ANALYSIS: A light September slate should allow Tech to break in new starter Logan Thomas. But after last year's loss to James Madison, the Hokies aren't likely to take that for granted.
Joe St. Germain
SCOUTING REPORT During a recent interview at ACC Media Day, Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer seemed rather displaced as he answered questions about his young Hokies team. It was almost as if Beamer's mind were in another room, eyeing the drawing board, trying to figure out how to make the pieces fit. The missing piece to the puzzle is reining ACC Player of the Year Tyrod Taylor, who finished his last year of eligibility as Virginia Tech's winningest quarterback. His sophomore predecessor, Logan Thomas, carries the confidence of his teammates, but lacks experience. Thomas earned MVP honors this spring, but he saw limited action last season, completing 12 of 26 passes. He's yet to throw a touchdown in an actual game. Fortunately, Thomas will have plenty of support. David Wilson is a rising star at tailback (Said Beamer: "The more he touches the ball, the more we'll see what a great player he is.") and a deep receiving corps will bring plenty of experience to the offence. If Thomas is going to use his receivers to their full potential, the offensive line will have to step. The Hokies ranked 86th nationally and 10th in the ACC in sacks allowed last season despite having the mobile Taylor at QB. On defense, "Less big plays, more big hits," is the adopted motto for a young unit looking to improve on an uncharacteristically shaky 2010, when it allowed an average of 4.7 yards per carry. Eddie Whitley is the only returning senior in the starting lineup, but he'll get plenty of help from ballhawk Jayron Hosley and lead tackler Bruce Taylor. The Hokies have only one returning starter on the defensive line (Antoine Hopkins), and he'll be surrounded by players with more potential than experience. There's some patching up to do on special teams after losing two All-ACC players. Wide receiver Danny Coale will have to double dip for the punting position and redshirt sophomore Cody Journell will step up as placekicker. Despite the holes, Tech looks well positioned to maintain its chock-hold on the ACC.
THE BIG IF Can Logan Thomas step into the starting role and lead the Hokies to their second consecutive ACC Championship? TELLING NUMBER 7 -- Straight seasons Virginia Tech has won 10 or more games, currently the longest streak in the FBS. KEY RETURNEES Jarrett Boykin, WR, Sr. -- After an exceptional spring, the senior is expected to become VT's all-time leader in pass receptions and receiving yards. Described as meat hooks, his seam-busting hands led the Hokies with 53 catches for 847 yards and six touchdowns in 2010.
Jayron Hosley, CB, Jr. -- The popular junior led the nation with nine interceptions last season, tying a VT season record set in 1967. Hosley will likely explore his pro options after this season, but the Hokies will enjoy his coverage -- both on the field and in the media -- until then.
Blake DeChristopher, OT, Sr. -- Named to the All-ACC preseason first team, DeChristopher is officially a veteran. He packs 37 starts under his pads as he begins his fourth year as a starter. At 6-5 and 312 pounds, the VT giant led the team last year with 56 knockdown blocks.
Bruce Taylor, LB, Jr. -- VT's leading tackler missed spring football while recovering from April shoulder surgery, but should be ready come fall. Taylor is authorized to play this season following a breakout year in which he led the team with 91 tackles and 15.5 tackles for loss. BREAKOUT PLAYER David Wilson, RB, Jr. -- Wilson didn't just live under the shadow of two NFL draftees in 2010; he thrived. Wilson, who led the team last year with 11 touchdowns as a tertiary, will finally get shotgun on the two-deep this season. Expect big things now that Wilson has assumed the feature role. TOP RECRUIT Kyshoen Jarrett, CB, Fr. -- A four-star prospect, he ranked as the No. 6 player in the state of Pennsylvania by SuperPrep, and the No. 17 cornerback in the country by Scout. Jarrett was also a well decorated running back and defensive end in high school and his versatile combination of speed, strength and fluid hips have him poised to make an early impact for the Hokies.
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