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August 13, 2011

Wilson, Gayle, Thomas highlight scrimmage

It was the first of two fall scrimmages late this afternoon in Blacksburg. It was a chance for many players to make a push for roles, but also saw a few star players continue to emerge as the season approaches.

Offensively, Logan Thomas and David Wilson were the stars of the day. Starting at the top with the quarterback, Thomas had a solid 4-of-8 outing for 79-yards, but one touchdown. Overall Thomas looked very confident and in charge in the starting role, there was an overthrow of Danny Coale, but also big passes of 31 and 29-yards to Coale and Chris Drager. Thomas even showed his legs a bit on the day.

The bigger question regarding the quarterback spot is the backup position, which was far less competitive with the news Ricardo Young has decided to transfer. Still, Mark Leal showed significant improvement and seems to be well on his way to landing the backup job. At times he was forced to run for his life, but he still managed the game and finished with a very respectable 6-of-13 passing for 116-yards, one touchdown and one interception. Though he struggled a bit early and threw an interception, he had some big plays too including a 44-yard touchdown strike to Demetri Knowles and 22-yards to Corey Fuller. Leal certainly made a few plays that turned heads.

Ju-Ju Clayton had his moments and is still in this battle completing 6-of-10 for 56-yards and a score. To say it simply, the quarterback battle is pretty tight still. The touchdown came on a 30-yard strike to E.L. Smiling. Rounding out the position was Trey Gresh who got late mop up duty and threw an interception and took a sack late.

David Wilson was the other star on offense and he had just five touches for 57-yards including breaking a 22-yarder for a score. Wilson once again was phenomenal in his brief opportunities.

The backup running back position is far more interesting now with the emergence of Michael Holmes on Saturday. Considering it was his first true scrimmage, Holmes put together a respectable and very solid 56-yards on 11 carries. He broke a couple big runs including an 11 and 18-yarder. He showed some good ability to move the sticks when he got the rock.

Josh Oglesby received a few carries and got some tough yards, while Tony Gregory got stopped for a couple losses, but did break a nine-yarder. He did drop a pass as well. Daniel Dyer got a bit of time on the day too.

The fullback spot saw Martin Scales perform well running a couple tough times for 16 total yards including an 11-yarder. Rounding out the group was an 11-yard reception for Riley Biero, nine-yarder for Joey Phillips and Justus Hoffman pulling down a late eight-yard grab too.

It was a relatively surprising showing from the receiver spot, which saw Demetri Knowles and Corey Fuller emerge as potential competitors for the sixth receiver spot. It can't be too surprising Fuller is pushing his way up the list with the showing he made today, including a big 22-yard grab and nice open field running. He showed the ability to play the sideline too and has a chance for No. 6 if he keeps improving. Knowles emerged with a huge 44-yard reception and his speed is outstanding. He was able to run away from people on the 44-yard reception, but also displayed very good hands, catching almost everything thrown his way. He had one drop.

Danny Coale and Marcus Davis got less time in this competition, but played well. One other player to stand out was E.L. Smiling with a big 30-yard touchdown grab from Clayton.

The tight end spot saw far more production on Saturday when Chris Drager hauled in a big 31-yard grab that got him inside the five. He showed some nice hands in the scrimmage. His backup, Eric Martin went down with injury to an apparent shoulder. Randall Dunn stepped up in his place with officially one grab for 13-yards, but had another called back, a 25-yard catch from Thomas. He looked smooth on the day.

Darius Redman and Ryan Malleck got time, but neither pulled down receptions.

The starting offensive line looked pretty formidable, noticeably Jaymes Brooks getting a good push on the day and Greg Nosal was back in the lineup, though he still seems to be struggling to get the power he had back in his arms. Andrew Lanier also performed well.

In terms of the starting right tackle job, it appears Michael Via is ahead of Vinston Painter at this time as Via isn't missing assignments and showed good footwork. Painter meanwhile got beat a bit still, once by Gayle who side stepped him on the rush and later J.R. Collins got the edge.

Considering it was Nick Acree's first scrimmage at tackle, he looked like he had good potentail, though he's clearly a work in progress. Caleb Farris struggled a bit and displayed some freshman lumps going against Luther Maddy, but still looks to be firmly the No. 2 center.

Rounding out the group, a player that will get a strong look once the Hokies can is Brent Benedict who at times looked like he was toying with the defense. He was incredibly tough and aggressive on the day.

Meanwhile, the star arguably of the entire defense was James Gayle pulling down a pair of sacks on the day, one on Logan Thomas for a nine-yard loss. He continues to be incredibly tough on the edge and has great quickness.

Outside of his showing, Luther Maddy excelled blowing up the middle for numerous tackles and getting into the backfield. He showed great leverage, power and aggression coming up with at least four stops for negative or no yards and also posted an eight-yard sack to close out the scrimmage. It's no surprise he's one of the stars of camp and pushing for potential playing time. He got a lot of reps and is a high twitch guy.

Though his name wasn't called officially, Corey Marshall looked very impressive and showed good aggression on the day. J.R. Collins and Duan Perez-Means had their moments, Perez-Means with a stop in the backfield. Derrick and Antoine Hopkins had relatively quiet days.

A couple other notables were freshmen Matt Roth, Dadi Nicholas and Kris Harley in the middle. Roth needs a year in the weight room, but looks instinctual, while Nicholas is a player and looked very fast, but needs time to grow. Harley had his moments on the day as well.

In other news, Dwight Tucker and Kwamaine Battle went down with injuries on the day.

At linebacker, Barquell Rivers was the star of the day pulling down an interception from Mark Leal. Still, Bruce Taylor played extremely well and it still seems Tariq Edwards has the edge to start, though Telvion Clark is still pushing him. Clark is right there with some nice vision and tackling.

Alonzo Tweedy and Jeron Gouveia-Winslow had their moments. A player to make a move was Nick Dew who stepped up a bit in the scrimmage.

The secondary saw a few freshmen make an impact particularly Ronny Vandyke closing out the scrimmage with an interception from Trey Gresh, he made a great read on the ball for the pick. Jayron Hosley made a great individual play for an interception earlier in the contest on Thomas, cutting off Dyrell Roberts.

James Farrow and Kyshoen Jarrett got more time. Farrow got beat on one play for a score. Michael Cole also got some significant time and made a few tackles.

Rounding out the day was special teams, which saw the competition for punter continue between Danny Coale and Scott Demler. Coale appeared to finish with the better day this go round booming a 49-yarder and adding a 44 and 35-yarder, while Demler posted punts of 42, 41 and 37. It's looking more like Coale could be the starter as he's just showing better hangtime at this stage.

The kicker situation still sees Cody Journell firmly in command after he hit three or four from 22, 35 and 35, but missed badly wide right from 44-yards. Justin Myer showed a good leg too hitting from 28 and 52 on the day.

Virginia Tech will hold a second open scrimmage next Saturday, August 20th at 2 p.m. in Lane Stadium.

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