2009 Spring Game Preview

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Virginia Tech’s spring practice will culminate in the annual Maroon-White
game on Saturday afternoon in Lane Stadium. The game doesn’t mean much, because
the starters are split up between the two teams, but it gives Tech fans their
only chance to see the team in action before the actual season begins. It also
provides the opportunity to get a look at some exciting new players, such as
tailback Ryan Williams.

Injuries Mounting, Particularly at Tailback

Before we get into each roster, let’s take a look at the players who will not
be participating due to injury.

Out
for the Spring Game
Player Pos.

Randall Dunn
WR

Daniel Overstreet
OT

Kenny Lewis
RB

Andre Smith
TE

Sergio Render
OG

Jaymes Brooks
OG

Cam Martin
Whip

Steven Friday
DE

Jason Worilds
DE

Scott Dalton
FS

Courtney Prince
DT

Josh Oglesby
RB

Oglesby’s injury is recent. He sprained his left ankle during Wednesday’s
scrimmage. With him sitting out, the Hokies will only have three tailbacks, or
possibly just two, and none of them will be 100% healthy.

Darren Evans has been banged up all spring, with multiple injuries to his
left leg. The free side of Beamerball.com reports that Evans’ left ankle, left
knee and left calf are not 100% right now. He is questionable for Saturday, and
sources tell TSL that he is currently in a walking boot.

If Darren Evans is unable to go, the only two tailbacks will be r-freshman
Ryan Williams and true freshman walk-on Zach Evans. Evans has been very
impressive for a walk-on, but the backfield will still be thin. Tony Gregory got
four carries during the most recent mini-scrimmage, so he could also be an
option in the backfield.

Even Williams and Zach Evans aren’t completely healthy. Williams has ligament
damage in his hand, and he missed Wednesday’s mini-scrimmage, but he is expected
to play on Saturday. Evans injured his groin on Wednesday, but he is expected to
play as well.

The Maroon Team

#2 quarterback Ju-Ju Clayton will quarterback the maroon team. He will have
the advantage of throwing to Jarrett Boykin and Danny Coale, though it remains
to be seen how much Boykin will play. He has missed a lot of practice time with
an injury. If he can’t go, the Maroon team doesn’t have much depth behind Danny
Coale. Their other receivers are Patrick Terry, Brandon Dillard and Tony
Gregory, none of which have caught a pass in a college game.

The tailback situation is unclear, thanks to the injuries. Originally the
Maroon team was going to feature Ryan Williams and Zach Evans, with Darren Evans
playing for both teams. Now we don’t know whether or not Evans will play, and
the White team is without a tailback thanks to the injury to Josh Oglesby.

Whichever team is fortunate enough to have Ryan Williams will have the most
explosive offensive player on the field. Tyrod Taylor has been in a yellow
jersey all spring, and will again on Saturday, barring an unforeseen event. That
makes Williams the likeliest big-play candidate.

The Maroon team also has Greg Boone at tight end, who could be their top
passing threat. As we’ll cover later, the White team’s defense features the
backup secondary and backup linebackers, so a player like Boone could
potentially have a big day. Sam Wheeler will play for both teams at tight end,
and is another viable receiving option.

Ju-Ju Clayton will be playing behind a young offensive line. It will feature
three r-freshmen – Nick Becton at left tackle, Michael Via at center, and
Vinston Painter at right guard. The other two starters are r-sophomores – Greg
Nosal at left guard and Andrew Lanier at right tackle.

The Maroon defense should be the strong suit of the team. John Graves and
Demetrius Taylor will play up front. They are both current defensive starters.
Both starting inside linebackers – Barquell Rivers and Jake Johnson – will don
Maroon jerseys as well. Finally, all four starting defensive backs will play for
the Maroon team.

Other defensive starters for Maroon will be whip linebacker Alonzo Tweedy,
defensive end Joe Jones and defensive tackle Antoine Hopkins. The Maroon defense
appears be the strongest unit for either team, and that could give Maroon an
advantage in this game.

