If you missed a previous recap, here they are:
PROJECTED DEPTH CHART (Mike)
- Bruce Taylor, 6-2, 253, Sr.
- Jack Tyler, 5-11, 230, Jr.
- Brian Laiti, 6-3, 223, So.
- Tariq Edwards, 6-2, 232, Jr.
- Chase Williams, 6-1, 224, So.
- Josh Trimble, 5-11, 200, rFr. OR
- Derek DiNardo, 6-0, 215, So.
- Jeron Gouveia-Winslow, 6-2, 212, Sr.
- Alonzo Tweedy, 6-2, 189, Sr.
- Ronny Vandyke, 6-3, 215, rFr.
- Wiley Brown, 5-10, 207, Sr.
- Nick Dew, 6-2, 197, So.
- D.J. Ward, 5-11, 227, rFr.
- Deon Clarke, 6-3, 200, Fr.
- Dahman McKinnon, 6-1, 210, Fr.
- Trey Edmunds, 6-2, 200, Fr. (could also be a RB)
- Devin Vandyke, 6-0, 205, Fr.
- Jerome Wright, 6-1, 220, Fr. (could also be a RB)
With the expected trio of starters out with injuries, it allowed the backups to get plenty of reps. And they seem like they took full advantage. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster said Tyler had not a good but a great spring, filling in for Taylor. And Williams, despite the ongoing bounty scandal involving his dad, showed no ill effects, improving throughout the spring in his first extended time while completely healthy. He had three and a half tackles for a loss and a sack for a safety in one open scrimmage. Tweedy, back from the high-ankle sprain that limited him last year, had a strong spring, bringing a fast, athletic dynamic to the whip linebacker spot. Ronny Vandyke, meanwhile, immediately took to the switch from rover, with Foster gushing about the redshirt freshman’s potential to be an ideal candidate for that play-making position in the future.
The three projected starters for next year didn’t take a single rep in contact drills. Taylor and Gouveia-Winslow, who both suffered Lisfranc injuries last season, were both in blue, limited jerseys for the duration of spring. Gouveia-Winslow is further along in his rehab and probably could have participated this spring, but the trainers chose to keep him out. Taylor’s injury was more severe. He had a screw removed late during spring drills and was on crutches and in a walking boot (that was planned, but still). Although the trainers say he’ll be ready for the season, you have to wonder how close to 100 percent he’ll be. Edwards, meanwhile, had a rod inserted in his leg to relieve pain in his shin just before the start of spring drills. His rehab goes right up to the start of fall practice. He might be ready to go come August, but it’ll probably take him some time to get back in football shape.
Tech added a big group of linebackers, headlined by Clarke and Devin Vandyke, who the coaches see as fits at the inside linebacker positions in the future, and McKinnon, a possible sleeper in the class at whip. Edmunds, a multi-talented recruit, could start out at running back. And Wright, another offense/defense guy, will likely prep for a year. The linebacker recruits were highly-ranked but playing time this year seems like a reach, especially if all the injured players return in time. I’d expect redshirts across the board here, unless Edmunds works his way into the mix at tailback.
It’s not fair to pick Tyler for this category, because he’s played in such meaningful games the last couple years, albeit in a replacement starter role. But I do expect him to be a big contributor this year. Instead, though, I’ll go with Tweedy. You saw in the Sugar Bowl how effective he can be at that whip spot, with the speed that he brings to the table. It adds an element to the defense and makes the whip position with Gouveia-Winslow one to watch this upcoming season, whereas it was an afterthought in 2011 due to all the injuries.
BATTLE TO WATCH
Because of that, the battle between Gouveia-Winslow and Tweedy might be an interesting one. Gouveia-Winslow was playing well when he got hurt. Although nothing spectacular (he had nine tackles in six games), coaches thought that he was fitting into his role in the scheme better than he had at any point in his career. Tweedy, as mentioned before, brings a bit of a different style to the position (he’s 23 pounds lighter than JGW). Gouveia-Winslow, as the incumbent, would seem to have the inside track at the position, but Foster might like to give a different look at times, at which point Tweedy could be the better option. How the reps get split between those two will be something to note come August.
THEY SAID IT
“He can rush the passer, he’s a physical kid in the run game. And he has coverage-ability. So I think he’s a complete package for us. So now you’re kind of getting part of a nickel guy, plus he’s physical and athletic enough to rush the passer and take on blockers. So in a perfect world, that’s kind of the guy I’d like to have at that spot, that can run and cover as well as be a physical guy too.” — Foster, on Ronny Vandyke
53 – Tackles last year by Taylor, which were still seventh most on the team, despite the junior missing the last six games because of injury. His five sacks were third on the team behind defensive ends James Gayle (7) and J.R. Collins (6).
THE END OF THE DAY
On paper, this seems like a strong group. All three starters should be back and all three primary backups got a good amount of attention and reps this spring. But injury rehabs, as everyone knows, don’t always go to plan. Tech is banking on Taylor, Gouveia-Winslow and Edwards all coming back and returning to their 2011 form. It might not be that simple, which is why getting Tyler, Williams and Tweedy up to speed this spring was so important. While procedures for Lisfranc injuries have improved over time, it’s still not a good injury to have as a football player. It’s unknown whether Taylor and Gouveia-Winslow will be the players they once were (at least in the year immediately after the injury), which has to be a concern heading into next season. The Hokies have enough depth on the second team to get by, but I’m sure Foster and Co. would like their linebackers to be do more than that.