Taking a stab at the Hokies’ 2012 depth chart: Special teams, plus assessing Tech’s strengths and weaknesses
As I mentioned before, this is a preliminary look, so it’s open for debate. I encourage all suggestions/changes/opinions in the comments section below. (Especially with the kick and punt returners today.)
- Michael Branthover, 5-8, 179, So. OR
- Conor Goulding, 5-9, 174, So. OR
- Cody Journell, 5-11, 178, Jr.*****
Comment: I’ll put five asterisks after Journell, because I’m skeptical he ever kicks for Virginia Tech again after his arrest on a felony breaking and entering charge last month. If convicted of a felony, he’d be kicked off the team, but there is a chance he could be convicted of a lesser charge. Even then, I’d wonder if Frank Beamer would keep him around, considering the situation he got himself involved in. Branthover was a punter last year, but he was a standout kicker in high school, so I’d imagine the Hokies would give him a shot. Goulding was apparently in the mix prior to the Sugar Bowl. I imagine Tech will open the competition to any and all comers come August, when walk-ons can join the fray.
- Michael Branthover, 5-8, 179, So. OR
- Scott Demler, 5-11, 194, Sr.
- Ethan Keyserling, 6-2, 197, So.
Comment: Another issue position, considering wide receiver Danny Coale was the most trusted punter by the end of the season. Branthover and Demler have both kicked in games, so it’s not like the Hokies are without experience here. They’ll need to make major steps forward to gain Beamer’s trust after last year’s inconsistency.
- Joe St. Germain, 6-0, 213, So.
- Lukas Stamp, 5-11, 204, So.
Comment: Sort of an odd situation for Virginia Tech, which will be using a long snapper other than Collin Carroll for the first time in four years. A spring’s worth of reps should get the timing down for whoever emerges as his replacement.
- Trey Gresh, 6-1, 205, So.
- Mark Leal, 6-0, 209, So.
Comment: This part of the field goal operation remains the same.
- Dyrell Roberts, 6-2, 196, Sr.
- Tony Gregory, 6-0, 190, Jr.
- Demitri Knowles, 6-0, 167, rFr.
Comment: Roberts and Gregory are the two who have done it before. Of course, Gregory is coming off knee surgery and Roberts a broken arm. Roberts has averaged 25.9 yards per return in his career, so I figure he’d be the top guy here. Obviously there are other candidates on the roster. I’m just not sure who will emerge at this point. Knowles came the closest to doing it last year, so I’ll slot him in there.
- Kyshoen Jarrett, 5-10, 193, So.
Comment: Your guess is as good as mine. Jayron Hosley was Tech’s primary returner last year and Coale filled in when Hosley hurt his hamstring. Jarrett is the only returning player who returned a punt last year. I’m not sure if that means he’ll be the frontrunner for the job next season. I’m sure it will be open auditions come spring.
That completes my look at the depth chart. Here’s a quick review of Tech’s areas of strength and what will be the biggest question marks next season:
1. Quarterback: With Logan Thomas back, Tech has no worries here.
2. Receivers: Even though the Hokies lost their two all-time leading receivers, they have a good amount of returning talent, with Marcus Davis, Roberts and D.J. Coles all viable receiving threats.
3. Defensive line: James Gayle, J.R. Collins and Derrick Hopkins are back, as is Antoine Hopkins from injury. Luther Maddy, Corey Marshall and Tyrel Wilson got valuable experience and will have another year of weight-lifting to get bigger.
4. Linebackers: Bruce Taylor and Jeron Gouveia-Winslow return from injury to join Tariq Edwards, Jack Tyler and Alonzo Tweedy in a deep group.
5. Half the secondary: Kyle Fuller can play anywhere and Antone Exum can be a safety or rover. That should give the Hokies some flexibility back there.
1. Running back: David Wilson got almost all the carries last year, so his replacement was never groomed. Michael Holmes seems like he has the inside track, but early enrollee J.C. Coleman will get his shot this spring.
2. Offensive line: So many unknowns for a group that has to replace four starters. Tech has some options here, it’s just unclear how all the pieces will fit.
3. Defensive tackle depth: This is nit-picky, since the two-deep is pretty well established here, but with several veteran tackles choosing not to come back, there aren’t a ton of bodies here. Injuries happen, and it never hurts to have a deep rotation.
4. The other half of the secondary: Detrick Bonner and Jarrett are talented, but very raw. The contenders for the other safety spot have very little experience. How they’ll mesh with Fuller and Exum will be huge.
5. Kicking game: The kicker and punter positions appear to be wide open. This might be the most uncertainty Tech has had in its kicking game in a while.