2007 Spring Football Wrapup: The Offense

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Virginia Tech’s spring practice was cut short by the tragedy that took place
on campus on Monday, April 16th. The Hokies were only able to get in 11
practices this spring. Their final four practices, including the Spring Game,
were cancelled. Although football is the last thing on our minds right now, at
some point we all have to move on. Researching and writing this spring practice
recap is my attempt.

Before practice began, we ran a preview of each position, which included a
pre-spring depth chart. In this recap we’ll take a look at how each position
shook out during spring practice, with the updated depth chart. Note that the
depth charts listed below are not official. The coaching staff has not released
a depth chart since March 23rd. They are simply educated guesses based on
scrimmage observations and coaches’ comments during spring practice.

The Offensive Backfield

Offensive
Backfield
Quarterback Tailback Fullback

Sean Glennon (r-Jr.)

Branden Ore (r-Jr.)

Carlton Weatherford (r-Sr.)

Ike Whitaker (r-So.)

Kenny Lewis, Jr. (So.)

Kenny Jefferson (r-So.)

Cory Holt (r-Jr.)

Jahre Cheeseman (r-So.)

Devin Perez (r-Jr.)

George Bell (r-Jr.)

Billy Gorham (Sr.)

At quarterback, Sean Glennon appeared to be improved. Going live with no yellow
jersey, Glennon showed better footwork in the pocket and made better, quicker
decisions with the ball. His combined stats from the scrimmages were impressive:
18-of-30 (60%) for 236 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception. The
one interception was a Hail Mary from the 50 yard line to the back of the end
zone with no time on the clock.

Glennon looked poised, experienced, and much more fluid with a year of
starting experience under his belt.

Ike Whitaker also posted solid numbers during the two scrimmages. He was
17-of-27 for 63%. We don’t know his total yardage because HokieSports.com didn’t
list them for the second scrimmage. Whitaker threw one touchdown pass and one
interception. He also ran for one touchdown.

Whitaker started the spring off slowly. He looked as if he had regressed from
his practice performances last spring. However, he started to turn it around in
the last week of practice. His accuracy was better, and his understanding of the
offense was better. He still has a problem with his throwing mechanics at times,
and that will have to get ironed out over the summer.

Cory Holt was slightly ahead of Whitaker at the beginning of spring practice,
but is likely behind him now. Holt only threw five passes in the final
scrimmage, while Whitaker attempted 17.

At tailback, there is no doubt that Branden Ore is the starter. The battle
for the top backup spot has been intense, however. Kenny Lewis, Jr. and George
Bell got carries when Ore went out with an injury last year, with Lewis getting
most of the work. But Jahre Cheeseman worked his way into the mix this spring.

Cheeseman is a strong runner with a low center of gravity. He is tough to
tackle and might be the only true “every down back” on the roster
after Ore. From simply a running standpoint, he is likely the second best back
on the team. However, he needs to work on his pass blocking. Pass blocking is
tough for young backs, so it’s not surprising that he hasn’t picked it up yet.

If Cheeseman can nail down his blocking assignments, he’ll be tough to beat
out for the top backup spot. The last four practices of the spring for him would
have been huge, but unfortunately he won’t get that extra time.

At fullback, Carlton Weatherford appears to have the starting job in hand,
and Kenny Jefferson played well also. Devin Perez showed his ability to lead
block and could also see action. Billy Hite (admittedly normally very positive
and optimistic) seemed very pleased with his fullbacks after 11 practices, and
the Hokies should be fine at that position this fall.

Wide Receiver and Tight End

Wide
Receivers and Tight End
Split
End
Flanker Tight
End

Josh Morgan (Sr.)

Eddie Royal (Sr.)

Sam Wheeler (r-So.)

Justin Harper (Sr.)

Josh Hyman (r-Sr.)

Andre Smith (r-Fr.)

Zach Luckett (r-Fr.)

Brandon Dillard (r-So.)

Greg Boone (r-So.)

