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April 5, 2012

Spring Practice Report: Camp is underway

Virginia Tech has been practicing for a week now and has had one mini-scrimmage. The first full scrimmage is on Saturday. Plenty of positions are up for grabs on both sides of the ball. Hokiehaven.com looks at practice to date.

Quarterbacks:

There's no doubt on the top spot at quarterback where Logan Thomas is performing well. Reports are showing that Thomas is running a bit more of a no huddle offense than last year. Mark Leal remains the number two quarterback with the battle still developing between Brian Rody and Trey Gresh at No. 3 with Gresh holding an early edge though Rody threw a touchdown in the mini-scrimmage Wednesday night.

Running Backs:

At tailback, Michael Holmes is getting every chance to be the No. 1 tailback and has performed well to date. Holmes is still learning, but is coming on. He has shown a good combination of speed, balance, vision and power. J.C. Coleman started out spring at No. 2 with Martin Scales and impressively has picked up the offense quickly even though he's only been on campus a matter of weeks. In the meantime, Scales has come in bigger and is playing tough. Scales is certainly pushing for a chance at tailback. At fullback, Joey Phillips is holding down the top spot at this stage. Tony Gregory remains at tailback, though he is out with injury at this time.

Wide Receivers:

D.J. Coles remains out with a knee injury, which has put Dyrell Roberts into the starting lineup. On the opposite side, Marcus Davis is the starter. Corey Fuller and Demetri Knowles are the backups at this stage. With regards to Roberts, he started off a bit slow due to injury, but he's starting to pick it up. That's a good sign that he is perhaps a bit further along than anticipated. Demetri Knowles is still learning, but his speed is undeniable and he has really wowed to date. He's likely going to push for a role in some capacity this season even if it's just as a deep threat. E.L. Smiling has had his moments at times, but remains at the No. 3 spot on the depth chart. It's an important week for Corey Fuller to remain in serious contention as a backup. David Mellstrom scored the lone touchdown in the first scrimmage from 32-yards out.

Tight Ends:

One of the biggest battles developing in spring ball is at tight end. Eric Martin, Randall Dunn and Duan Perez-Means have been of note so far. Martin remains the top spot because of his blocking, but Perez-Means has really impressed. He's shown great hands and is certainly making a strong case for playing time early. Little has been heard from Ryan Malleck to date, but he remains tied with Randall Dunn at the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.

Offensive Line:

Michael Via is out the spring with injury. It's a critical spring practice still for the rest of the line as Virginia Tech is trying to figure out their starting offensive line. Andrew Miller is the starter at center, but around him everyone else is new. Brent Benedict has impressed early, he's taken to the starting right guard spot so far. There is no inclination he will move outside as Curt Newsome himself has said he struggles with space. David Wang at the other guard position is playing well; he's showing a real good knowledge of the game. Nick Becton and Vinston Painter are starting at the tackle spots. With regards to Painter specifically, he's been a bright spot early on in camp. However, the cohesiveness of the group as a whole is still rough particularly against the pass rush giving up four sacks on Wednesday night despite no blitzes, but it is early in camp. A surprise is the way Matt Arkema is moving up the depth chart, he is solidly at No. 2 at center now and performing well. Of note, Caleb Farris hasn't been able to practice due to a knee injury. How long he will remain out remains to be seen.

Defensive Line:

There isn't a lot new on the defensive line to date with four starters returning in James Gayle, J.R. Collins, Derrick Hopkins and Luther Maddy. The big thing is that Tech is mixing it up with Justin Taylor, Corey Marshall and Zack McCray fluctuating between tackle and end. So far the concept has worked and the trio is providing some quality depth, but how the two deep will form remains to be seen. Though he hasn't moved up the depth charts at all, Matt Roth got pressure with two sacks on Wednesday night. Of note, Antoine Hopkins is out with injury.

Linebackers:

Ronny Vandyke is the big surprise at whip linebacker and he's moving up the charts fast, especially after a strong scrimmage on Wednesday night posting four tackles and a sack. Vandyke has shown a knack for the position early in camp and is proving to be a playmaker. Jack Tyler has played consistent and Alonzo Tweedy has proven to be very effective early on. Little has been heard from Jeron Gouveia-Winslow who is playing through injury. In addition, very little has been mentioned of Chase Williams as well at the starting backer position. It's still a wait and see to find out how he performs in the first full scrimmage with the pressure on. However, Derek DiNardo came up big in the first mini-scrimmage with five tackles and has moved into a backup role at this time.

Secondary:

Although a calf issue slowed him a bit, Kyle Fuller is back to full strength and participated in the scrimmage fully. He's playing very well so far. Of note, Detrick Bonner would come back over to play cornerback if there is an injury that limits Fuller more. The big move was Antone Exum to cornerback and he's shown to be very comfortable in the spot in the early going. Likewise, Detrick Bonner and Kyshoen Jarrett are playing well at the safety spots early in spring practice holding down the top jobs at rover and free safety. Questions still persist with regards to depth in the secondary as Adeboye Aromire, Michael Cole and Theron Norman have shown sparks, but none have truly emerged. It should be noted that Cole did go down with an injury during the first week. Donaldven Manning is still a wildcard as he is adjusting to everything.

Special Teams:

Virginia Tech spent the first week by starting to figure out the special teams units. With regards to specific positions though, the kickers got their first taste of practice on Wednesday night and Michael Branthover remains in the top spot making 1-of-2, a 32-yarder, but missing a 37-yarder. Conor Goulding missed the other attempt a 32-yarder. Punting was a bit of a question as Ethan Keyserling averaged 33-yards on two attempts, Branthover got the other for 33-yards. Keyserling has the early edge for the punting job. Lukas Stump is starting at snapper.


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