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March 26, 2012

Five Under Fire

Virginia Tech starts spring football in just two days and Hokiehaven.com continues to look at the month ahead. Today, we continue our spring previews with a look at five players who are facing a potential make or break spring camp.

Nick Becton, OT: Both offensive tackle positions are technically open this spring since Michael Via is out with injury. Coming in quite highly heralded from high school, expectations were high for Nick Becton to be a stalwart on the line. However, that hasn't occurred and instead he has only been a role player and part time starter. Becton has been here before the past two seasons to earn the starting job, but was beat out by Andrew Lanier two times in a row. There is young talent in the wings particularly with Mark Shuman finally healthy. Becton must prove he has taken a significant step forward to be able to cover Logan Thomas' blindside or he may just end his Hokie career as a backup.

Vinston Painter, OT: Painter is the Hokies highest acclaimed offensive linemen on the team, a former four-star prospect, rated the No. 126 recruit in the 2008 recruiting class. However, in his time with the Hokies Painter hasn't moved up from being anything more than a spot player. He's shown some encouraging signs, but that hasn't amounted into playing time. As mentioned above with Becton, both tackle positions are open this spring, particularly the right side with Michael Via out. With a starting spot available for his senior year, he needs to take command early in spring practice and ideally solidify his position by the Maroon White Spring Game. If he can lock in his spot, he should be able to hold off the likes of Michael Via come fall, but if he falters, he may not be much more than just a backup in his final season.

Dyrell Roberts, WR: Injuries derailed Dyrell Roberts successful career with the Hokies including a broken arm last season that made him miss a large majority of the year. A redshirt has allowed him to return for a fifth and final season, but he hasn't played football much at all in almost 18 months due to compartment syndrome as well. The real questions remain just what kind of shape he is in at this point in his career. If he wants to make an impact anywhere similar to what he did years ago, he'll need to prove it in a hurry at the start of spring practice. He looked a step slow last year in his brief time, but now there will be little time to shake off the rust with the likes of Kevin Asante, Demetri Knowles and Corey Fuller in the mix. Not to mention the fact that Marcus Davis and D.J. Coles are the presumed starters. If Roberts wants a chance to be in the lineup this fall, he needs to do it now, not only trying to hold off the younger talent battling him, but also to get a major step up on the true freshmen enrolling in the fall, most notably Joel Caleb, but also Josh Stanford and Mark Irick.

Alonzo Tweedy, LB: Jeron Gouveia-Winslow will be slowed this spring due to a Lisfranc sprain. Even if he comes back by the spring game, he'll be a major step behind the competition for the spot. Meanwhile, Alonzo Tweedy is heading into his final year with the Hokies and is coming off his most significant playing time to date, starting late in the year and in the Sugar Bowl against Michigan. Tweedy was only elevated to spot duty before injuries thrust him into the starting lineup. Now, Tweedy must prove he's ready to be a full-time starter and his experience and playmaking ability should give him the edge. But, he's got stiff competition from the likes of Ronny Vandyke and Nick Dew, both former four-star prospects. Vandyke could provide the toughest competition with his size advantage. It's critical for Tweedy to jump out early to hold down the position as he'll be in an even stiffer battle come fall against Gouveia-Winslow when he returns presumably much healthier. If he isn't the full-time starter in the Maroon White Spring Game, he's going to likely close his collegiate career as a backup.

Chase Williams, LB: Unlike many of the other players above, Chase Williams is much younger only technically entering his sophomore season since he enrolled mid-year. Still, this is a critical juncture for the linebacker as he got mention early upon his arrival on campus as a player that could conceivably play as a true freshman. Since then, injuries have sidetracked his impact a bit and he fell behind on the depth chart and eventually redshirted. In that time, Williams has fallen behind the likes of Tariq Edwards, Bruce Taylor and Telvion Clark on the depth chart as well. All three aren't participating in spring practice coming up with injuries to Edwards and Taylor and a dismissal for Clark. That thrusts Williams into the forefront, currently sitting at No. 2 on the depth chart behind Jack Tyler at mike. It's almost a certainty though that he'll at least get a look at the starting backer job to battle Brian Laiti. The hope would be that he can provide stiff competition to Tariq Edwards upon his return back from injury. If he plays well enough through the spring, Williams could be in line to battle for the starting job come fall. At worst, Williams has the potential to see significant playing time if he proves he can be a capable and reliable player at either position this spring, but he must hold off the spot from numerous walk-ons. Although, if Williams struggles to affirm his role now, he's at risk to fall down the depth chart indefinitely.

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