We all knew that Virginia Tech was very deep at wide receiver this year. If
anything, they got even deeper in the last few weeks. Josh Morgan, Justin
Harper, Eddie Royal and Josh Hyman are proven players. Zach Luckett and Brandon
Dillard are not, but they looked like veterans during scrimmages the last two
Saturdays.

Dillard, a speedster, tallied five receptions for 71 yards in the first
scrimmage, while Luckett pulled down four catches for 40 yards. Both players
looked good in the second scrimmage as well.

Dillard has great speed, and it appears that the light is finally coming on
for him in the other aspects of the game. His route running is better, and his
understanding of the offense is better. His hands have improved as well,
although they could still use some work. Luckett is tall and strong, and is a
very intimidating presence at wide receiver.

These two players aren’t likely to unseat any of the four senior receivers,
but they both can contribute on the field this fall. It also give Tech hope that
they’ll get solid production from a young group of receivers in 2008.

Tech’s tight ends were very young last year, but Sam Wheeler took over the
starting job halfway through the season and made a number of big plays down the
stretch. Wheeler has continued his good play. He is a good athlete with very
good hands who can make plays in the passing game. He still needs to improve his
strength and run blocking, but he looks like the clear starter heading into
2007.

Andre Smith looks like Tech’s #2 tight end right now. The coaching staff
almost pulled his redshirt halfway through last season because they thought he
could help the team. Ultimately Smith still redshirted, and he was impressive
this spring for the Hokies. Look for #88 on the field a lot for Virginia Tech
this coming season.

Greg Boone improved, especially his hands according to some accounts. But
he’s not quite as natural at tight end as Sam Wheeler and Andre Smith, at least
not at this point in his career.

The Offensive Line

Offensive
Line
Left
Tackle
Left
Guard
Center Right
Guard
Right
Tackle

Duane Brown
(r-Sr.)

Nick Marshman
(r-Jr.)

Ryan Shuman
(r-Jr.)

Sergio Render
(So.)

Ed Wang
(r-So.)

Aaron Brown
(r-Fr.)

Brandon Holland
(So.)

Beau Warren
(r-Fr.)

Richard Graham
(r-So.)

Clark Crum
(r-Fr.)

Virginia Tech entered Spring Practice with a lot of question marks on the
offensive line. Despite only going through 11 practices, some of them were
answered, but some still remain.

The big question marks were at left guard and right tackle. Ed Wang locked
down the starting right tackle spot early on, as expected. He played well at his
new position throughout the spring and got better and better as he received more
reps. At left guard, Nick Marshman appears to have won the job. He was listed at
#1 on the depth chart before practice began, and that’s where he is now.

Of course, Marshman had no direct competition at left guard at this point.
Brandon Holland played right guard because of the absence of Sergio Render, who
was recuperating from knee surgery. Holland was expected to challenge Marshman
for the starting left guard spot this fall, but it doesn’t look like that will
happen at this point.

Marshman only practiced on Fridays and Saturdays because of class conflicts
on Mondays and Wednesdays. So while the rest of the team only got 11 practices
in, Marshman got even less practice time. Even with more practice time, Holland
apparently did not give Marshman much of a run. In fact, he may have even been
demoted.

In last Saturday’s scrimmage, Richard Graham appeared to get the reps with
the first team at right guard while Holland ran with the second team. Graham has
greatly improved since he first enrolled at Virginia Tech, and he could very
well find himself as a top backup at both right guard and right tackle this
year.

The offensive line improved over the course of the spring, only giving up a
couple of sacks in last Saturday’s scrimmage, and somewhat controlling the line
of scrimmage for most of the afternoon.

However, a shortened spring practice is the worst possible thing that could
have happened to this offensive line. They were just starting to gel as a unit
last Saturday, and guys like Richard Graham were starting to step up. Another
week of practice to continue their growth as a unit would have been very
beneficial.

If it seems like canceling the final week of spring practice doesn’t really
matter from a football perspective, think again. That extra week could have gone
a long way in shaking out the situation at tailback and along the offensive
line. That’s four more practices for Tech’s opponents this spring. Four more
days of critical teaching and learning time. Let’s hope it doesn’t come back to
bite the Hokies in the fall.

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