Virginia Tech offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring decided not to redshirt tight end Ryan Malleck last year because he felt Malleck had the best shot at becoming the complete package the Hokies are looking for at the position. Even though the Point Pleasant, N.J., native didn’t see much playing time on offense, Stinespring hoped the experience of dressing for games would better prepare him for the rigors of potentially starting this season.

So when Malleck didn’t perform the way Stinespring expected this spring, the coach came to the realization that “just because he played, he’s still a freshman.”

“It didn’t change a whole lot. But from then on, I think he understood that to get over that next hurdle, there was going to have to be more film study, there was going to have to be more focused and concerted effort to get to where we needed to be,” said Stinespring, who also serves as the tight ends coach

The consensus now as the Hokies approach their regular season opener against Georgia Tech is that Malleck has turned a corner and emerged as the favorite to be the team’s starting tight end.

Looking back on this past spring, Malleck points to his physique as part of the problem. He arrived at Virginia Tech weighing 245 pounds and decided to add some more to his frame after struggling in blocking drills. That, though, only made him feel sluggish.

“I tried putting on a lot of weight real fast, and I think it was bad weight. I just didn’t feel that quick. I felt stiff,” said Malleck, who originally committed to Maryland before Coach Ralph Friedgen was fired following the 2010 season. “I was just trying to get up there because I was nervous. I wanted to be able to block a seven technique [defensive end] and you just got to have leverage on him. You don’t have to be a big, 260-pound guy. I feel a lot better at 245 now, especially blocking. I’m getting off the ball faster.”

It has paid dividends in training camp. The Hokies featured their tight ends in a scrimmage Wednesday, and they combined for eight catches and 137 yards. But it was Malleck who hauled in a beautiful over-the-shoulder touchdown during goal line drills. He has also often been called on to motion before the snap as part of Virginia Tech’s new up-tempo, misdirection-laden offense.

The competition to be Virginia Tech’s starter at tight end includes seniors Eric Martin and Randall Dunn, but neither is the sort of dual-threat weapon Malleck could be. Martin is a stronger blocker, while Dunn is more of a threat in the passing game.

Stinespring, though, has certainly taken notice of the strides Malleck has taken.

“I recruited him. We’ve known each other for a long time,” he said. “Little bit of joking in the spring back and forth, but it’s been very quiet with him in our meetings. It’s been a lot of questions, but very focused on what he needs to get done.”