May 20, 2013

Looking Ahead: Spring 2014

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With each change from winter to spring comes a fresh optimism that filters through to college football programs across the coaches. Big stories emerge as programs prepare for the upcoming fall season. The big stories from this spring centered around Logan Thomas, a set of new offensive coaches, and the offensive line. What will the big stories be next spring? Let's try to figure that out.

1. Who will replace Logan Thomas?

Thomas will graduate after the 2013 season, which means the Hokies will be looking for another starting quarterback next spring. Current redshirt junior Mark Leal is the prohibitive favorite because he has been the backup for the last several seasons, but he the competition will certainly be open at the beginning at least. Both Bucky Hodges and Carlis Parker (if he's not a wide receiver by then) will be looking to push Leal, as well as Brenden Motley and maybe an early enrollee from the current class. The other question that this topic brings up is about expectations. If Thomas has a superb senior season, the shoes are huge and expectations are high. If he struggles for the second straight year, all of a sudden the job requirements don't have as many expectations from the beginning.

2. Can the Hokies bring the tight end back?

Brian Stinespring doesn't have a multitude of experienced and reliable options at tight end this year, which likely means the position will be a nonfactor in 2013. If that happens, the Hokies will likely spend a bit of spring practice in 2014 working out the tight ends and trying to determine if the position can be reincorporated with a new quarterback.

3. Is this the year of the offensive line?

Right now, the starting lineup for the 2013 season along the offensive line appears to be tackles Jonathan McLaughlin and Laurence Gibson, guards Andrew Miller and Brent Benedict, and center Caleb Farris. Assuming all five stay healthy and none of them suddenly develop into surefire NFL prospects, all five will return as starters in 2014. Could this be the spring where the offensive line asserts itself within the program after so many years of mediocrity?

4. Who replaces the stalwarts?

Entering the 2014 spring, the Hokies will be replacing defensive end James Gayle, defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins, mike linebacker Jack Tyler, cornerback [/db]Antone Exum[/db], and cornerback Kyle Fuller. That is a lot of firepower from what should be a loaded defense in 2013. The Hokies have a lot of young talent coming up defensively, but it's all raw and undeveloped at this point. Guys like Kendall Fuller, Wyatt Teller, Ken Ekanem, Deon Clarke, and Donovan Riley, among others, will be counted on to pick up big-time production in 2014 and next spring will be crucial to laying the foundation for another great defense.

5. How many years left does Frank Beamer have?

Beamer has always said he coach as long as he is healthy and has a good quarterback. What if Thomas struggles again in 2013? Then, he's facing two down seasons in a row with another unknown at quarterback. Beamer likely won't retire no matter the heat if the Hokies struggle in 2013, as he will try as hard as possible to fix it in 2014, but the question has to be brought up if the Hokies begin to struggle under center and as program.




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