Friday Q&A: January 3, 2014


1) Which incoming freshmen will we definitely see on the field in 2014? (note: Justin Berkley asked a number of questions about true freshmen, and I’ll try to work many of them into this answer).

Chris Coleman: I’d be willing to bet that Marshawn Williams will play. They won’t be able to keep Derrick Nnadi off the field, if he signs with the Hokies. Tech will need Javon Harrison‘s playmaking ability, most likely. I can definitely see him factoring in early as a kickoff returner.

I think a few other guys have a chance as well.

Cam Phillips: He’s the most natural of Tech’s 2014 wide receiver signees. He was named the Maryland State Offensive Player of the Year back in December.

Eric Gallo: Gallo might be the most physically ready to play of Tech’s offensive line recruits. More on this group later.

Michael Santamaria: If Santamaria is any good at all, he’ll have a chance to kick for the Hokies next season.

Brady Taylor: Taylor could potentially play up front, depending on how much mass he adds before he arrives in Blacksburg.

Holland Fisher: If he qualifies, Fisher is physically ready to contribute. Even if he’s only on special teams, it would be very welcome. I think we’ll all agree that Tech’s depth issues created quite a talent void on special teams this past season. I’m not sure he can contribute on defense at free safety early in his career. Chris Horne saw him play against Atlanta Sports Academy this season, and he whiffed a lot of tackles that day.

Braxton Pfaff: Depending on how his shoulder has healed, and depending on whether he’s a good fit for Grimes’ blocking scheme, Pfaff could have a chance to play.

I could also see a true freshman quarterback – either Andrew Ford or Chris Durkin – not redshirting next season.

Those are the guys who I feel have the best chance to play as true freshmen next season. Some might be wondering about offensive linemen. I like the linemen that Tech is going to sign quite a bit. They are technically sound players with good frames and good feet. But I don’t think most of them are in a position to contribute immediately. Most will probably need 1-2 years in the weight room to fill out their frames. If they were big enough already, they would be 4-star guys rather than 3-star guys. Many times that’s the only difference between a 3-star lineman and a 4-star lineman: the ability to contribute early.

Of Tech’s OL recruits, I’ve only seen Tyrell Smith and Billy Ray Mitchell in person. Smith has big legs, long arms, and he looks like a rangy tackle. However, he’s still somewhat small in the upper body, and though he possesses good footwork and good technique for a guy his age, he’s going to need to fill out in the weight room. Same with Billy Ray Mitchell; he’s going to have to get a little bigger. For Colt Pettit, it’s the same story.

All that said, I haven’t seen those guys since last summer. Guys their age can grow a lot in a short amount of time. We’ll see how big they are when they arrive on campus. But I maintain that these linemen aren’t early playing time candidates, for the most part. Fortunately, the best candidates (Gallo and Pfaff) are interior linemen, and Tech needs interior linemen a lot more than tackles right now.