One of the more compelling presumptions the Virginia Tech football team will confront once fall camp begins next month is the coaching staff’s belief that the Hokies will improve exponentially this year, especially on defense, simply because of how inexperienced they were a year go. It could be seen as a bold prediction, simply based on the depth chart coming out of spring practice: Virginia Tech returns just six starters on offense and five on defense – two fewer than the 13 starters who returned to the 2010 squad.
So why then, outside of a favorable schedule, are the Hokies viewed by many preseason pundits as a top 20 team nationally? Well, if preseason watch lists are any indication, much of that returning talent has a pretty good track record.
Most of the major postseason awards for college football finished unveiling their initial list of nominees earlier this week, and six Virginia Tech players were included. Leading the charge were cornerback Jayron Hosley and linebacker Bruce Taylor, each of who were tabbed for four watch lists.
Hosley, a first-team all-ACC selection in 2010 after leading the country with nine interceptions, had the most substantial list of award recognition. He was nominated for the Walter Camp (player of the year), Bednarik (Maxwell Club’s defensive player of the year), Nagurski (Football Writers Association of America’s defensive player of the year), and Jim Thorpe (best defensive back) Awards.
Taylor, who earned second-team all-ACC honors as a sophomore in 2010 with 91 tackles, received nods for the Bednarik and Nagurski watch lists, as well as the Lombardi (best linemen or linebacker) and Butkus (best linebacker) awards.
Wide receiver Jarrett Boykin, meanwhile, was rated as one of the nation’s top returning wide receivers and earned a spot on the Biletnikoff Award watch list. Boykin, who enters the 2011 season just four catches away from becoming Virginia Tech’s all-time leading receiver, had 53 catches for 847 yards and six touchdowns a year ago.
Two of Virginia Tech’s four returning offensive linemen, seniors Blake DeChristopher and Jaymes Brooks, were also nominated for postseason awards after each earned second-team all-ACC honors for their work in the trenches in 2010. DeChristopher, who will begin his third year as the starting right tackle, was named to the watch lists for the Outland Trophy (best interior lineman) and Lombardi Award. Brooks, who will also be a three-year starter at right guard this fall, was named to the Lombardi Award watch list.
But perhaps the most notable preseason watch list inclusion belongs to junior running back David Wilson. Though this will be his first season as the full-time starter in the backfield, Wilson was named on the watch lists for both the Doak Walker and Maxwell Awards, given annually to the nation’s best running back and player, respectively. Wilson led the Hokies in all-purpose yards, scored 11 total touchdowns and was a second-team all-ACC selection as a kickoff returner in 2010.
The last Virginia Tech football player to actually win a national award was center Jake Grove, who earned the Rimington Trophy in 2003 as the nation’s best center. . . .
A note on our coverage: With the start of the ACC football kickoff event Sunday in Pinehurst, N.C. (the conference’s two-day media event), The Post’s Virginia Tech coverage will once again ramp up for the coming college football season. After sporadic updates the past few months, I’ll once again begin posting daily blogs and news updates in the coming weeks as we head towards the Hokies’ season opener against Appalachian State on Sep. 3.
On Sunday and Monday we’ll get a chance to speak with Coach Frank Beamer as well as wide receiver Danny Coale and safety Eddie Whitley. All 12 ACC teams will be represented by their head coach and two players during the annual kickoff event. I’ll also have regular updates on twitter, so follow me (@hokiesjournal and @mgiannotto) for breaking news and shorter takes on what’s going on in the Virginia Tech sports world.
Beginning next week we’ll roll out position group previews heading into the start of fall training camp. And as always, if you have any questions, concerns or feedback about my coverage over the past year and heading forward, feel free to post them in the comments section or send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.