However, in a game of field position and field goals, Maroon won’t have the
advantage. Their starting placekicker will be backup Justin Myer, while Brian
Saunders will handle the punting duties. Starting kicker Matt Waldron and
starting punter Brent Bowden will play for the White team.

The White Team

The White team will feature starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, and that will
certainly help them against Maroon’s stout defense. Taylor will be throwing to
Xavier Boyce and Dyrell Roberts. Roberts has had a very good spring, and Boyce
seems to be developing into one of Taylor’s favorite targets during scrimmages.

The White team will also have Marcus Davis, who has had a very good week at
his new position at split end. He has the potential to rise up the depth chart
quickly. With Jarrett Boykin not 100% for the Maroon team, the White team could
have a major advantage at wide receiver. However, they will also face Virginia
Tech’s starting secondary, all off whom play for the White team.

White also has Chris Drager, who is listed as a co-starter at tight end. Sam
Wheeler will play for both teams. Rob Stanton, a solid walk-on, will also see
action for White.

The White team also features a more experienced offensive line. Starting
tackles Ed Wang and Blake DeChristopher will anchor the edges of the line, while
Beau Warren will play center. Richard Graham will play right guard as a
replacement for Jaymes Brooks, and Will Alvarez will start at left guard.
Alvarez is the only player in that group with no starting experience.

The White offense looks good, but the defense could potentially have
problems. Nekos Brown, Cordarrow Thompson and Cody Grimm are all dependable
veterans, but the rest of White’s defense is composed of second string players.

Isaiah Hamlette will start at defensive end, while Kwamaine Battle will get
the nod at defensive tackle. Bruce Taylor and Quillie Odom will start at the two
inside linebacker positions, while Cris Hill, Lorenzo Williams, Davon Morgan and
Eddie Whitley will start in the secondary.

Morgan has starting experience, but he has fallen behind Dorian Porch on the
depth chart. He hasn’t had a great spring. On the other hand, Eddie Whitley
would start at most schools, and he could still end up starting for the Hokies
this year.

As we’ve already covered, the White team has the advantage on special teams
with Matt Waldron and Brent Bowden.

The coaching staff has done a good job of matching these teams up evenly, or
so it appears. The Maroon team is strong defensively, while the White team is
strong offensively. On paper, the teams matchup well. Ultimately, I give the
advantage to the White team because they will have Tyrod Taylor and the best
special teams play.

What to Watch For, or Not Watch For

Spring games are entertaining, but ultimately they don’t mean much. The
starters are split amongst the two squads, and there isn’t a lot of cohesion.
Don’t go into this game expecting to form any strong opinions about a lot of
things. After all, Michael Vick was completely outclassed by Dave Meyer in
Vick’s first spring game.

1) Don’t expect greatness out of the offensive line. The line has looked much
improved this spring, but now Jaymes Brooks is injured, and Richard Graham is
more than a marginal dropoff as his replacement at right guard. Throw in the
fact that the starters will be split amongst two teams, and they won’t have
their general cohesiveness in Tech’s zone blocking schemes. The line will look
much better this August, once Sergio Render and Brooks return from their
injuries.

2) Tyrod Taylor looks like a better quarterback this spring, so watch to see
how he’s progressed in the passing game. He’s always been able to throw the
football, but he is still progressing as a passer. He’s doing better this
spring, and he’ll have a couple of his favorite targets in Dyrell Roberts and
Xavier Boyce. Stats don’t mean a big deal in the Spring Game, but look to see if
Taylor passes the eye test.

3) Ju-Ju Clayton has made a lot of progress over the spring. He put up big
numbers in the Hokies’ last full scrimmage in Lane Stadium. This will be his
first time playing in front of a big crowd. Hopefully he can continue the
progress that he’s made over the last few weeks.

4) Ryan Williams has been very impressive for the Hokies this spring. He adds
the big play threat to Tech’s backfield, and he is expected to see considerable
action this season. With Josh Oglesby out, and possibly Darren Evans as well,
Williams should get a lot of touches on Saturday. He is Tech’s most physically
gifted tailback since Kevin Jones

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