for what really amounts to the final spot in the rotation.

J.C. Coleman has a huge leg up after coming in for spring practice and enters as the favorite to lock down a spot, if he hasn't already, and is really battling Scales for the top backup spot more than his classmates Chris Mangus or Trey Edmunds.

Those two are fighting to prove themselves as guys that can play in 2012 and don't need a redshirt. In all likelihood, at least one of them gets the redshirt immediately following this scrimmage. With Tony Gregory also fighting for a role, Beamer must decide how many carries each would maybe get this year and decide whether it is worth it to burn a year of eligibility.

My prediction? One gets the redshirt and the other gets to travel and practice with the varsity as an emergency option in case of injuries.

2. Third and Fourth Wide Receivers

This scrimmage is huge for the young receivers and not so much for the experience veterans. Guys like Josh Stanford, Joel Caleb, Kevin Asante, and Demetri Knowles are all competing to play a major role in the offense.

Stanford has been one of the biggest surprises of the camp and with a solid scrimmage could remove all possibilities of a redshirt. Caleb has a lot of ability as well and, despite Frank Beamer saying he needs to drop some more weight, has a huge opportunity as well. Asante and Knowles have been around the block and are knocking on the door as well, with Asante making some solid strides so far in August.

As experienced as guys like Dyrell Roberts and Corey Fuller are, they aren't bona fide production machines, meaning showing off some playmaking potential could get these youngsters in the conversation for a much bigger role than anyone expected this fall.

I like Stanford as the guy to breakout and make a name for himself Saturday.


Jeron Gouveia-Winslow has been at the top of the depth chart since August began, but the WHIP position certainly looks like it could be heading for a committee approach this year, with redshirt freshman Ronny Vandyke playing the role of emerging star. If he plays this scrimmage like he did the scrimmages in the spring, it will be tough to keep him off the top line of the depth chart.

All three WHIPs will play a decent amount this year, although it is expected than Vandyke's role will continually increase as he gains experience. But could he push JGW for the starting role on opening night against Georgia Tech? Definitely.

4. Backup Cornerbacks

Defensive backs coach Torrian Gray has a lot to figure out on the second unit of his secondary, primarily involving true freshmen such as Donovan Riley, Davion Tookes, Der'Woun Greene, and Desmond Frye.

Frye's almost certainly heading for a redshirt thanks to the emergence of Boye Aromire at free safety, but the other three guys are all in the conversation at cornerback. Greene just moved to the position, so Gray will throw him into the fire on Saturday in order to, as the coaches all love to say, "get as much information" on him as possible.

He's the long shot of the group to lockdown a reserve spot. Tookes and Riley have been the top two backups all camp so far, but they are far from sure things and really need to prove themselves Saturday.

They will likely get a good amount of reps against the number one offense, meaning what they manage against guys like Marcus Davis is going to be huge for Gray. That's the kind of guy they would have to play against this fall and Gray needs to be absolutely sure they can handle that.

5. Punter

Virginia Tech's punting in 2011 was arguably the biggest weakness of the team. To change that in 2012, Frank Beamer brought in two talented freshmen in A.J. Hughes and Hunter Windmuller. The latter is the leader in the clubhouse right now for that starting role, but so much is going to ride on how they perform in this scrimmage, the first in front of a crowd bigger than coaches, teammates, and a few media and friends of the program.

How they handle the pressure of punting in front of people with guys rushing them in a live situation is going to be huge in ultimately deciding who gets the nod.

Ten Individuals to Watch

1. QB Mark Leal - As the heir apparent to Logan Thomas, it's always important to see how Leal is progressing in any extended live action he can get. He didn't get much at all in the spring, but will get plenty of it beginning Saturday.

2. RB J.C. Coleman - Coleman is the most likely of any of the tailbacks to provide a wow-factor similar to what David Wilson or Ryan Williams have in the recent past, so look out for that.

3. WR Demetri Knowles - For the sheer possibility that he might just fly right past the Virginia Tech secondary on a fly route at some point.

4. TE Randall Dunn - Dunn isn't going to be used as a typical tight end this year. He's probably going to be the closest thing to an H-back the Hokies have ever had. I'm looking to see him line up all over the field and make an impact, whether it is on the line of scrimmage at tight end or in the slot when the Hokies are in the shotgun.

5. OT Michael Via - Via is the most ready to play of any of the backups and he better be, because he is going to be going against Tech's top defensive line unit for much of the day.

6. DE/DT Zack McCray - McCray is still looking to breakthrough and become a serious factor in the two-deep and it will be interesting to see how often he lines up at tackle, how often he lines up at end, and how effective he is at each position.

7. ILB Bruce Taylor - It would be huge to see big Bruce moving around like the Bruce of old, only this time at a new position.

8. CB Donovan Riley - Riley has been my pick to play this fall ever since he signed in February and with a solid scrimmage could lockdown the fourth backup spot right behind Donaldven Manning.

9. K Cody Journell - Journell's long in 2011 was a 42-yarder, so I'd like to see how far he could push it reliably on Saturday.

10. Coach Torrian Gray - Watching Gray during these live scrimmages is one of the most entertaining things that will happen Saturday. He will line up deep beyond the secondary, likely next to the deepest official and read the play as it's happening in real-time. He will see the interception or big hit and will break forward hooting and hollering for the big play. It is very easy to see when watching these things why the players love him and why he is so good at what he does.

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