April 4, 2012

Spring Position Battles to Watch: Week Two

We are now a week into spring practice this year for the Hokies, with practice session number five approaching with a mini-scrimmage in Lane Stadium on Wednesday night. That will be followed by a full open scrimmage Saturday, we will learn a whole lot more over the next three days than we have in the past week, which makes this time crucial for the players. Today, we identify a few position battles to watch here in week two.

Running Back: J.C. Coleman vs. Martin Scales

Analysis: This is a battle that most assume Coleman will win by the end of the spring, but it will be interesting to see the difference between the newcomer that should still be in high school and the experienced veteran. Scales runs a similar style to Michael Holmes despite being a bit bigger than him and that could ultimately hurt him as he tries to unseat Coleman. The two are listed as tied on the depth chart at backup tailback, but expect that to change this week. I really like Scales as a running back; he's strong, powerful, and does not shy away from contact. However, the skill set Coleman brings to the table will likely be too hard to ignore, as well as his much higher ceiling. The proverbial "light" going on for Coleman will be much different than when the light goes on for Scales. Saturday presents the first opportunity for fans to catch the highly touted Coleman in uniform, which will likely make waking up to catch the 10:45 a.m. start worth it.

Wide Receiver: Corey Fuller vs. The Field

Analysis: Corey Fuller has really shown improvement this spring from where he was in the fall and that has made him the early favorite to snag that third (fourth when D.J. Coles returns) receiver spot on the depth chart. He is essentially entering his redshirt sophomore year of playing football after transferring from running track at Kansas, so it shouldn't be surprising that he is showing improvement as things slow down.

The field consists of a number of targets, from E.L. Smiling to Demetri Knowles to Kevin Asante to Christian Reeves to Willie Byrn. Knowles is the obvious one to watch, especially this week with the multiple scrimmages. There's not a player on the roster that is as fast as him and finally seeing him move about on the football field in a live game situation will be huge. Same for the other guys, but you have to be excited about seeing where Knowles is in his development as a football player this week.

Tight End: Eric Martin vs. Ryan Malleck and Randall Dunn

Analysis: Martin has been exclusively a blocker to this point in his career, but has opened up this spring as the number one tight end for the Hokies. He has made some progress as a receiver, especially after a couple of nice receptions during Monday's practice. His stiffest competition is from the duo of Malleck and Dunn, who are listed as tight for second behind him on the depth chart. In reality though, it would appear his stiffest competition is just the sophomore Malleck, as he has the potential to really develop into a two-way player during his first spring session. These next two scrimmages will be huge for Martin, because the Hokies are going to evaluate each position in these scrimmages and how he performs in the passing game is going to tell Bryan Stinespring whether he is ready to name a number one tight end. They are huge for Malleck as well, as two solid performances will really begin to make him a legit candidate to start in 2012.

Kicker/Punter/Kickoff Specialists: Michael Branthover vs. the Field

Analysis: The first two game situations of the year will provide the first true glimpse into what Frank Beamer is planning as far as special teams right now. Michael Branthover entered as the top kicker and punter this spring, but everyone will get an opportunity over the next three days to prove their worth. This week will be particularly big for Scott Demler, who was excellent in practice last year but was never able to put it together in a game. Proving he has gotten past those game day worries this week could put him back in the conversation at kicker. Branthover probably doesn't have the leg to be a kickoff specialist, and it really has been awhile since Beamer went with the same kickoff guy and field goal kicker, so that is another area to watch as the Hokies execute these two scrimmages over the next several days.

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