The Hokies' 15 spring practices merely confirmed what most people around the program already knew -- that the offense could really be special, that the defense has work to do and that the team needs to stay healthy at some critical positions.
First, the good news. Virginia Tech's offense might be the best it's had since Frank Beamer became the program's coach in 1987, which covers quite a bit of ground.
In quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and tailbacks Ryan Williams and Darren Evans, the Hokies might have as good a backfield as exists in the nation. They also boast three receivers (Jarrett Boykin, Danny Coale and Dyrell Roberts) who caught 92 passes last year and averaged about 20 yards per reception.
If an offensive line which played without three scholarship players in the April 24 spring game can stay healthy and cohere, even the best defenses will have a difficult time stopping Tech's collection of talent.
"We've got a chance to have a really good offense," Coale said.
As for the defense, coordinator Bud Foster notes it's one of the fastest defenses he's ever had. But it's also inexperienced and appears prone to obtaining poor pursuit angles.
While Tech has good athletes throughout its roster, it also can't afford to suffer injuries along each line of scrimmage. Foster said the defense currently has just three tackles he feels comfortable with in game situations.
It's also breaking in a new kicker (Chris Hazley) and punter (Brian Saunders), not an ideal scenario for a coach like Frank Beamer who believes in a strong kicking game. And with a season opener against Boise State, the Hokies will have to be on point right away.NOTES, QUOTES
--One of the loudest cheers from a crowd of 41,000 at the April 24 spring game came when it was announced that Cody Grimm was picked in the NFL Draft's seventh round by Tampa Bay. Grimm went from walk-on to All-America linebacker during his time at Tech and will try to make it as a safety with the Buccaneers.
--QB Logan Thomas appears to have won the backup spot from last year's No. 2, Ju-Ju Clayton, although coach Frank Beamer wouldn't make a judgment following the spring game. The 6-foot-6, 238-pound Thomas didn't throw an interception throughout spring practice, while Clayton tossed five.
DE Steven Friday -- A backup for the last two years, Friday displayed the ability to get to the quarterback this spring. He recorded two sacks in the spring game, his second going for a safety.
OLB Alonzo Tweedy -- Of the candidates to replace Grimm, Tweedy looked best in the spring game. Tweedy had three tackles, including a half-tackle for loss, and showed the kind of speed characteristic of a Hokie defender.
LB Bruce Taylor -- If last year's starter, Barquell Rivers, has to miss any time this year because of his quadriceps injury, Taylor appears ready to fill the void. Taylor had five tackles, including 1 1/2 for loss, in the spring game.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I told them that we have one bacon-and-egg biscuit in the bag and a couple of plain ones." -- Offensive coordinator Brian Stinespring on the situation at tight end, where no one besides projected starter Andre Smith stepped up to prove himself in the spring.STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
2010 OUTLOOK: With lots of proven offensive weaponry, Virginia Tech will start the season as a top 10 team nationally. But to challenge for ACC and national titles, it will have to successfully replace six defensive starters and its kicker and punter. It must also negotiate neutral-site or road games against Boise State, North Carolina and Miami.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: A 500-point season isn't out of the question for the Hokies -- if they can replace LG Sergio Render and LT Ed Wang. With QB Tyrod Taylor triggering an explosive attack that features great tailbacks (Ryan Williams, Darren Evans) and three big-play wide receivers, this offense will be hard to stop. It might be the best offense in Beamer's 24 years as the program's coach.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: There is all kinds of speed on the field, but also more inexperience than veteran coordinator Bud Foster prefers. Foster must also identify more depth across the board during preseason drills. There are good leaders in DT John Graves and CB Rashad Carmichael, while DE Steven Friday might be the pass rusher the defense needs after losing Jason Worilds to the NFL.
SCOUTING THE SPECIAL TEAMS: In WR Dyrell Roberts and CB Jayron Hosley, Tech has two dangerous return men who can take any kick the distance. What coach Frank Beamer also has are an inexperienced kicker in Chris Hazley and a new punter in Brian Saunders, which will keep him up nights. The team also hasn't blocked kicks as well in recent years.
OL Laurence Gibson -- One of the program's six four-star recruits, the 6-6, 300-pound Gibson will have a shot at immediate playing time. If he plays well this spring and in August, Gibson might earn a starting spot at left guard or left tackle against Boise State.
OLB Nick Dew -- A versatile performer from Virginia Beach, a long-time recruiting stronghold of the Hokie program, Dew has the speed and strength to play right away. While he might not break into the starting lineup, he figures to earn spots on some special teams units.
TE Jerome Lewis -- With starter Greg Boone having graduated, this product of Rochester, N.Y., could play immediately with a good preseason. Tech uses a lot of two-tight end sets, so if he can prove he can block, he'll play.
--RB Ryan Williams (knee) sat out the April 24 spring game but probably would have played if it were a regular season game. He's expected to be full speed when practice starts in August.
--LB Barquell Rivers (quadriceps) didn't participate in spring practice after he underwent surgery in early March. Rivers hopes to be available by the Sept. 6 season opener against Boise State.
--C/G Michael Via (knee) was forced to sit out the last half of spring practice. Via could still win a starting spot on the left side of the line but will have to play lights-out in August.
Previous Report: 04/28/2010