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Preseason Position Battles
by Chris Coleman, TechSideline.com, TSLMail #494, July 22, 2011
In a little under two weeks, preseason practice will begin. There will be lots of hype around guys like Logan Thomas and David Wilson, but perhaps more important will be how certain position battles shape up.
All teams have question marks, even the really good ones. Most have issues with offensive line depth, and most aren't sure they have a backup quarterback they can trust. Tech's offensive line depth is in better shape than usual this year, but they'll have several other battles on both sides of the ball that will be worth keeping an eye on.
Ju-Ju Clayton vs. Mark Leal: Who will be the backup quarterback? Ju-Ju Clayton has the experience, but he also had a bad spring. Mark Leal's reps increased as the spring went on, and you could see steady improvement from scrimmage to scrimmage. At this point, the best bet is that Leal wins the job.
#3 Tailback: David Wilson will start at tailback, with Josh Oglesby as his backup. Who will enter the rotation if either one of those guys goes down? Tony Gregory missed the spring with a knee injury, James Hopper has never played tailback in a game, Dominique Patterson is moving to tailback from whip, and Michael Holmes will be a true freshman. There aren't any proven options. Tony Gregory is the best bet at this point.
#3 Wide Receiver: Dyrell Roberts has always been Tech's #3 wide receiver in the past, but he missed the spring, which opened the door for Marcus Davis. Davis was Tech's most productive receiver during spring scrimmages and the Spring Game, and he is a tremendous physical talent. He should have an interesting battle with Dyrell Roberts for this spot on the depth chart, but as of now, I think Davis has the edge.
#4 Defensive End: I think this will be a three-way battle between Tyrel Wilson, Zack McCray and incoming true freshman Corey Marshall. Wilson held the spot during the spring, but after a summer of strength work, McCray should be able to put up a fight. Corey Marshall is a perfect fit for the Tech defensive scheme, and he's already 255-lbs, which means he is physically ready to play.
#4 Defensive Tackle: Charley Wiles needs depth up front. There could be a four-way battle for this spot on the depth chart between Dwight Tucker, Isaiah Hamlette, Nick Acree and incoming true freshman Kris Harley. Tucker held this spot last season, but the position is still open. I could see Kris Harley earning playing time in his first season.
Starting Backer: Lyndell Gibson had an unproductive 2010, and has since left the program. Tariq Edwards was the #1 backer during the spring and did a good job, along with fellow r-sophomore Telvion Clark. Both guys appear to be an upgrade over Gibson. We could see a playing rotation at this spot in 2011. I think the competition will make both players better.
Starting Whip: Jeron Gouveia-Winslow returns as Tech's starting whip, but he split time with Alonzo Tweedy with the #1 defense during the spring. The competition is far from over, and will continue through the month of August.
Starting Punter: Watch for incoming true freshman Michael Branthover. He could be the guy who takes this position. Scott Demler, Ethan Keyserling, Grant Bowden and Danny Coale will provide competition.
Virginia Tech will hold two open scrimmages in August. The first is on Saturday, August 13 at 4pm. The second will be held on Saturday, August 20 at 2pm. You'll have two chances to come out and watch these position battles in person.
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