Spring practice for the Virginia Tech football team begins Wednesday evening, and during a teleconference with reporters Monday, Coach Frank Beamer laid out his goals for the 11 practice sessions and two scrimmages before the annual spring game on April 23.
First and foremost is the development of new quarterback Logan Thomas, who will likely take over for Tyrod Taylor this fall. Beamer is confident Thomas has the athletic ability and leadership skills to play quarterback but would like more consistency on a day-to-day basis out of him. Beamer also cited better play from both his offensive and defensive lines as a point of emphasis this spring.
He said the defense gave up too many long plays a year ago, and that while the offensive line performed well at times, “we don’t want to get to a bowl game and not be able to run the football.”
We’ll have much more on all that in the coming days, but after the jump, I’ll highlight some of the position changes Beamer announced Monday, starting with defensive end Chris Drager’s move back to tight end.
Drager, if you remember, began his career at Virginia Tech as a tight end before moving to the defensive line when asked by the coaching staff two years ago. Last season he started 11 games and finished with 34 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and two sacks. Now, though, with tight end Andre Smith graduated, the Hokies have a gaping hole at that position, and Drager has shown his unselfishness once again by moving back to offense.
“I think he feels like, and I do too, that his best NFL position is probably tight end,” said Beamer.
Redshirt freshman Antone Exum, who saw significant action as a defensive back in Virginia Tech’s nickel package this past season, will now move to rover (or strong safety), presumably to take the starting role vacated by Davon Morgan. “We want him to really hone in and play consistently,” Beamer said.
Redshirt freshmen Dominique Patterson, formerly a linebacker, and Nick Dew, who played rover, will now compete for playing time at whip linebacker. Though starter Jeron Gouveia-Winslow (Stone Bridge HS) returns, his playing time a year ago diminished as the season went along, and Beamer implied the starting job is up for grabs.
On the defensive line, redshirt freshman defensive end J.R. Collins will see some time at tackle this spring. Whether the 253-pounder actually stays there for the fall depends on the development of young defensive ends Duan Perez-Means and Zack McCray, among others. Also of note, redshirt junior Quillie Odom (Osbourn Park) will move from linebacker to defensive end.
With the early departures of both Ryan Williams and Darren Evans, Josh Oglesby will return to running back after a year of playing fullback, and will likely be David Wilson’s primary back-up. James Hopper will also provide depth at running back -- the position he played in high school -- after several years in the defensive backfield.
Back-up offensive lineman Vinston Painter will make the move from guard to tackle this spring because, “He ran a great 40, is strong and has really excelled in the weight room,” Beamer said. “You need those athletic guys at tackle. They’ve got to block those athletic defensive ends. If he can get out there at tackle and play the way he’s very capable of – and I think he’s ready to do that – he could be a big, big help.”
Meanwhile, tackle Laurence Gibson will move from from tackle to guard since, “he’s not quite as nifty as he needs to be out there at tackle.”
On the injury front, Beamer said wide receiver Dyrell Roberts will only see limited action this spring as he’s still recovering from a thigh injury he suffered late last season. Running back Tony Gregory will also see limited action while continuing his recovery from a torn ACL.