The wait is finally over. Virginia Tech players officially reported to training camp Monday and they take the field for their first practice session Tuesday afternoon.
The Hokies are far from a finished product at this point, with new weapons to incorporate on offense and some injury and depth concerns on defense. So what exactly needs to be answered over the next four weeks before Virginia Tech takes on Georgia Tech in its nationally televised season opener?
Here are four questions that could define training camp.
1) What will happen along the offensive line?
Virginia Tech enters camp with just center Andrew Miller back from last year’s starting offensive line, and how the new pieces fit together will be a focus all camp. Outside of Miller, it appears left tackle Nick Becton and left guard David Wang are assured of a spot on the first team. There remain questions, however, about right guard Brent Benedict and right tackle Vinston Painter. If either is unable to show the sort of consistency coaches are hoping for, they could be replaced by senior Michael Via, who added 17 pounds to his frame after undergoing offseason knee surgery.
2) When will LB Tariq Edwards and WR D.J. Coles come back?
Edwards and Coles are both expected to be big-time contributors this year, but they have been slow to recover from offseason surgeries. Each will start training camp in blue jerseys and Virginia Tech confirmed Monday that they could be limited in practice “for awhile.” The Hokies’ goal is to have them ready for the regular season, but it remains to be seen if missing a large chunk of practice will affect their play. With Dyrell Roberts back from his own injury, there is some experience as Coles continues his recovery from a torn PCL. Edwards (stress fracture in shin) will be replaced by linebacker Bruce Taylor, who has been moved to the backer position for the time being. Redshirt junior Jack Tyler is currently listed as the first team middle linebacker.
3) What running back will emerge?
Redshirt freshman Michael Holmes emerged as the favorite to be named the starter at running back after spring practice, but must prove his worth again during training camp. It’s unlikely he’ll emerge as the featured back like David Wilson was a year ago, but it’s important that Holmes show he can be an every down option. He could face a renewed challenge from freshman J.C. Coleman, who has put on 16 pounds since the spring and now weighs 192 pounds. Classmate Trey Edmunds, meantime, will be in a blue jersey to start training camp after suffering a hamstring injury. It’s not considered serious. Other candidates who could compete for playing time are seniors Martin Scales and Tony Gregory.
4) Who will punt?
Virginia Tech never could find a consistent punter last season aside from wide receiver Danny Coale, and it looks as if Coach Frank Beamer is looking towards his incoming freshmen for answers. Former All Met Hunter Windmuller (Flint Hill) and classmate A.J. Hughes, both of whom are preferred walk ons, sit at the top of the punter depth chart to begin camp, ahead of veterans Scott Demler, Michael Branthover and Ethan Keyserling. Beamer has made it clear the competition is wide open and that he won’t be afraid to go with youth if it’s the best option.