Since training camp began more than a week ago, Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer has said repeatedly he’d like to settle on a starting punter quickly. Up until Saturday, when the Hokies held their first full scrimmage of the preseason, it appeared as if Beamer was content to have wide receiver Danny Coale win the job and play two positions this season.
It seems of late, though, that redshirt junior Scott Demler has punted his way into the thick of the competition, and it’s forced Beamer to reconsider whether his smartest option is to have Coale catch passes and kick punts.
“Demler is really punting well in practice,” Beamer said in his post-scrimmage remarks. “I think if Demler keeps going I feel like he could be the guy. Danny, you always run into, ‘You’re playing a lot and you’re coming in and now we need to punt the ball.’ You worry about that a little bit.”
Coale and Demler punted three balls apiece in live action Saturday. Coale averaged more yards per punt (42.7 as opposed to Demler’s 40 yard average), but it appears that battle will heat up over the next week.
As for the place kickers, senior Justin Myer showed off his cannon of a leg when he nailed a 52-yard field goal that would have been good from 60 yards. Redshirt sophomore Cody Journell, meantime, hit three of his four field-goal attempts, including two from 35 yards. His lone miss was from 44 yards.
Beamer said that while Myer has the stronger leg, he hasn’t fared as well during kicking competitions in practice. Journell is still the leader to be the starter come September.
“Cody’s kicked extremely well. Myer, I’ll say it again, he’s got a load of potential and he needs to win some of the kicking contests during the week,” Beamer said. “Right now Cody Journell is usually winning it or right in the running in most of those.”. . .
The most significant injury news of the scrimmage came early on when sixth-year senior Kwamaine Battle sprained the same knee in which he tore his ACL a year ago against Boise State. Battle was listed as a No. 2 defensive tackle heading into the scrimmage along with redshirt junior Isaiah Hamlette (Brooke Point High).
Battle will have his knee reevaluated on Monday, but at least on Saturday, his misfortune gave freshman Luther Maddy a chance to shine. The Delray Beach, Fla., native finished with a team-high eight tackles, including a sack and two tackles for losses.
Already a pleasant surprise so far during training camp, Maddy could be in position to move into the two-deep chart if Battle is out for a significant amount of time. Defensive line coach Charley Wiles said he’s given increased reps to Maddy and fellow freshman Kris Harley this week, and both have seen their play improve as a result.
Wiles, though, is not nearly as pleased with his backup defensive ends. Redshirt sophomore Tyrel Wilson and redshirt freshmen Duan Perez-Means currently hold the No. 2 spots, but Wiles said he’s also left the door open for freshman Corey Marshall to get some playing time there.
“Right now he’s not taking advantage of it,” Wiles said. “Just not physical, he’s not playing very fast. . . . You’ll see a sign or two and say, ‘Take this thing.’ He has all the tools and everything you really want, but it’s just up and down.”
Wiles added that he’s anxious to see how defensive end Zack McCray looked on film Saturday after an encouraging week of practice.
He’s much happier, however, with his starting unit. Defensive end James Gayle had two sacks Saturday, while sophomore defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins made a very athletic play tripping up a running back on a jailbreak screen play.
“The first group’s not the issue,” Wiles said. “We’ve got to get depth. Hopefully we can play more than four guys.” . . .
Highlights from the day: The best play belongs to freshman Demetri Knowles, who caught a beautiful 44-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Mark Leal. Starter Logan Thomas also had a chance to complete a deep ball when wide receiver Dyrell Roberts had cornerback Jayron Hosley beaten by a step down the sideline. But Thomas underthrew the 40-yard pass and Hosley ended up with an interception. . . .
Speaking of interceptions, linebacker Barquell Rivers had a fingertip pick of Leal, and drew laughs from the sidelines when he attempted to complete a slow spin move during the return. The only problem was “next thing I knew, I fell,” Rivers said afterwards . . .
Running back David Wilson looked to be in midseason form, gaining 57 yards and scoring a touchdown on five carries. His 22-yard scoring run was particularly impressive, as he ran around the edge and split through simultaneous tackles from Rivers and safety James Hopper. Freshman tailback Michael Holmes also had a strong first showing, gaining 54 yards on 11 carries. . . .
Aside from Battle, defensive end Dwight Tucker (right knee sprain) and tight end Eric Martin (sprained AC joint in shoulder) were the only other injuries to come out of Saturday. Among those on the sideline not participating at all Saturday were wide receivers Jarrett Boykin, D.J. Coles and Kevin Asante, all of whom are nursing hamstring injuries, as well as left tackle Blake DeChristopher (pectoral). Reserve offensive lineman Mark Shuman was on crutches after surgery on his right MCL. He expects to miss four to six weeks.