April 4, 2006
BLACKSBURG -- As spring practice neared the finish line at Virginia Tech, there remained a lingering concern about the offensive line, but nobody was getting terribly worked up about that one.
There was plenty of concern about the line last year, too, and it worked out just fine. Three members of that unit went on to make first- or second-team All-ACC. Going against a stout defensive front can make a newcomer look real bad in the spring, but it helps him tremendously when he starts playing for real in the fall.
Tech's line will be fine, thanks.
There's concern in the offensive backfield, too, where a bunch of young talents -- all with question marks -- are trying to step in for Cedric Humes and Mike Imoh. But there's probably no reason to get too worked up there, either.
As long as Branden Ore's surgically repaired shoulder holds up (he's not taking part in spring drills), the Hokies will be just fine in the offensive backfield.
There's concern at quarterback as well.
This is where people are getting worked up, with good reason. Replacing Marcus Vick, the first-team All-ACC quarterback in 2005 who was dismissed in January after more legal problems, may prove to be a serious chore for the Hokies.
One observer noted recently that the most important person in camp might be Mike O'Cain, the former N.C. State head coach who recently joined the Tech staff as quarterbacks coach. It won't be quite like turning water into wine, but if O'Cain can create a competent quarterback for the Hokies in 2006, he may find himself hailed as a miracle worker.
Tech had four candidates to replace Vick when he was dismissed, but the coaches quickly found themselves down to two, and the field wasn't cut in half for the right reasons.
Redshirt freshman Ike Whitaker was suspended after running into legal problems of his own, and he'll get to take part in only the latter stages of spring drills, if at all. Redshirt freshman Greg Boone injured the same (right) knee that bothered him when he first reported last August. He's lost a good bit of his excess weight but hasn't been able to get out and compete. Boone may be moved to another position once Whitaker returns.
That left rising sophomores Sean Glennon and Cory Holt to fight it out. Glennon, a quick study when it comes to the Hokies' playbook, went into the spring with a slight edge. Holt, who has a strong arm and is more mobile than Glennon, quickly narrowed the gap. Neither player seems to be able to pull away from the other.
Glennon isn't slow; he just isn't fast. Tech coach Frank Beamer likes a quarterback who can get out of trouble with his feet, and Glennon may not be able to do that. His passing isn't terribly consistent, either.
Tech has several receivers fast enough to get open deep. Will the ball be where it is supposed to be? Glennon, one Tech insider noted, is basically an upgraded version of 2001 quarterback Grant Noel. That's not necessarily bad, but it isn't good, either.
Holt has made tremendous progress in his knowledge of the Hokies' system. This is his third spring practice, so he should get it by now. He's had problems with his arm in the past, after too much throwing. A lot of times, he pushes the ball toward his target rather than throwing it.
The bottom line: Holt's highs are higher than Glennon's, but his lows are lower than Glennon's. If the choice does come down to those two, Glennon's slightly more even performances may make the difference.
What many at Tech are hoping is that the ultra-talented Whitaker gets it together and somehow makes a push for the job. Of course, he may not have enough time this year.
Whitaker was arrested in March and charged with underage possession of alcohol, among other misdemeanor offenses. He pleaded no contest and his record will be clear in a year, provided he pays for a window he broke in a dorm, does 25 hours of community service, attends alcohol awareness classes and stays out of trouble.
He has the total package -- arm, smarts, athleticism -- but has to show the maturity to deal with his legal problems and get them in his past. Had he been out there all spring, the quarterback situation might have been a totally different story by now. But he wasn't, so it isn't.
In fairness to the quarterbacks, it must be noted that through the early sessions of the spring they weren't "live," as Beamer hoped to let them showcase their ability to get out of trouble. His plan is to make them live only for the final week of spring practice.
Given the fact that Boone already was injured and that the defensive line was so far ahead of the offensive line, Beamer didn't want to risk another injury early in the spring.
DEFENSIVE LINE AMONG POSITIVES
Other spring football thoughts and observations:
- Tech's offense might not have to be but so good. The defense, and the front in particular, looks outstanding.
Barry Booker, Carlton Powell and Kory Robertson should give the Hokies a strong rotation at tackle. Chris Ellis and Noland Burchette are talented, experienced ends. Redshirt freshman William Wall is looking like the next standout lineman.
Meanwhile, Brenden Hill has taken over at outside linebacker for unheralded star James Anderson. Hill will complement inside linebackers Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall nicely.
- Junior receiver Josh Morgan has switched from No. 17 to No. 2, and he looks as if he'll be Tech's No. 1 receiver in the fall.
David Clowney, who led Tech in catches last season, and Eddie Royal, who led Tech two seasons ago, also return. That gives the Hokies three serious deep threats, assuming there's someone there who can get them the ball.
- Sophomore Victor "Macho" Harris, the only true freshman to play for the Hokies last season, spent the first part of spring drills at tailback, where he was a standout in high school, before moving back to the defensive backfield.
Harris showed some promise on offense, but he also had a problem hanging onto the ball. He eventually may get some serious chances at tailback, but it likely won't be in 2006.
Instead, Harris will be an important part of the cornerback rotation, along with Roland Minor, Brandon Flowers and Jahre Cheeseman.