The ACC Kickoff (aka media days) is fast approaching. I’ll be using the blog to count down to what we media members consider the unofficial start of the football season. This isn’t a list of the 25 best players on Virginia Tech’s roster. It’s a list of 25 things/people that will determine whether the Hokies’ 2012 season is a success or not. That includes players and coaches from both Virginia Tech and, occasionally, a few of its opponents.
Note: Since I was busy yesterday chasing news, I didn’t get to a countdown post. I’ll have two today to catch up, so check back in a little bit.
No. 24: Donaldven Manning, freshman cornerback
He won’t start, so that’s not a burden. But getting true freshman cornerback Donaldven Manning up to speed on defense and capable of filling in should the situation arise will be of the utmost importance for the Hokies early this fall.
Depth is a huge concern on the back end of the defense, particularly at cornerback. Jayron Hosley went pro a year early and James Farrow decided to transfer. What’s left are two penciled-in starters — Kyle Fuller and converted safety Antone Exum – and a bunch of question marks.
Other than Manning, the pickings are slim. Carl Jackson and Chris Caver are two players already on the roster, but they’re both walk-ons. Davion Tookes and Donovan Riley are two scholarship true freshmen who will arrive this summer, although they’ve never participated in a college practice at this point.
Manning is in a different boat. The Miami native enrolled in January to get a jump on next season. Going through 15 spring practices will be invaluable in helping him learn the scheme and have the game slow down to the point where things begin to makes sense.
“I most definitely don’t imagine me coming in August,” he said in the spring. “That would have really been a killer.”
Fortunately for him, that won’t be an issue. Plus, he’ll have an entire offseason in the team’s strength and conditioning program, an important thing for a player who, at 5-foot-9, 155 pounds, could stand to get a little bigger in order to handle the physical toll of playing at the college level.
Hosley was 5-foot-10, 178 pounds and considered undersized, so Manning will have that hurdle to overcome. But coaches liked how he approached the spring and are hopeful Manning continues to progress as the season approaches. Given Tech’s dire depth situation in the secondary, they’re going to need him to.
Coming later today: Danny Coale ain’t walkin’ through that doo-ah.
- No. 25: Randall Dunn, senior tight end